Monday, March 10, 2014

A fine memory....

The Riverside Chamber Players (RCP) presented a concert in memory of Douglas Sommer, who recently passed away. Mr Sommer was a member of the bass section of the Atlanta Symphony and was a member of the RCP.

The concert began with the Sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 2 in D minor, which was specifically dedicated to the memory of Mr. Sommer. This is a sad and introspective piece written by the master in about 1720 Its profoundness reaches out to us nearly 300 years later. Joel Dallow was the soloist. This was a great performance that was both technically and musically on target.

The Part "Fratres" is a good example of this composer's mystical minimalism. In addition it demonstrates Pärt's tintinnabular music, which is characterized by two types of voices, the first of which (dubbed the "tintinnabular voice") arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion. The works often have a slow and meditative tempo, and a minimalist approach to both notation and performance. An excellent description of the work appears here:

Domenic Salerni, from the Vega Quartet (see AMC's interview with Mr. Salerni under the "Conversations with..." tab on this site. His contribution was mostly to provide a drone that provides a foundation to the music. The beginning of Fratres has the first violin and viola play a simple melody using harmonic fingering. . For whatever reason this introduction had some unsettling intonation problems. Beyond that the piece was beautifully performed. For anyone not familiar with Arvo Part, here is a performance of Fratres by the quartet Edymion:

Fratres has been rearranged by Part for string orchestra and percussion, and for cello and piano.

The next piece was El Dorado for Harp and Strings by Marjan Mozetich, a Canadian composer. Elizabeth Remy Johnson played the harp for this performance. Mozetich uses minimalist techniques in his works (repetition and chord progressions) so that his music has a hypnotic quality. His music is also very accessible and it doesn't require repeated hearing in order to appreciate it. At times, it seems to AMC that it has a "New Age"quality, which is not bad, but does betray its lack of complexity. Notwithstanding this observation, AMC likes this composer's works. The Riverside Chamber Players performed this piece beautifully.

The final work was Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 5. Mr. Salerni took the first violin chair for this performance, which seemed fitting given that he had performed the work recently when Glass visited Emory University. AMC was impressed with the sound of Mr. Salerni's violin, which apparently was a recent acquisition. This quartet is a prime example of why AMC likes Glass' music so much. It is full of rich and touching melodies built upon a foundation of rapid repetition of slowly evolving chords (this begins with the second movement of the work). It produces (at least for AMC) a way to loosen the grip of logical thought in order to achieve a very pleasant reverie. Again, the RCP provided a great performance.

All of the members of the RCP (except for Mr. Salerni) are members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It was wonderful to see so many of their colleagues in the audience enjoying this wonderful concert and sharing their memories of Mr. Sommer.

Thanks to the musicians, benefactors, patrons, and volunteers that made this concert possible.

Addendum: Mr. Salerni provided the following information about his new instrument:

It's a Jon Van Kouwenhoven, and it was made in 2013. I also own, and frequently use, a Fabio Dalla Costa 2002 ex-Guarnerius. The Kouwenhoven is a very recent purchase.

JVK (as he is sometimes known) is based in Hartford, CT and has made instruments for Yuri Bashmet, Kim Kashkashian, Mstislav Rostropovich, Ole Akahoshi, and Gary Cappozziello.

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