in: Reviews

September 25, 2011

Longy’s Best Foot Forward

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More than one best foot was put forward in the final concert of “Septemberfest” at Longy School of Music, Saturday evening, September 24. “Years of Change 1913-1923” featured works by Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Hindemith. Rebecca Marchand, Ph.D., one of BMInt’s reviewers, presented a pre-concert lecture, “The Spoils of War: European Composers and Compositional Transformation.” Then the school wrapped up its month-long festival with a post-concert gala reception.

For all of this, a strong throng of listeners was on hand despite a muggy New England night and the old saw about who wants or will listen to the kind of music programmed. Who would have guessed that, when the last dissonances and jittery rhythms of Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano (1921-23) sounded through Pickman Hall, such genuine clapping would have resounded, calling back the performer no less than three times?

Hugh Hinton, listed in Longy’s very fine concert booklet as Faculty, Conservatory and Community Programs, might very well put those other two conservatories on the other side of the Charles River on notice. One listener remarked, “I’m tired!” adding how totally absorbed into German Expressionism he had become. Under Hinton’s fingers, Schoenberg’s inimitable, if not dark and quirky, recasting of Baroque dances in a 20th-century light poured forth pure conviction and complete connection. I do not believe there was a listener in the house who did not find him or herself captivated by Hinton’s unbelievably deep grasp of this sometimes strange esthetic. One big foot forward from Longy and listeners alike!

Overall, the concert was truly a successful display of faculty and diploma candidates, both undergraduate and graduate, onstage. Julian Pellicano, artistic director of large nnsembles, led mostly students in L’histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 wartime music. President Karen Zorn was absent as the narrator, leaving the music to speak for itself. Solid playing, if not the most spirited and era-aura-producing, carried the chamber drama to respectable levels.

Anya Shemetyeva, violin and artist diploma candidate, was ablaze from the opening Soldier’s March to the closing Triumphal March of the Devil. I was somewhat disappointed that too many of the other players looked tired not only during tacit passages but when playing, as well.

Conductor Pellicano also performed on accordion in a very rarely heard early work of Paul Hindemith, his Kammermusik No. 1 for Twelve Solo Instruments, Op. 24 (1922) composed in his late 20s. Trumpet notes, especially muted ones, from artist diploma candidate, Kyle Spraker, brightened an otherwise electric overload, not by Longy’s hand but that of the young composer, who short-circuited the outcome. The very odd third movement, “Quartett—Sehr langsam und mit Ausdruck,” slowly unfolded with expression, flutist Julie Scolnick and bassoonist Sarah Gardner (both conservatory faculty,) and clarinetist Robyn Cho (candidate for master of music) leading the way with but a tinkle here and there from percussionist Nick Gleason, guest artist.

Were there real solos? What was it like hearing an accordion in this context? For me, the simultaneous soloing bundled together in one mass of sound. The accordion part of Hindemith also completely disappointed for its obvious lack of compositional presence.

Schoenberg’s The Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op 19 (1911), six miniature piano pieces, were titled after their moods or tempos: “light and tender… slowly…very slowly…rapid but light…somewhat relaxed…very slowly.” Some of most sensitive, understated interpretations of these pieces were manifest in a performance by pianist Sandra Hebert (also faculty, in community programs).

At concert’s end, frankly, I could hardly remember where we began and am still wondering why. Why did the program open with Claude Debussy’s pastoral français: Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1911)? Faculty members Marco Granados, flute, Dmitri Murrath, viola, and Franziska Huhn, each put affectionate touches on this Impressionistic masterpiece.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston,  was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in  Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier  Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University. www.notescape.net

2 Comments

  1. Yes, a wonderful concert! When Longy puts its best foot forward, it is a paw worthy of Ferragamo. Readers not present that evening might be led to believe from David’s perfectly accurate remark, “Karen Zorn was absent as the narrator”, that the Longy President came across as a glazen-eyed performer who isn’t all that into Stravinsky, failing to deliver the goods, when in fact Longy at the last moment decided to jettison L’Histoire’s narrative to cut some time from what was still a generously long program. If L’Histoire’s players “looked tired”, I might as well say Radu Lupu was bored to tears during the BSO’s Beethoven Piano Concerto Nr. 3 last season, when to these eyes HIS own were closed in rapt thought. No, these folks were wired, maybe just not showing it; they certainly sounded it. In fact the trumpet, stage right, could barely suppress a laugh every two minutes, gamely reining in the risibles for a more decorous smile. The Hindemith Kammermusik nearly pulled me from my seat. This was energetic, snub-nosed playing increased my red blood-cell count to dangerous levels just half way in, so that when the solo quartet snuck in, I was quietly ambulating in a monastic garden. And I could hear Hindemith’s taciturn accordion quite well, just one color in a riotous paintbox. Anything more and we’d have Lady and the Tramp sucking spaghetti strands by the Seine. Lastly, David wonders why open with Debussy’s marvelous late sonata? Well, why NOT so part the curtain onto this evening of transformation? The marvelous 1915 work’s lean and sensuous strands, seduced from imagination before the presentiment of death, first entwined themselves along a trellis of staves while Paris, the eternal City of Light, was, at the moment, in the wrenching throes of an eradicating aerial bombardment.

    Comment by Henry Hoover — September 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm

  2. I just need to say:

    Hugh Hinton is one of the best, most talented pianists I’ve ever heard in my life.

    Comment by David Johnson — September 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

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