Sebastian Bäverstam and Yannick Rafalimanana, June 8, 2013 J.S. Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G major Ludwig van Beethoven: Cello…
If the Berkshire Review appears to have been rather quiet lately, that is because New York Arts, as of the beginning of 2013, has taken over the international coverage that formerly occupied The Berkshire Review, which has returned to its roots as a local arts journal devoted on the great summer festivals of The Berkshires. While some of these—Aston Magna and Tannery Pond—have begun to simmer already in June, they will spring into full life with the American national holiday on July 4th—and so will the Berkshire Review!
The barn at Tannery Pond is particularly well suited to cello music — a kind of cello-within-a-cello, the musical equivalent to the old literary framing device, maybe. The instrument’s range and woody timbre are particularly appealing, even restful, resting on the ear’s most sensitive range of pitches, so it is no wonder cellists seek out such acoustics, or do things like making arrangements for 6, 8, or 10 cellos. In fact listening in the Tannery barn gives one the overwhelming urge to make music in it, even if just laying down a few purple chords on the piano — in that way perhaps Rachmaninoff is particularly well suited to the barn too. The audience did seem thrilled by Haimovitz’s and O’Riley’s playing of the young Rachmaninoff’s sonata in G minor. Rightfully enough, it was the sort of full blooded and full bodied (figuratively speaking, the musicians bodily movements were in fact very restrained) interpretation of Rachmaninoff that doesn’t spoil easily. They did take certain risks, though, over and above those of choosing such unplayable chamber music, O’Riley especially coming into his own in this sonata, which is really more of a duet between equals. His piano style seemed more at home with this kind of music than pure accompaniment, which is an art in itself, partly because he seemed more easy with the dynamic of two equals playing together, something sounding more like a trio or a contrapuntal quartet.
On looking over this program of familiar works for cello and piano, the last thing one would call it is challenging. Yet, this past Sunday evening, David Finckel and Wu Han made it into something extremely challenging and enlightening. The duo — a husband-wife team, as is well-known — put so much feeling and energy into each piece that each became a world unto itself, formed by such radically different personalities, that it seemed miraculous that the players could make the transition from one to the other within a single evening. As for listening to such performances, I found myself so deeply immersed in these varied planets, that the journey between them seemed vast. Finckel and Wu Han approached them as differing thought processes in different languages.
There was a certain amount of mystery surrounding this concert since the Tannery Pond season was first announced earlier this year. Venues usually have Emanuel Ax’s programs in plenty of time to include them in their advance season previews. Even if a musician’s repertory is generally familiar, audiences begin to feel insecure, if they don’t know what they’re going to hear in advance, but Emanuel Ax is one of the few musicians who can sell out a house without a program, and that is what happened. The delay made it possible offer a very special surprise, the return of the great violinist, Pamela Frank, to the concert stage after an absence of over a decade. In 2001, she received acupuncture treatment for a hand injury, and this in turn damaged nerves in her arm.
Each member of the Martinez-Urioste-Brey trio is a virtuoso in his or her own right. Carter Brey is quite accustomed to blending in an ensemble as he has been Principal Cellist of the New York Philharmonic for a decade and a half. From the outset, one noted a very different chamber style which emphasized instrumental autonomy rather than an imposed “lead and follow” ensemble
The summer festivals of the Berkshires and Hudson Valley are to a large extent about young artists. Some festivals, like Tanglewood, Marlboro, Jacob’s Pillow, Shakespeare & Company, Yellow Barn, and Norfolk, are basically music schools or have an educational institution as a core adjunct. Marlboro and the Tanglewood Music Center focus on musicians who have just completed their conservatory work and are ready to begin their professional careers. Others, like Music Mountain, offer courses for adults and students. The benefits cut both ways: young musicians, actors, and dancers get to perform, and audiences get to hear fresh talent and new insights.
Vassily Primakov’s piano recital has been the most anticipated event of the Tannery Pond season. It is hard to believe that he is only thirty and still viewed by many as a young or emerging artist. This is certainly not evident in his mature musicianship and in nature of his repertory, which includes some important contemporary works, like Poul Ruders’ Piano Concerto, which was written expressly for him, along with some challenging nineteenth century compositions outside the basic repertory, like Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons and Grand Sonata, the Dvořák Piano Concerto, and now Schumann’s Third Piano Sonata in F Minor, which he played in this recital in Schumann’s first version, which has an extra movement, a scherzo following the first movement—a rarity which was definitely among the treasures of the evening.