The Concord Chamber Music Society’s lunchtime Concert and Conversation series provides welcome music and discussion thereof. Recorded last September, and streaming on three recent successive Fridays, at noon, the series does more than just sustain an audience for CCMC during this pandemic, it also celebrates and enhances an artform we so admire. Host and producer of the GBH series, Brian McCreath, creates a warm and personal milieu for the two featured artists, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-pianist, Yehudi Wyner, and founder and director of CCMC, BSO violinist Wendy Putnam. These piquant concerts, with interviews before and after performances, provide a very welcome break from our professional ZOOM routines. Three “segments” in two sessions have been aired so far. Two more segments are promised on the CCMS YouTube Channel HERE.
Describing his compositional attitude, Wyner notes, “I’m not trying to please an audience, I’m trying to reach another soul.” And his music heads that way, as you will see, if you take a bit of time to view these too-few but highly accessible videos.
The first Segment includes two solo piano works by Wyner, separated by five-plus decades—one composed in 1966, when he was courting his wife, the conductor Susan Davenny Wyner and former singer, entitled, Piccolo Fantasia Davenniana, written to please Ward Davenny, Susan’s pianist dad; the second, Four Times Twenty, which runs just over a minute, from 2020, to celebrate the 80th birthday of Christoph Wolff. Both works no doubt touched the spirit of the dedicatees.
The second C and C features a collaboration by Putnam and Wyner in a short but highly melodic violin-piano romance, “Andante con Expressione,” from 1929, by the accomplished Florence Price (1887-1953), the first African American woman composer (and pianist and organist) recognized for her ability to write for ensembles and to have her work performed by a leading symphony. Putnam avers that the duo chose to feature this elegant work by Florence Price not only to honor her and showcase her music, but also to support persons of color and to redress the inequities and racism pervading the American experience…urgently so this year. This brief andante has two contrasting yet lyrical themes. An early and gently phrased G-major segment contrasts with a highly chromatic segment. Putnam plays the tuneful exploration of many interwoven themes with skill and verve, and Wyner sounds strong and assured, just as Price must have intended.
The second noon performance consists of Wyner’s “Three Informal Pieces.” Its eight minutes gestated from 1961-1969. Wyner discussed his odyssey from dislike of the work to his realization that these distinctive and highly flavored confections for violin and piano had merit and even might stick around in repertoire for some time. Much of his early dissatisfaction may have originated in his deviation from early 1960s fashion. Wyner and Putnam partner with understanding in performance of these miniatures. Each of the three of intersperse quietly phrased elements with spikey in quick succession.
Active and vibrant as he approaches his 92 year, Wyner, alone or with violinist Putnam can still create gem-like performances. On the 26th of February the duo will traverse Schubert’s first sonatina for violin and piano, and another solo piano work by Wyner—plus conversation). Those segments already aired can still be accessed through the Concord Chamber Music Society’s website HERE.