Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bach and Webern - Jacaranda Music

My jaw dropped last evening when I heard and saw Tereza Lucia Stanislav's rendition of Bach's "Chaconne" from Partita for Violin No. 2, which he wrote sometime between 1717-1723.  It is arguably one of the hardest pieces that had been written for the violin at that time.  It is a very challenging piece to master and is divided into five movements, where the concluding movement Ciaconna (English Chaconne) enjoys a disproportionately larger chunk of time.  The audience were on their feet the moment Tereza Stanislav's violin hit its last note.  The applause was deafening!  My jaw was still wide open.  

I was at the Second Presbyterian Church on Second Street, Santa Monica, continuing my musical adventure from classical into modernism with the help of Jacaranda.  It is such a delight, and joy to have music of this quality and variety in Los Angeles.  For the last one year Jacaranda (Patrick Scott and Mark Alan Hilt) has been organizing a series of concerts based around Olivier Messiaen's works which they dub, "The OM Century."  Last night's program was a roller-coaster ride between classical music and modernism.  The evening both opened and closed with Bach.  In between we heard Anton Webern's quirky, atonal masterpieces.  The pieces were performed by the highly talented Denali Quartet lead by Timothy Loo who did a phenomenal job in Webern's Two Pieces for Cello and Piano (1899).  I also enjoyed a Webern piece that was performed by Sarah Thornblade on the violin accompanied by Gloria Cheng on the piano.  

The concert lasted for over two hours with an intermission in between.  During the intermission, while I was sipping on some coffee, I wondered what Bach would have thought of, had he been sitting in the audience and listening to Webern's pieces.  Would he have been able to trace his musical genes to Webern's atonal masterpieces?  

The second half opened up with Webern's Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 (1909).  The five movements alternate between slow and lively rhythms.  Some of them are quite dark and none of them are too long.  To appreciate Webern you have to understand that he packed so much in so little.  His power of distilling notes and ripping the notion of classical quartets into just a duet between a piano and a violin or into a string trio is what one must look for.  

I had been looking forward to this concert for two months and I came out of last evening's performance with a big smile, light-headed and brilliantly mesmerized.  I thank Jacaranda and the Denali Quartet for putting up such a deeply moving program.  

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