Sunday, October 2, 2011

Heights Arts House Concert: Welcome Bach Tudor Arms

Leclair: Sonata III for two violins, Op. 3, No. 3.
Kurtag: Hommage a Mihaly Andras (12 Microludes for String Quartet (1978))
Bach: So schau' dies holden Tages Licht (Aria from Kanata, BVW 1073)

Bach: Hilf, Gott, dass es uns gelingt (Aria from Kantata BVW 194)
Bach: Ruhig und in sich zu frieden (Aria from Kantata BVW 204)
Bach: Ich bin vergnugt in meinem Leiden (Aria from Kantata BVW 58)
Tartini: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, D. 80
Tessrini: Concerto in A-major for Violin and String Orchestra, Op. 1, No. 12
(Jung Oh, soprano; Peter Otto, Miho Hashizume, Isabel Trautwein, violin; James Larson, viola; Daniel Pereira, cello)

Heights Arts' series of house concerts is a highlight of my concert-going season: You get to hear magnificent musicians in unusual locations in a more relaxed atmosphere. In addition, with the small ensembles you are treated to music that was chosen by the musicians playing it are even more deeply invested.

Tonight's concert brought together talented members of the Cleveland Orchestra along with CIM Faculty was my first glimpse into the Tudor Arms Hotel (a DoubleTree hotel*) on Carnegie Avenue since it's recently completed renovation-and reopening (before being returned to hotel use, the building served as Case student housing and social services offices). The 2nd floor ballrooms -- this concert was in the mirrored Crystal Ballroom -- certainly exude the feeling of an era gone by, though the new murals on the walls were as vibrant as the music we were about to hear.

The program was a interesting mix of composer well known along with composers lesser known. Opening the program, Leclair's wonderfully sweet Sonata III for two violins, played by Orchestra members Isabel Trautwein and Miho Hashizume provided a delightfully sweet opening to the concert.

Following that piece, Cellist and CIM faculty member Daniel Pereira provided an interesting comparison between Kurtag and Bach's works, most succinctly that Bach was composing in a highly regimented time with rules inviolate, where Kurtag composing in a much later era was essentially free from rules. In that context the pieces were alternated -- three movements of Kurtag to each Bach Aria. The contrast was interesting, but not as jarring as you might expect given the 200-year spread between the composers. The color and texture of the mostly short Microludes was interesting and varied -- calm and lethargic, agitated, fog-like, swampy, stormy, and startled were all feelings that I could associate with various movements, while Ms. Oh's wonderful voice added elegance to the Bach arias. (At one point in Ruhg und in sich zu frieden, a note was sustained for what felt like hours, yet by looking at Ms. Oh's face you would not suspect she required any more effort than a casual conversation). Rachel noted that while German is a harsh language, from Ms. Oh's singing it was only at the end that you got a sense of the guttural harshness.

Following intermission, Cleveland Orchestra First Associate Concertmaster Peter Otto joined the ensemble and quite a bit of levity. On talking about the difficulty of the instrument, he noted "If you don't start by 10, you're always going to sound like you're torturing baby animals" (I take exception to that -- two years in, I sound like I'm torturing adult animals). Mr. Otto noted that historically the violin concerto form had been considered an aberration, in poor taste, and lacking complexity. After listing to the two pieces that followed, that is hard to reconcile.

Tartini's Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra offered (with improvised cadenzas by Mr. Otto) two sweet movements concluded by a lively allegro assi third movement. Interestingly, the participation of the cello and viola were quite limited throughout all three movements, leaving a piece virtually for three violins. Mr. Otto's improvised cadenzas blended beautifully with the score, and I simply closed my eyes and let the beautiful notes play off my ears for much of the piece.

Closing out the concert and my unquestionable favorite, Tessarini's Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra (Op. 1, No. 12) with three gripping movements: The first movement (allegro) was lively, and the third movement (vivace, allegro) was my favorite with a galloping pace and a tsunami of notes springing from Mr. Otto's instrument, while the second movement (largo) provided a refreshing, but well-paced respite between the two.

The concert concluded with a standing ovation; I think the first for a Heights Arts house concert, while the silent auction ended a few minutes after and I found myself the winner of a performance with Ms. Trautwein, which I am quite looking forward to--a welcome encore to last year's experience with cellist Ms. Tanya Ell.

*- I have a Hilton HHonors free night certificate I've been saving for the reopening of this hotel... I need to check if it's still valid and book a stay soon to check it out!

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