New Works Chamber Concert Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Festival at Sandpoint
Modern classical music needs the kind of help it received Wednesday at the opening chamber music concert of the Festival at Sandpoint.
The composers and players from the festival’s Schweitzer Institute delivered strongly energized performances of imaginative and interesting works, pieces that sometimes touched the heart and occasionally the funny bone.
The stereotype of contemporary music - long, humorless and unfeeling academic exercises dutifully performed without a trace of enthusiasm or grace - was nowhere within earshot.
Wednesday’s program at Schweitzer Resort’s Green Gables Lodge included recently composed works by Robert Zimmerman and James Aikman alongside classics of chamber music repertoire by Robert Schumann and Charles Ives.
There were a few mishaps resulting from jittery nerves, and a mere two days of performance preparation did not allow complete interpretive accord. But the Schweitzer players were highly skilled, idealistic and committed to the music they played. One cannot ask for more.
Institute Fellows flutist Carrie Rose and cellist Dieter Ratzlaf were joined by Brett Paschal, an Eastern Washington University senior, in two movements of Zimmerman’s “Stuart’s Suite,” a work written to celebrate the 65th birthday of the distinguished wildlife biologist Stuart Altman.
The first movement, “Social Study,” pays good-humored tribute to Altman’s studies of the social habits of baboons - the cello playing the aggressive, dominant male; the flute, a skittering, sometimes submissive, female; and the marimba creating a slightly off-balance rhythmic background.
In the work’s second movement, “Ambroseli Sunrise,” Zimmerman economically creates the picture of the sun rising behind Mount Kilimanjaro with sustained cello harmonics and long, two-note sighs on the flute against the flutter of marimba tremolos.
Aikman’s Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, admirably played by violinist Juin-Ying Lee and pianist Daniel Velicer, was written in 1994 on a commission from Cathedral Arts of Indianapolis.
Between the rhythmic persistence of the sonata’s opening Habanera and the propulsive energy of the finale lies an emotionally charged “Haiku.” Aikman’s pensive violin melody and bell-like piano part build to an intense climax, then sink to a whisper and finally soar higher and higher until gliding out of audible range - a deeply affecting movement.
The two new works were framed by Ives’ Largo for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, played by Young-Nam Kim, Barnaby Palmer and Daniel Velicer, and Schumann’s Quintet for Piano and Strings, played by pianist JenLing Hwang, violinists Joseph Meyer and Juin-Ying Lee, violist Kurt Rohde and cellist Dieter Razlaf.
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