General News · 22nd September 2010
The afternoon concert at Gorge Hall on Sept 19th wasn’t for the birds at all. Calvin Dyck and Betty Suderman performed a great variety of music for violin and piano with a professional perfection that many musicians never achieve. There was a lot of trilling, pizzing and twittering in the music, though, some of which is even identified with birds in the score. Vivaldi, for a starter, wrote into the score exactly which notes were to mimic the birds of spring (and other spring events). The performance of the “Spring” concerto from the Four Seasons was somewhat unusual: the first theme was introduced with a jumping bow (spiccato), providing a lighter, more dance-like effect than the impressionistic non-legato bowing used by I Musici di Roma, who re-introduced this music to the masses during the early sixties. Despite Betty’s great agility and sensitivity, Calvin will probably agree that much of the spring mood is lost when the accompanying strings are replaced by a piano, an instrument not known to Vivaldi.
In contrast, the Kreutzer Sonata by Beethoven was written for these two instruments, to be played, in fact, by the greatest pianist (Beethoven himself) and violinist (Kreutzer) of the late classic period. Rumor has it that Kreutzer declared the sonata as unplayable and refused a public performance. That subsequently elevated the sonata to an almost obligatory bravura piece among violinists, including some accomplished amateurs, e.g. Einstein. After a near-perfect interpretation Calvin showed us one of the many difficulties, the so-called Kreutzer stroke: a forcefull spiccato executed at the tip of the bow. It looked easy when he did it, but just try it! The bow, rather than the player, will take control, just like a tree will decide where it wants to fall when an amateur uses the chainsaw.
After the intermission we were treated to a series of eight shorter pieces, perhaps from their encore repertoire. Some were of simple beauty, like Saint-Saens’ “Swan”, and others requiring the greatest virtuoso abilities, e.g. Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending”. Both players excelled in this rapid succession of different musical moods. The second half of the concert was particularly educational for those of us who try to learn playing the instruments, particularly our young players. Did you observe how close to the bridge the bow was during the most beautiful and clear tones? And how vertically the fingers dropped onto the grip board, even after position shifts and during rapid sequences? It should be mandatory for our young players to attend these performances. In contrast, very young children who cannot keep quiet for a couple of hours do not belong into a classical concert. Whispered comments and falling chairs are insults to the artists and disturbances for the audience.
I hope this critique contributes to Mae’s organizational traditions of our concert series, in spite of the demise of the Whaletown National Enquirer.