2011/2012 THE CLASSICAL SEASON THAT WAS…
It was a classical music season of ups and down and I guess the outdoor concert “Music in the Mountains” was a convenient end to a somewhat rocky season. But first a disclaimer. I didn’t get to all the performances during the season. I missed the Symphony Christmas concert and I didn’t attend any of the Arts Festival performances so I guess I missed a significant chunk of what was going on. However, of the concerts that I did get to attend I think the following are worth noting.
The Diva and the Maestro – Natalie Choquette and the Symphony of the Kootenays, Key City Theatre, Saturday, October 29th, 2011, 7:30 pm
Classically trained sopranos are not necessarily my cup of tea. More often than not for me they are shrill and hard on the ear. However, Natalie Choquette proved to be the exception. She managed to take the standard diva repertoire to another level of entertainment. The premise of the concert was “A Maestro is trying to come to terms with eccentric internationally renowned divas such as “la Fettucini”, “Fraulein Wienerschnitzel”, “Nadia Camenitchaïkovskyaya”, “Mrs Osolemio” and many more…!” In an array of an extravagant costumes and interactions with members of the audience and “the maestro” Natalie played the role of all the divas in this contest of wills with the conductor Bruce Dunn. With humour and panache she managed to work her way though the popular operatic repertoire. Of the symphony concerts I have attended over the years this was by far the most entertaining. It was unfortunate that the audience numbers were less than optimum. Of course one wonders why that was the case and possibly part of the reason for low attendance was the lack of adequate publicity. I for one had no idea what to expect from the concert and as a result I was more than pleasantly surprised by the wonderful performance. Normally I am not a fan of concerts that place a high reliance on show biz glitz to pull off a performance but for Natalie Choquette the entertainment trappings were definitely an added value.
LA CAFAMORE STRING QUARTET, Knox Presbyterian Church, Friday September 30th, 2011, 7:30
From one extreme to the other; From the entertainment values of the operatic world to the modern, super cool, amplified music of the La Cafamore String Quartet is quite a leap and it was a leap well worth taking. The featured work on the program was Steve Reich’s minimalist masterpiece “Different Trains”. This piece may have required a significant intellectual and emotional leap for audiences unfamiliar with truly modern music. Steve Reich is a modern American minimalist composer who relies on short phrases that evolve, loop and interlock in complex melodic and rhythmic patterns. It is steps away from the increasing harmonic complexity of most modern music. The piece is a programmatic rumination by the composer on train journeys in the United States and in Europe in 1939 on through to about 1950. It is a reflection of the composer’s personal recollections and war time Jewish experiences. Now here is the super cool part. As usual the publisher sends along the manuscript for the string quartet but also includes a CD of pre-recorded train sounds, snatches of speech and another string quartet playing the loops of music that are the core of the composition. In simplistic terms “Different Trains” is an interactive karaoke experience of a pre-recorded CD performance and the amplified La Cafamore String Quartet on stage. The overhead display of the text and the sequence of the music certainly helped keep the audience on track. “Different Trains” is a three movement work; “I: America – before the War”, “II: Europe – During the War”, “III: After the War”. The piece was featured on a landmark 1988 recording by the Kronos Quartet but to actually see and hear the piece in live performance was a some what mind blowing experience. Also on the program were pieces by those other well known revolutionaries Beethoven, Debussy and Puccini. This was a remarkable concert.
The Selkirk Trio, Knox Presbyterian Church, Cranbrook, Wednesday April 11th, 2012, 7:30 pm.
This unusual chamber music concert of piano (Sue Gould), clarinet (Nicola Everton) and cello (Jeff Faragher) was well attended. The trio featured the music of Beethoven, the Cuban Jazz world of Paquito D’Rivera’s “Afro”; The “lively and cheeky” music of Nino Roto (of The Godfather I & II film scores); some minor pieces by the German Jewish composer Max Bruch and the exotic Serbian dances by Marko Tajcevic. The Serbian music was a complete revelation. Arthur Rubenstein was known to have played transcriptions of these compositions and his influence was very evident in Sue Gould’s lively accompaniment to Nicola Everton’s absolutely liquid clarinet playing. Nicola bounced and oozed her way through the exotic odd metre eighth rhythms of music that sounded like it came straight off the streets of Zagreb. The program was rounded out with Paquito D’Rivera’s “Danzon” and Sue Gould and Nicola Porter giving full rein to their jazz inclinations with a wonderful rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”.
So those are my top picks of the season. That does not mean there were not other performances of merit out there. The concerts by the Bisset Singers was full of surprises and gorgeous choral arrangements. The La Cafamore String Quartet came back to Cranbrook with Nina Horvath for another wonderful performance at the Knox. The unusual combination of Carolyn Cameron on violin and Aurora Dokken on piano and organ were also featured at the Knox in February. The talented amateur vocalists had their day in the sun at the Knox performing in “Sonatina Sunday” (see the tab PERFORMANCES / MUSIC / SONATINA SUNDAY 2012 ). The JOE TRIO gave an entertaining performance at the Key City that was billed as a Symphony of the Kootenays concert but there was no orchestra in sight. I found that a bit puzzling. And of course there was the grand finale concert “Music In the Mountains” outdoors at the St Eugene Mission Golf resort.
So despite some organizational miss-steps by the Symphony it was a season full of wonderful music. The most notable feature of the season was the significant amount interesting and varied chamber music performed at the Knox Presbyterian Church.