Friday, February 24th, 2006 - 7:00 PM
The Lautreamont Concert Series
Steven Zynszajn, violin
Francisco Salazar, violin
Esme Allen-Creighton, viola
Rafal Jezierski, cello
Sachiko Kata, piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Overture to Don Giovanni: Arrangement by Steven Zynszajn
Edvard Grieg, String Quartet No.1 in G minor Op. 27 1st movement, Un Poco Andante – Allegro molto ed agitato
Toru Takemitsu, Les Yeux Clos I; Les Yeux Clos II
Johannes Brahms, Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op 102; 1st movement; Allegro
Continuing a tradition of bringing us beautiful chamber music with a difference, The Lautreamont Concert Series presented a diverse concert at the A.C. Pianocraft. The evening was shorter than originally planned due to the sudden imposition of the original violist. I understand that the originally scheduled pianist also could not appear. Nevertheless the program covered a range of styles, and managed to draw a considerably larger crowd than I recall was present in a previous concert I attended here. (November 9th).
First a few words about the venue: A.C. Pianocraft is not only a large, friendly space with a good acoustic, but has some superb pianos – instruments restored on premises to their former glory under the loving care of its craftsman /owner, Alex Kostakis. A dynamic presence, and a man of vision who takes an obvious pride in his work, Alex learned the details of his trade from his father Ted who founded the company in 1966 following many years of expert training at Steinway & Sons in New York. Alex says that he works on every piano at A.C. Pianocraft and that no instrument is released to a customer without his or Ted’s final and thorough inspection.
I would like to add that restoration, in particular of much older instruments, is very much an art as well as a science, and more frequently than not these ‘treated’ instruments lose some of their ‘soul’ in the reworking. I took some time to tinker on several instruments and was impressed. I found the tone of one older Steinway in particular remarkably responsive and rich across the full range; the whole instrument seemed to resonate with every tone, which became even more apparent when full chords were sounded.
Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni is seldom played by string quartet – as it was this evening – in an imaginative setting created by The Lautreamont Series founder, violinist Steven Zynszajn. Allowing for the last minute fill-in by violist Esme Allen-Creighton – which was impressive – these four enterprising artists managed to give us some idea of the drama of the Overture and the Opera itself. I hope to hear more arrangements in this vein because there continues to be a real shortage of creative arrangements being presented publicly.
Grieg’s String Quartet No.1 in G Minor Op. 27, the only complete surviving string quartet by this master, is not heard often enough! We heard only the first movement tonight, which is a thoroughly idiomatic – i.e. Nordic sounding – work, written in a richly orchestral style. (It is reminiscent of the violin sonatas). The performance was taken at a comfortable pace, with just enough breathing space to allow the lyrical moments to speak. The rhythmic flexibility was admirable, as it could also have been played through in a more ‘straight forward’ manner, thereby losing the effectiveness of the thematic contrasts. Cellist Rafal Jezierski is a natural talent, with a fine, penetrating tone and sensitivity as an ensemble musician. Violinists Francisco Salazar (1st) and Steven Zynszajn gave us a vigorous full-bodied account, and once again violist Esme Allen-Creighton ably supported the ensemble with the inside voice.
Following the quartet, pianist Sachiko Kata presented two pieces of Toru Takemitsu – Les Yeux Clos I and Les Yeux Clos II – and spoke about the composer’s background, which was helpful given the fact that his music is not widely known to the general public. We were informed that Takemitsu was influenced by, among others, Olivier Messiaen, Claude Debussy and Duke Ellington and was basically self-taught. The music is ‘oriental’ in its flavor in the sense that musical ideas are fleeting suggestions and not formally developed in any traditional western sense of the word. Ms. Kata played with dynamic flair and seemed to have rapport with the music.
The concert concluded with the first movement of Brahms’ well-known Double Concerto for Violin and Cello Op. 102, featuring cellist Rafal Jezierski and violinist Steven Zynszajn. Pianist Ms. Kata took on the entire orchestra, and it should be noted, often sounded as full as one, even to the point of at times overpowering the strings. This is a demanding piece for the soloists, and both musicians admirably exerted their strong personalities while managing not to sound constrained by technical considerations. I felt that the rhythm in the opening might have benefited from a more literal reading, especially given that it is a motive that is developed so thoroughly in the first movement.
It is encouraging to hear this kind of performance and to have such a congenial setting available, and to see ensembles existing and promoting themselves outside the support of a management company or sponsor. This requires ‘guts’ and sticking power, especially in these times of lower government funding and diminished private sector support. As a broader audience takes interest in such groups, and sees them as fundament to a thriving arts scene, there is the hope that support will develop beyond government and management. This will allow driven young talent – such as we heard this evening – to develop in spite of increasingly difficult performing conditions. Congratulations are in order to all of the musicians of The Lautreamont Series for presenting a fine evening of chamber music!