Sunday, October 31, 2010

CIM: William Johnston Fourth Doctor of Musical Arts Recital

Gershwin: Preludes (Trans. Aronld)*
Busby: Doppelganger: Suite for Two Violas**
Zare: Prelude and Fuge for Viola and Piano (2009)*
Gershwin: Selections from Porgy and Bess (Trans. Heifetz, Arr. Johnston)*
William Johnston, viola; *- with Shuai Bertalan-Wang, piano; **- with Aaron Tubergen, viola

I first met Bill Johnston and Shuai Bettalan-Wang at the same time as I discovered Classical Revolution Cleveland earlier this year. Earlier this week, Mr. (Dr.?) Johnston, who has since moved to Atlanta, invited me to a pair of recitals he was giving this weekend in fulfillment of the requirements of the DMA program. Due to a scheduling conflict I couldn't make it to the earlier recital, featuring slightly more traditional programming, but was quite happily made it to this afternoon's recital--and I'm beginning to think that I need to attend more recitals.

Taking place in CIM's beautiful Mixon Hall, the program opened with three Gershwin preludes; from the opening bars the preludes were unmistakably Gershwin in sound and were exuded the joy that is so critical to an enjoyable performance. Though musically the first (allegro ben ritmato) was my favorite by a hair, a squirrel that seemed to be dancing with the music of the third movement brought a smile to my face and forced me to stifle a laugh: Starting perfectly still, he moved and foraged in time to the music.

Next, Doppelganger, a suite for two violas was interesting overall; the viola has a great voice and I can't recall having heard a viola duet before. I let my eyes close to enjoy the music free from distraction, and in the third movement (Love Me) I noticed a clock like tempo that seemed to be spatially shifting ever so subtly while the other viola played a slightly livelier tune. Upon opening my eyes, I realized that that tempo wasn't, in actuality, maintained by one violist but instead seamlessly alternated between the two.

For anyone who hasn't soaked in beautiful sounds in the visually stunning Mixon Hall, here's a photo I snuck in during intermission (scofflaw that I am; if I recall correctly, photography isn't permitted in either hall...but I couldn't resist [click for large version]):
CIM's Mixon Hall - 2010-10-31

Following intermission Prelude and Fuge for Viola and Piano... while listening to this fine piece of music I noticed the "b. 1985" under the composer's name: That's right, the composer of this satisfying piece--who was in attendance--is a year younger than I am; Mr. Johnston and Ms. Bertalan-Wang, as with the rest of the recital, gave a wonderful performance to a piece that seemed more mature from its composer's years..

The last item on the program, five selections from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (Summertime-A Woman is a Sometime Thing; My Man's Gone Now; Bess, You is My Woman Now; It Ain't Necessarily So; Tempo di Blues) arranged by Mr. Johnston himself, was, I dare say, the most satisfying treatment I've heard Gershwin's music receive in the concert format. Mr. Johnston's sang through his viola in a soul-stirring way unmatched by any vocalist I can remember.


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