Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Warm Chamber Music for a Cold Night

Well, winter sure is here. Pipes, noses, and school buses are freezing all around us. One man, concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz, is determined to warm things up with a pair of performances at Remedy Coffee in the Old City, this Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7. Gabe and pianist Kevin Class will be collaborating on three French hens– er, works; Chausson’s Poème, Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, with violist Katy Gawne and cellist yours truly joining in the Fauré.

The Chausson and the Saint-Saëns works are the two most well-known short French works for violin and orchestra (orchestra = Kevin Class). Both works are technically demanding and brilliantly colorful. Chausson’s work, from 1896, is steeped in the impressionistic musical language that swept through France in the late 19th and early 20th century. Although the Saint-Saëns work is from 1863, somewhat before the onset of impressionism, Saint-Saëns is often falsely grandfathered in with the impressionists solely because of his Frenchness. People of a certain age will notice that the theme of the Rondo closely resembles the old Andy Williams hit I Will Wait for You.

A noteworthy segue to the concert’s finale is that Fauré studied composition with Saint-Saëns, and succeeded him as organist at the Église de la Madeleine. This was no mean feat, considering Franz Liszt had called Saint-Saëns “the greatest organist in the world.” Fauré’s music, like Chausson’s, is impressionistic, but whereas Chausson, Ravel, Debussy, and many other impressionists can often sound confusingly similar and (I hate to use this term for music that is 100 years old) “modern,” Fauré’s unique musical language still has its feet in the Romantic era.

I have been looking forward to the Fauré since the last time I played it. The “goose-bump factor” is very high throughout for me, with so many patiently unfolding melodies, warm harmonies, and surprise endings. The second movement (of four) Scherzo is absolutely charming and impish; if we were in Maine, we would have to describe it as “cunning.” The third movement Adagio, in contrast, is a rich, somber funeral march cut from the same cloth as his Élégie for cello.

Stay warm... and Vive la France!

1 comment:

Maria M. Cornelius said...

Enjoyed this!