The week has not been altogether depressing. On Wednesday I attended another of those Doors Open For Music concerts at the Southminster Church, as mentioned in my penultimate blogpost, and it was as satisfying as I'd anticipated. Frédérick (Fred) Lacroix was the pianist and Charles (Chip) Hamann was the oboe player who announced each item as the concert progressed.
At one point he asked rhetorically, "Is there anything Fred can't do?" and a female member of the audience piped up, "He can't have a baby!" (Laughter.)
The first piece, Lacroix' own Sonatine pour hautbois et piano, was a world première, its structure inspired by Baroque music, apparently, incorporating inversions of the thematic material and canons, of a sort, in the first and last movements. It began with a yearning and swirling "middle eastern" theme: "the oboe is a moody instrument," said Chip, who has been principal oboist in the NACO since 1993. His friend Fred often works with him at the University of Ottawa and composed this work for him. Its second movement is "as jazzy as possible, but not too fast," a conversation between the two instruments, and the third movement (lentement) is contemplative. In contrast, the final movement is "vigorous" (vif), with a changing metre. Apparently the accompaniment quotes from a favourite Mozart sonata at one point, but I didn't spot this.
The next item on the programme was also Canadian, by a female composer I had not heard of, an anglophile called Jean Coulthard who died in 2000 aged 92. This too made a wistful start, "gently flowing", but it livened up towards an impressively virtuoso ending. Chip confessed that the performers were "still figuring out the notes and things" for this one, but they seemed to me to have mastered it: false modesty!
The two of them are preparing for a Chamberfest concert later this summer, with much the same programme.
There followed a lament for the victims of AIDS written by Marjan Mozetich, called Calla Lilies, which the performers thought appropriate as a tribute to the people who'd died in the Orlando shooting.
"Neither in the major nor the minor, like the British weather", the next piece was a Sonata in C (Op. 100) by the English composer Edmund Rubbra, written in 1958. For the middle movement of three, the Elegy, Chip said something about "one-ness in an era of fragmentation"––yes, we need a strong dose of that––and the final Presto had a beautifully rippling accompaniment.
The last item was Ravel's famous Sonatine, originally for piano but transcribed for oboe with a piano accompaniment in this case by an oboist, David Walter, of the Paris Opera orchestra. Chip Hamann called it "astonishingly concise and beautiful." I find it gorgeous; I confess to having a great weakness for Ravel's music.