Many a different musician to think about today, with two violinists, two pianists and a 'cellist at St. Andrew's church, playing pieces by German, Czech, French and Japanese composers. Melita came with me to hear them.
The first concert began and ended with a Beethoven sonata: op. 30 no. 3 for violin and piano—with a beautifully tuneful minuetto movement and humorous key changes in the allegro vivace—and one of his cello sonatas (op. 102, no. 4). The pianist Jamie Parker of the Gryphon Trio set a prodigiously fast pace for the violinist (Mark Fewer) to match. He did keep up, though, and returned with the slender but powerful young Denise Djokic for the item programmed between the Beethoven sonatas, telling us that the composer of this Duo for Violin and Cello was not very well known, though he predicted he soon would be, now that his lost or forgotten music had recently been resurrected. This was Erwin Schulhof, born in 1894, a Czech Jew who had died in a concentration camp in 1942. He had written the Duo in four movements at the age of thirty. Movement 2, entitled Zingaresca (gypsy dance) was "like Bartók," as Melita whispered, and in the last movement too there was some bouncy activity, the players simultaneously bowing and plucking and sometimes playing col legno battuto. Ms Djokic was accompanied by a Japanese lady for the Beethoven: Kyoko Hashimoto.
The second concert of today starred Denise's brother, Mark Djokic. That's a remarkable family and not just because of their good looks. Their father is also a professional violinist and their mother a concert pianist. Kyoko Hashimoto reappeared, to accompany Mark at the piano in a programme designed to celebrate the cultural and diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan, an 80 year partnership, so the poster claimed ("with a couple of short breaks for war," Melita added drily). Anyway I liked the sentiment expressed in English on the poster—Miles Apart, Minds Together—and in French—Esprit unis, malgré la distance.
The first, short piece, Perpetual, composed last year by Jo Kondo, was a strange one, the same five, rising notes repeated on the violin over and over. Then came Duo Invernale by a composer known to the pianist. I've heard so much new music today that I can't remember anything about this now, but the next item did make an impression on me. We were told by Mark Djokic that this composer, Somei Satoh, was self-taught, and that the piece (written in 1980) was unclassifiable, "just subtle", he said, "a minimalist piece, ... very free, that's why I like it so much!" He also called it "sporadic and random" and said it had no bar lines. The composition was called Birds in Warped Time II like the title of some modern abstract painting. It had a repetitive but delicate, high pitched piano part which went on in the background the whole time like the warbling of birds or trickling of water. Against this, the violin sighed and slurred like the one-stringed Chinese violin I heard in Montreal's Chinese Gardens last September. The effect was very atmospheric, as soothing as a Zen garden. I really liked it.
Then followed a performance of Debussy's Sonata No. 3 in G minor; I could tell why the performers had chosen it, for the first movement was not unlike the Japanese music we'd been hearing.
The second part of the afternoon concert began with another impressionistic, ten minute Japanese piece, Distance de Fee, this one by Toru Takemitsu, who admits he was influenced by Debussy.
The last Beethoven Sonata of the day was the short, three-movement op. 12, no. 2. Altogether there are ten violin sonatas and five 'cello sonatas by Beethoven, all of which are being played at this year's festival.