A chamber orchestra concert experience like no other awaits those attending Sunday's KSO Chamber Classics concert at the Bijou at 2:30. It's a rare opportunity to hear two Stradivari violins collaborating on works with two soloists, in a wildly diverse program of string orchestra music. I'll talk about the music in a bit, but first, let's talk about the “fiddles...”
It's a well-known fact that Strads are the Rolls-Royce of the violin family. There are Ferraris and Corvettes, too, but the Stradivari mystique is enthralling. “The list” of about 1,000 includes instruments that were lost in plane crashes, several that have been stolen and are still missing after many years, and one that was destroyed in an Allied air raid on Berlin. All of them have names; sobriquets such as Francesca, ex-Wieniawski, Lady Blunt and Vesuvius. For our show, concertmaster William Shaub will be playing on the Solomon, and principal second violinist Edward Pulgar will be manning the ex-Stephens. The two works which feature them them exclusively will be Alfred Schnittke's Moz-art a la Haydn-- which must be seen to be believed, trust me!-- and Bach's transcendent Concerto for Two Violins, the “Bach Double.”
The 1960's don't leap to mind as a fertile time for string quartet composition, but it's hard to imagine a more powerful piece of music PERIOD than the Shostakovich 8th quartet, written in 1962. Its adaptability to larger ensembles such as ours only underscores the directness of its impact. The symbolism behind its content is a legendary, with the famous “knocks at the door” in the 4th movement Largo and the autobiographical code hidden in the opening phrase's note-names: D-S-C-H. I'll try to explain this as succinctly as possible; it is a little contrived unless you are privy to a couple of secrets. “D” is, obviously the note D. “S” is the European name for E-flat (literally “es”), “C” is C, and “H” is the European term for B, to distinguish it from B-flat, which they simply call “B.” Dmitri SCHostakovich, which is how he spelled his name. The notes would be “D- E-flat- C- B,” if you want to try it out on the piano. Got it? You just played the first four notes of the piece.
There will also be music of Jessie Montgomery, her Starburst, and Osvaldo Golijov's memorial to Astor Piazzola, Muertes del Angel (Death of the angel) from The Last Round. Maestro Demirjian has put together a very eclectic concert, with two works-- the Bach and Shostakovich-- that should be on everyone's “must-hear” list. Although written 240 years apart, they will affect your ears and soul in astoundingly similar ways...