in: Reviews

April 11, 2010

“Salon d’un Refusé’, deux,” Self-Described Title of Concert by Composer Tony Schemmer

by

An Appreciation:

Tony Schemmer provided an audience of many of the Boston area’s most avid melomanes with a diverse, entertaining, and edifying evening of his works at the Longy School of Music on Saturday evening, April 10, 2010. The program included pieces for solo piano; duos for piano and clarinet, violin, and cello; piano trio; and, in the grand finale, a suite from his Musical for Children on the history of Columbus (‘Bus), with a chamber orchestra including harpsichord and marimba.

Presented with flawless and enthusiastic virtuosity by some of the region’s most accomplished young musicians, the program gave proof that New Music can be original and creative without sounding like jackhammers tearing down Filenes or the Green Line rounding the bend at Government Center. Even Harvard Square dodecaphonaphilics (a tendency to which yours truly is occasionally guilty, somewhat to the annoyance/horror/amusement of his wife…) had to have been seduced by Dr. Schemmer’s ability to tell stories in “songs without words” of wry wit, ebullience, and romance.

Toney Tango for piano trio, performed with biting verve by violinist Olga Caceànova, cellist Sebastian Bäverstam and pianist Constantine Finehouse, and Toy March for violin and piano (with Ms. Caceànova and Mr. Finehouse), my personal favorites of the evening, practically begged the audience to get up and dance (on top of the Steinway?) and be part of the action. The other fine musicians were Artem Belogurov (piano and harpsichord), Kristian Bäverstam (clarinet), James Borchers (percussion), Malakiva Gopal (violin), and Laura Heinrichs (flute).

Maestro Schemmer’s music also has the stylistic variety — cabaret, jazz, tango, blues, musicals, folk melodies, even strict sonata form, to keep an audience engaged and alternately amused and drawn in to nostalgia or poignancy for a whole evening. Many compliments to Tony for this. I can think of many new (and old!) composers who would keep an audience’s attention for a piece or two, but then lose them. His choice of  “tales to be told” also helps. I, and others, I suspect, learned some new things about Columbus and his voyages to America and came away envying the Brookline school children who entered the world of 1492 through Schemmer’s musical doorway.

But what is the core of Schemmer’s style? Knowing of his Yale background, I kept hearing the ghost of Horatio Parker and the “American Romantics” in the center of things, leavened by Jazz and…Hungarian/gypsy motifs (just a musical homage to our common Austro-Hungarian classical music culture, or a reference to the unknown Hungarian parts of America like Western Pennsylvania?). In any case, we were treated to a good American melting pot (without, thank heavens, the obsessive open fifths and fourths that some have defined as “American Music”). This musical feast was then followed by a delightful dessert reception and convivial company

Lawrence Franko, an investment manager, is concertmaster of Sounds of Stow and also performs often with his wife, a pianist. He is a graduate of Harvard College (’63) and the Business School (’70).

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