Friends of Chamber Music: 51st Season

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA CHAMBER MUSIC PLAYERS

Tuesday March 2, 1999

Vancouver Playhouse

by Roxanne Davies

Chamber music used to mean four tired old men playing stringed instruments.But it's no longer the case, says Charles Wadsworth. This jovial and talented fellow, who has been with the festival for forty consecutive years, created the Spoleto Festival in Italy in 1960 at the request of Gian-Carlo Menotti. Wadsworth was one of the pianists who performed at this special Vancouver performance which was well attended at the Playhouse Theatre.

Featuring works from Barber, Stravinsky, Ravel and Brahms, the five musicians made a lie of the belief that chamber music is boring, stuffy and only for the music aficionado. The music they performed was easily approachable, lively and delightful.

What definitely helped were the musical asides from Wadsworth who played a piano duet with Stephen Prutsman. The former joked that playing piano for four hands can be a challenge since, if an elbow wanders, there is always the possibility of a cufflink lock. The duo performed the Barber piece with playful musicality.

Violinist Chee Yun, in a deep pink satin gown trimmed with rhinestones, laid waste to the belief that violinists are stiff, robotic, music machines. She was beautiful in a Greek goddess kind of style. As the sole female performer, she played the Ravel piece with its Asian sounding melodies beautifully. She added drama to the piece through her dramatic gestures. The Brahms piece was heavenly, and the backdrop of floating clouds was totally appropriate.

Chamber music concerts usually end with only a few of the musicians. To challenge that tradition, Wadsworth commissioned Prutsman to write a piece for all five performers. The Vancouver audience heard the Canadian premier of "I've Got Rhythm....NOT!", variations on the theme of I've Got Rhythm. The musicians, especially Chen Yun, let their hair down for the piece to the great delight of the audience. I particularly loved when Andres Diaz, the cellist, played the cello like a bass.

Chamber music need not be stuffy boring music and this performance proved it!