Every so often there comes a recital or concert that stands head and shoulders above the rest. The “Music on the Hill” series at Northside Baptist Church presented on January 21, 2012. This series of chamber concerts is a hidden gem in Atlanta and deserves to be heard by anyone who likes chamber music. The chapel of the church is perfectly suited to chamber works- it provides rich reverberant sound that supports rather than smothers the music.
The performers for this concert were Cellist Alexei Romanenko and Pianist Christine Yoshikawa. Their program included:
Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel
Schnittke – Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano
Fauré – Aprés une Rêve
Schnittke – Suite in the Old Style for Cello & Piano
Stravinsky- Suite Italienne
Stravinsky- Suite Italienne
Arvo Pärt ‘s ‘Mirror in the Mirror” was written in 1978. It is hypnotic and full of beautiful sound. Pärt is known for his “mystic” minimalism that makes a virtue of repetitiveness. In contrast to other minimalists, such as Glass and Adams, Pärt’s music is gentle and of a smaller scale. This is the kind of music that encourages the listen to lose contact with his/her surroundings and simply be in the moment with the music. This performance was stunning.
Schnittke’s Sonata is a searing almost painful piece that has both a spiritual and earthly outrage. It traverses from lyrical to strident, almost screaming. It is a wondrous piece played by two highly gifted artists.
The Faure piece lasted only three minutes. It is based on an anonymous Italian poem, where dreams of love are dashed by sad awakening. Faure’s music is elegant and refined, and this piece is no different. It was played with sensitivity by Romanenko and Yoshikawa.
The second Schnittke piece, Suite in the Old Style, is worlds apart from his Sonata. It is a piece that pays homage to earlier styles of music yet was written in 1961. Pieces of it were written for various films, but it holds together quite well. I like the idea that Schnittke took music that he had composed for a sound track and modified to be a suite of classical chamber music. It only composers like John Williams or Clint Mansell would do the same for their beautiful soundtracks that now only are snippets of music used to set the tone for a scene. With a bit of development, their music could be more intriguing and would bear repeat hearing. Alas, they probably make too much money now to make it worth their while.
The final piece was Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, which is drawn from his familiar “Pulcinella” ballet music. It was interesting to hear the music paired down from a full orchestra to just two parts. This performance was also perfection.
Mr. Romanenko deserves particular attention for his performance. He seemed to put his entire energy into his playing- in fact; he looked like a runner after running a marathon. His tone is big and beautiful. He can generate great volume as well as tiny pianissimos. His strength was incredible.
This concert was a blend of musical styles played by two virtuosi. This chamber music series should not be missed.