West Point Grey United Church; May 7
Violin: Victor Costanzi & Mary Sokol-Brown; Viola: Andrew Brown & Yariv Aloni; Cello: Eugene Osadchy & Janet Steinberg; Piano: Janina Kuzmas
by Lichen Tilley
First on the program was Mozart's "String Quintet in B Flat Major" K 174. Inspired by M. Hayden, this was the first of six quintets Mozart wrote --some of which he had trouble selling because of the newness of this genre. But Mozart, aged 17, was inspired by both M. Hayden and J."Papa" Hayden and even reworked this quintet -- an exercise he seldom did.
Victor Costanzi and Mary Sokol-Brown balanced each other in a spirited counterpoint in the Allegro moderato. In the Adagio, the violas, played by Andrew Brown and Yariv Aloni were flirtatious and lilting, and cellist, Eugene Osadchy's harmony intertwined effortlessly with upper and lower strings. Refrains in the Menuetto ma allegretto offered a jollity through Hayden-like elements. The performers' musical enthusiasm was infectious.
The light, rather silvery Allegro was nimbly played, unmarred by an occasional squeaky note. I believe it was Alan McPhee who used to say, "A day without Mozart is a day without sunshine!" This notably performed and beautifully crafted quintet made the audience's day!
Vancouver composer, Nikolai Korndorf's "Lament and Response for Violoncello and Piano l998" was the second offering on the program. The piece, commissioned by J. Hampton in memory of a deceased friend, is comprised of two movements. In the first part, the cello was supported by the piano through heavy chords, reminiscent of a death knell tolling from a country churchyard. The music evoked the deep baritone tone of Dylan Thomas, sonorously reading: "Do not go gently into that good night…Rage, rage, against the dying of the light"! The emotion of the polytonal lament involved the audience to such an extent that the end of the first movement resulted in total silence.
The second movement's rippling brook-like, broken piano chords also elicited images of children at play and the rebirth of spring, with the cello suggesting "When the snows of Winter blow so hard, can Spring be far behind?" Osadchy, (cello) and Janina Kuzmas (piano) created a definite musical statement of hope and renewal in this movement.
Tchaikovsky's Sextet in D Minor Opus 70 'Souvenir de Florence' was the third performance of the evening. After his disastrous marriage, the composer journeyed to Florence where this composition was written. Between the Fifth and Sixth symphonies, Tchaikovsky composed three string quartets and although better known for grander forms, he was very successful with this format. It is a true sextet with six similar lines of music independent of each other.
In the Allegro con spirito, one can hear the occasional refrain reminiscent of a Swan Lake motif, but the movement is light hearted and even bubbly, -- not at all melodramatic. The six string instruments were played with enthusiasm. The Adagio cantabile e con moto is a slow movement, obviously Italian, with nostalgic refrains and pizzicato-like elements. It is more balletic in style and there was a glorious interplay between the first violin and first cello. The third movement, Allegretto moderato, is colourful and Cossack images were ably captured by the artists, who played vigorously, so much so that the first violinist broke his string!
This did not deter the audience's obvious enjoyment of the performance. The finale, Allegro vivace, was an exchange of motifs between instruments. It is a "visual" movement, filled with fugues and romance. Although a bit ragged toward the end, it was played with passion.
The audience's appreciation of the entire performance was apparent. The applause was uninhibited. The Vetta Chamber Music Series for 1999 - 2000, starting Oct. 1, l999 is bound to have an excellent turnout judging by this performance.