Fireball pianist Heng-Jin Park and luminous violinist Irina Muresanu joined Winsor Music regulars for sometimes lively and often intriguing musicmaking at First Church of Boston on Saturday night, beginning with clarinetist and co-Artistic Director Rane (pronounced ronnie) Moore’s duetting with Park in Witold Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Piano. The miniature fast, slow, fast, slow, fast movements, which apparently responded to and evoked Bartok’s folklorish violin duos, came about from a 1954 commission for student works and constituted the composer’s “farewell to folklore.” According to the publisher’s notes, “In the successive preludes Lutosławski provides markings for only the tempos, and gives other additional word-based indications (especially in the orchestral version) regarding the desired types of articulation, dynamics, violinistic technique, and general expression, such as marcato, energico, forte ma dolce, poco sforzato, ritardando, perdendo, tranquillo, sostenuto e poi precipitando, etc.” Moore and Park found their groove and reveled in the chewy polyrhythms, mixed dominance, and colorful techniques.
Mursesanu then joined upbeat local favorite violinist and Winsor co-Artistic Director Gabriela Diaz in five selections from Polish composer, violinist, pianist and author Grazyna Bacewicz’s (1909-1969) Duets on Folk Themes: Preludium, 1st Krakowiak, Kujawiak, and Grotesque March. These short numbers didn’t carry much emotional baggage, as they evolved from a plodding introduction through more expansive harmonic meanders, and pointillistic exercises, concluding in a danceable Grand March which the players dispatched with bravura grace.
Diaz introduced us to Afro-Cuban composer and violin virtuoso José Silvestre White Lafitte (1836 – 1918), a soloist, who received great acclaim all over the world, including a glowing letter form Rossini; he even soloed at our BSO. His students included Jacques Thibaud and Georges Enescu. His Nouvelles Etudes contain challenging parts for the teacher and simple melodies for the student. As the instructor to the crowd and her on-stage charge, Muresanu tossed off virtuosic scales and broken arpeggios with spotlight-loving flair as Diaz nicely infected the melody in the duet they chose from the set.
According to annotator Joseph Puglia, Luciano Berio’s 34 Duetti per due Violini (1979-1983) are clearly in Berio’s own style and idiom, though much indebted to Bartók’s 44 violin duets; they provide ‘real music’ for teaching technique to young students. Diaz asked us to listen to the very short duets as tributes to Berio’s friends. “Some are names you’ll know like Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky and others are more personally significant to Berio, like the last one, Anna, which is named after his agent. One of my favorites is Aldo, where I play a melody sul ponticello, and Irina plays a Sicilian love song. In one of Berio’s favorites, ‘If I were a fish,’ we repeat the pppp, almost without sound.” Bela: a mosquito and moth dirge, Fiamma: canonic, circuitous and inconclusive, Aldo: Diaz sounded like a lively bagpiper while Muresanu’s violin contained a complete opera orchestra which exited the pit, Igor: Something of a Bach two-part invention, albeit folkloric; Annie: loud and outgoing, giving a suggestion of Kodaly girls’ chorus numbers.
Diaz posited Ligeti’s Baladă și joc (Ballad and Dance) (1950) as another homage to Bartok. Arguably the most theatrical of the set, its slow tune introduction found Muresanu’s in sumptuous low register as Diaz accompanied with some juicy doublestops in contrapuntal development. Rumanian Muresanu radiated theatrical charm in the transmission of the two transformed two folk songs from her native land. Diaz equaled her level of intensity in the concluding hoedown.
Mendelssohn’s Konzertstück No.2, Op. 144 brought Winsor founder and essential oboist to the stage with the part originally taken by basset horn. Wiki interestingly relates how the eventual orchestrator of this piece, Carl Baermann (1839 in Munich –1913 in Newton, Massachusetts), a pianist who studied with Lachner, later became a student and friend of Liszt. He moved to Boston in 1881, achieving success as a pianist and teacher, counting Amy Beach, and Frederick Converse, among his students. Rane Moore summarized the very amusing creation of the piece in exchange for a supper [related in full HERE]. Her warm clarinet consorted in compelling Mendelssohnian upperclass sisterhood with the more keening oboe, as Park’s outgoing piano ministrations helped to lift the encounter beyond the delightful if slight Hausmusik qualities. We were finally hearing some real chamber music! They danced a fandango a trois, sang a honeyed recitative and aria in the andante, and finished the graceful allegretto movement with irrepressible energy.
Though he was hardly a one-work composer, most listeners know Anton Arensky, the teacher of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff only for his big hit, the Piano Trio in D Minor from 1894.
Vance Koven wrote on these pages that “…the opening movement, in impeccable sonata form, has a catchy main tune whose melodic shape is perhaps made more memorable by its anachronistic similarity to a certain Beatles song. The following scherzo another popular number, has a tricky violin part that must leap between spiccato and pizzicato, with some harmonics thrown in for good measure. The scherzo’s trio section features a dialogue between a galumphing piano and some Viennese schmalz in the strings—a wonderful effect. The Trio, as is often the case with pieces of its era, is given structural unity by overt and covert repetition of melodies between movements: here the slow movement’s main theme resembles the first movement’s opening one in outline, and the motto tune reappears in propria persona as a wistful memory in the finale.”
Diaz made much of the work’s dedication to the cellist Karl Davydov, yet in the performance cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer, warm and artistic as usual, seemed to be operating on a calmer, quieter plane than the highly soloistic Irina Muresanu. Heng-Jin Park, her pianist partner over decades and herself a major personality who loves a page black with notes, kept us in excited anticipation, seemingly expanding the 7ft Steinway by at least a couple of feet. Plying brilliant tones in shapely compelling strokes, Muresanu commandingly paid tribute to the dedicatee as Popper-Keiser humbly accepted by proxy… which is not to say that Popper-Keizer’s artistic account lacked for anything other than fire.
Lee Eiseman is the publisher of the Intelligencer