“Wild Nights” at Maverick

Playing at Maverick Concerts in Woodstock, NY on Saturday were Maria Bachmann, violin; Wendy Sutter, cello; and Andrew Armstrong, piano. The musicians are not a trio (Maria belongs to Trio Solisti,  Wendy is both a soloist and chamber musician, and Andrew has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and with many different orchestras over the years) but were playing together for “Wild Nights,” a wonderful evening of magical music.

Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7
Zoltán Kodály

Allegro serioso, non troppo
Maestoso e largamente ma non troppo lento – Presto

Out Of Doors (Szabadban)
Béla Bartók

With Drums and Pipes—Pesante
The Night’s Music—Lento—Un poco piu andante
The Chase—Presto

Sonata for Violin and Piano
Philip Glass

1) Quarter note = 120
2) Quarter note = 72
3) Quarter note = 116

Csárdás No. 4, Op. 32, “Hejre Kati” (Hey Katie!)
Jeno Hubay

Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor
Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor

Johannes Brahms

Kodály’s duo was written during WWI, and cello thrillingly opens the piece, with violin joining shortly. The two instruments share the spotlight, at times one carrying the melody as the other is plucked. Increasingly petulant, violin plays a soaring melody, while cello’s notes rock back and forth. A short cello solo leads the music into a downward spiral, and the movement ends ethereally angelic. The start of the second movement is introduced by cello as well, and Wendy coaxed rich sounds from her instrument — a viola da gamba built in the 1600’s by Nicolò Amati, a historical Italian luthier, and adapted to a cello by the master and his student Antonio Stradivari (yes, that Stradivari). The music is temperamental and, midway through, violin plays a high sustained note, signaling a shift in the mood of the music, which then becomes restless and scarce. The last few measures of the movement are barely a whisper, fading to a world beyond. The third is full of plucked strings, harsh chords, and friction. There are also a lot of repeated notes, creating a feeling of discontentment. That movement has the strongest noticeable folk dance theme of the three, kicking up the still air, and violin and cello have a lovely duet. After an ever so brief pause, the real folk music comes into play… A short song played by violin sounds as though it’s from the heart of a gypsy.

After Maria and Wendy got to show off a little with their duo, Andrew took the stage to play Bartók’s suite, which he played sensationally. The title of With Drums and Pipes is a quite literal description of the music itself. Notes are played so low on the keyboard they’re percussive, and frenzy ensues. The dark beauty of Barcarolla flows like a stream under the black of a moonless night. Musettes is constant, the rhythms hypnotic. A driving force in bass clef pulls the music muggily onward, while the right hand plays circles. Spooky, dare I use the word “impressionistic” sounds fill The Night’s Music, and all sorts of creatures (some imaginary, some not) can be heard if you listen for them. Adding to the experience of hearing the work at Maverick was the sound of cicadas outside, the song of chickadees, and the occasional sqwuak of a crow (the end of The Night’s Music was embellished with a few of those). The Chase can be interpreted any number of ways, and that is what’s so great about Bartók’s music; it’s up to the individual to decide how to perceive it, based upon their own emotions and thoughts. As for me, during the last piece in the set I imagined a person attempting to escape from their own inner demons, in a heightened and dramatic way (I wonder what that says about me psychologically… But then, the entire suite is full of psychological music, and what the listener hears doesn’t neccesarily mean it’s a reflection of their subconscious. I, for one, just happen to have a vivid imagination).

Philip Glass’s first Sonata for Violin and Piano was commissioned for Maria Bachmann (the Maverick performance of it being the area premiere), and the piece shimmered like, well, glass. Actually, perhaps a better description would be diamonds, for the music was as multifaceted as a flawless cut of the precious stone. The piece was endlessly flowing, mystical and enchanting, and rose high above fear and doubts. The first movement was achingly beautiful and inspiring, and a bird started chirping right at it’s close, falling silent again when the equally beautiful second movement started. The melody violin carries during that one is delicate, and doesn’t progress the way one might expect — it’s full of little surprises. I was moved beyond description, tears streaming from my closed eyes, colors playing behind my lids, and a labyrinth of thoughts flowing through my mind. The third and final movement was strong and powerful. Wide use was made of violin’s range, and the instrument nearly continuously played, hardly resting for more than a breath before plunging back in. The music was free, running wildly through notes which knew no bars, as piano lent itself as the backbone to all that, the most endurant of companions. Philip Glass’s Sonata for Violin and Piano is glory in it’s truest and most righteous form, and Mr. Glass captured something rare with his sonata, as did the musicians with their playing.

Csárdás is a dance that starts out slow and increases in speed, ending very fast, and Hubay’s piece by that name is infused with a real flair and grace. The delightful work runs nimbly onward, faster, faster, and faster still! The notes on piano are like splatters of raindrops at times, and all the instruments get to be really spectacular at the end.

Only one Hungarian Dance was listed on the program, No. 5, but Maria Bachmann stated that they would be playing two, saying, “Brahms’ Hungarian Dances are like potato chips. Can you really just have one?” And so the audience was treated to two. Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 could stir even the coldest and most uncompromising of classical-hating hearts, and No. 5 is always a delight. The musicians kept topping themselves with the passion of their playing, and by the end of the latter dance, my heart was racing along. It surely must have skipped a beat along the way, as I got more and more caught up in the excitement. Nothing I’ve ever said, or ever will, can top the music I heard on Saturday, and this entry is simply my humble attempt to share my experience with everyone, and somehow try to translate how wonderful it was! One can only do the best they can.

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