Sunday, January 23, 2011

Heights Arts House Concert: Bruch, Cohen, Trautwein, De Falla, Wolf, and Prokofiev

de Falla: Suite Popular Espanola for Violin and Piano
Ysaye: Obsession (first movement from the second sonata for Violin Solo, op. 27, 2)
Bruch: Movements II, V, VI from Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, op. 83 no. 6
Prokofiev: Sonata Op. 94 (trans. for Clarinet by Kent Kennan)
Franklin Cohen, clarinet
Isabel Trautwein, violin and viola
Patti Wolf, piano
at the Rawson/Cowap Residence, Shaker Heights.

The fact that this was my second house concert in three days may be a hint that I love the format. As with Fridays event in my living room, today's concert in Shaker Heights featured two Cleveland Orchestra musicians whom I have a deep respect for, along with the Heights Arts introduction of pianist Patti Wolf, a temporary import from St. Louis who is a long-time friend of Ms. Trautwein.

Aside from the given of great music by fantastic musicians in an intimate environment, both of this weekend's concerts also displayed how refreshingly normal and humble the talented musicians who call Cleveland (Heights) home truly are. The music of this afternoon's concert was punctuated by a a brief demonstration Ms. Trautwein of teaching music through Venezuela's El Sistema which included vocalization from the audience and 5 plastic cups, and Mr. Cohen making several jokes at his own expense.

Both Ms. Trautwein and Mr. Cohen had turns at page turning for Ms. Wolf, making a tie for what was quite possibly the most overqualified person to fulfill that role.

The music, of course, suffered nothing from the relaxed atmosphere.

The program opened with the six movements of de Falla's Suite Popular, which was delightfully unlike anything I can recall hearing at a house concert before: A distinctly Spanish sound and two flamenco dances (Polo and Jota) were particularly lively [and difficult to resist toe tapping to].

Next was the aptly titled Obsession for solo violin which was just entirely wonderful. Before playing, Ms. Trautwein commented that it borrowed from some very well known Bach in the beginning: Indeed, it was so well known (and so well played) that even I, with admittedly little solid knowledge of the classical canon, was able to identify the source as the first movement from Bach's Partita No. 3 In E*. It is, of course, impressive that something that moves so quickly can be played with such clarity.

Following wine and dessert at intermission, Ms. Trautwein traded her violin for viola and the audiences was treated to three wonderful movements from Max Bruch's Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano. I think the second selection, the fifth movement (Rumanian Melody, andante) was my favorite from the evening; and when I allowed my eyes to close the blending of the three instruments was so fine as to be not nearly seamless, but seamless without qualification.

Closing out the program was Prokofiev's Sonata op. 94, originally for piano and flute but transcribed for clarinet by Kent Kennan, and it received a wonderful introduction by Mr. Cohen on Prokofiev's background and run-ins with authority. Prokofiev apparently had the type of personality that enjoyed a terrible review. Mr. Cohen noted that he's received terrible reviews and doesn't particularly enjoy receiving them, though with performances like those this afternoon it's hard to imagine. The second and fourth movements were particularly wonderful to listen to.

And again, anyone who wants to try my living room: Email L at LincolnInCleveland dot com.

* Confession: Part of the reason I was so quick to make the connection was I'm a fan of Vanessa Mae's Bach Street Prelude, a slightly modern take on the same material -- but it's so much more captivating live.

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