General News · 3rd October 2011
Passionate Strings with Keyboard
Whaletown’s Winter Concert Season Starts with Calvin Dyck.
On Saturday, October 1, a crowd of Cortes Islanders was lured into Gorge Hall by the advertisement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, to be played by Clavin Dyck. The difficulty with such a universally known piece is that listeners often want it to sound like their favorite CD versions. However, this interpretation had its special charms, unlike any other.
First, there was a wonderful contrast between the strong master violinist, Calvin Dyck, and his tender juvenile “orchestra”, really a quartet plus basso continuo. A similar contrast may have characterized Vivaldi’s own performances with the girls’ orphan school players. Then there were some special effects: The professional violist, E Kassian, realized the dog barking in the spring concert with beautiful dark tones. (I remember a rendition by the Pacific Baroque orchestra, where awful barking sounds were produced by excess bow pressure.) On the other hand, the allegro runs in the winter concerto, that Vivaldi meant to reflect shivering in the cold, were played here rather to induce shivering in the listener due to quite unpleasant bowing. We all know that violins can make a person shiver without being cold. Apparently not all tutti players were convinced of the necessity to abandon tonal beauty here, as evidenced by a quite visible tongue in the cheek of the young cellist, Joseph Lindl. Thirdly, Calvin tended to play slow movements in all four concertos with lots of embellishments that baroque players often used to showcase their technical brilliance. In this case, however, Vivaldi’s dreamy seasonal moods were partly sacrificed in these wonderful simple melodies, e.g. of a walk in the dripping rain.
After the break we heard a great eclectic mix of shorter pieces. A special surprise was the performance of a Vivaldi double concerto played by the two violinists, Hanna Williamson, age 17, and Rebecca Bill, age 16. The fiddling was simply beautiful, just like you might imagine Vivaldi’s young disciples would have played. Another highlight was “Spiegel im Spiegel” (mirror in a mirror) by Arvo Pärt in which calm, simple (unembellished) violin tones (Calvin) of great beauty rested over absolutely brilliant glassy piano figures played by Ewa Telega. Her fantastic light touch on the keys was offered again in Chopin’s Nocturne in Db major a little later. The “Air on the G String” is a transcription by a violin virtuoso, in the key of C, of Bach’s orchestral suite air, written in D. Of course, Calvin played it on only the G-string, risking, but not sacrificing, the eerie beauty of Bach’s simple melody. Of special interest was “African Medley” by Larry Nickel. Starting with a spiritual tune and ending with a South African song, this piece was commissioned (and played) by Calvin Dyck. The program ended with “Mimuetto” by an Asian composer whose name remains obscure. It started a bit like “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” and mimicked some other known classics in a cheeky four beat / bar rhythm.
Over all, the concert was beautiful and entertaining. A standing ovation led to an encore, with all six musicians playing “Doctor Zhivago”.