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.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Chalifour and Vanhauwaert, twice

The third concert I went to on Wednesday, in the evening, one for which I had an excellent seat near the front, where I could see all the nuances of the performers' facial expressions, was a recital by the violinist Martin Chalifour of Canada and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert of Belgium ... who is interviewed in this video:

Both are based in LA. Mr. Chalifour plays a 1711 Kreisler Stradivarius; the piano Mr. Vanhauwaert was using was from Ottawa's Steinway shop. It could have been the one I played myself last month. What a thought!

Anyhow, this was a splendid concert of sonatas by Mozart (K301), Beethoven (Op 30, No.2) and Fauré (Op.13), introduced by Mr. Chalifour who said that he used to play the Beethoven sonata when he was young, so had fond memories of it. The Mozart sonata had two movements only. By the time Beethoven came along, the convention was to write four movements for a sonata. The Adagio Cantabile was lovely, and Beethoven's formidable drive was much in evidence in the finale (allegro) movement. The Fauré, played after the intermission was very French, in the late romantic style, the violinist swaying from foot to foot as he played. It had a fast running 3rd movement with pizzicato accents. As the Ottawa Citizen's review pointed out next day, both musicians were "perfectly chez eux" in the Fauré and earned their ovation at the end.

I was by no means the only one who also turned up early by bike next morning to hear this duet play again at the Thursday Coffee Concert, same venue, same seat! The two performers had coffee, croissant and muffins with the rest of us before this concert began, the refreshments provided by the managers of a local retirement residence who are no doubt looking for future clients. For many of us it won't be so long in the future, either. There's a general wish that more young people would attend this annual festival, but perhaps if they do give it a try they are put off by all the grey hair and think it's not for them, what a pity.

The Coffee Concert was a celebration of music by Fritz Kreisler, exclusively, unless you count his arrangement of Dvorak's famous Humoresque as the exception. This is light music, good fun, the audience all smiles throughout. The programme began with a "Menuet" in the style of Mozart (the first piece our Monsieur Chalifour had ever performed in public, apparently) although it didn't sound to me at all like Mozart. Schön Rosmarin was a well known, bouncy little number ("I want that one played at my funeral!" said a lady near me in the audience.) Then there was a Viennese march, a waltz, a caprice, and a Gitana with glissandos on the piano. Kreisler always wrote or played short pieces, because, like the TV producers of today, he reckoned that his target audience had a short attention span. We heard a short but rather grandiose Praeludium and Allegro that seemed to be a homage to JS Bach, the piano cleverly imitating the drone of an organ pipe at one point. A Tambourin Chinois turned out to be more Viennese than Chinese in spite of its repeated 5ths in the accompaniment.

The concert finished with Kreisler's Liebeslied (in the clip below he is playing it himself) and then his Liebesfreud, both famous.

Like Godowski, Kreisler had been a child prodigy who gave his first recital at the age of nine. He lived a long life, not a competitive one; in fact he was rather modest. In the earlier part of his career he performed what he claimed to be undiscovered music previously hidden away in monasteries and such, but by the 1930s he admitted to having composed it all himself.

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