blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A couple more concerts

Was it only a week and a half ago that the Music and Beyond festival started, back in Ottawa? I have brought some pages of the programme on holiday with me, in order to catch up with the record of the concerts I went to, before I forget, for example, that I heard Germany's Menahem Pressler play the piano in a performance of Mozart and Beethoven Quintets for piano and wind on Friday, July 6th, the oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon parts played by the principals from our local National Arts Centre Orchestra, all tall men, especially in comparison with the venerable pianist who looked half their size when they all stood up to bow. Pressler is now 86 years old, but doesn't seem to have lost his touch at all. Such beautiful melody lines for all the instruments in these pieces.

That afternoon, after a hasty lunch, I returned to the same venue for another, longer concert, this one featuring the works of Jewish composers through the ages, performed by a large group of musicians, taking turns to appear on stage. Despite the fact that until the 18th century little Jewish music was allowed public performances except in the synagogue (as festival director Julan Armour announced), a wide variety of music was presented to us, the first piece a Renaissance style Aria d'un Balletto, from an Italian-Jewish composer, Salamone Rossi, the first violinist playing an 18th century violin for this. Very fine music it was. There followed a movement from Meyerbeer's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, like something by Weber or Rossini, but with a distinctly Jewish, folksy flavour in the penultimate variation (it was in Rondo form). In a similar style, but with a grander accompaniment on the piano, we then heard the Kihan for cello by Stutschewsky, and a Hungarian Rhapsody by David Popper, played mostly from memory by Paul Merleyn, whom I have seen performing several times before, though it only just strikes me that he looks very like Ian Bostrich. The composer was "the greatest cellist of his day," according to Mr. Armour, "the Paganini of 'cellists."

The rest of the concert presented 20th century music, an evocative piece called Quiet City for 13 players, by Aaron Copland, a Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano by Korngold and two preludes for the piano by Gershwin. Shades of R. Strauss in the Korngold who spent ten years of his life composing for Hollywood. What we think of as "film music" is actually late Viennese, said Armour, because its composers were not really American but European, Jews in exile during the war years. Another interesting aside was that Gershwin used to play tennis with Schoenberg in America (Schoenberg was Jewish, too). They respected one another's very different music greatly.

The concert finished enjoyably with a Canadian-Jewish piece by Srul Irving Glick, the Old Toronto Klezmer Suite, the second section including a slow duet between viola and 'cello (played by Mr. and Mrs. Armour) and the last one a lively Klezmer dance depicting The Rabbi's Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul.

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