Music

Show of virtuosity

Music for Peace - Russian Musical Group  

The Russian Centre for Science and Culture jointly with the Tchaikovsky Music Club celebrated the 175 birth anniversary of eminent Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as well as 120 years of invaluable contribution to the arts by the iconic Gnessin School of Music, Russia.

The occasion was marked by a sterling performance by Maria Nemtsova (piano), Vitaly Vatulya (saxophone), Artiom Shishkov (violin) and Alexander Ramm (cello), members of the ‘Music for Peace’ quartet, a non-political initiative of the Music for Peace project that originated four years ago.

As pianist Nemtsova aptly stated in her introduction, “there is peace inside the soul of every human being”. The pieces selected covered a gamut of composers of different nationalities, who were not only virtuosos but also musical visionaries, whose artistic legacy to successive generations holds an appeal that is ageless.

With Johann Sebastian Bach’s Double Concerto in C-Minor BWV 1060 (piano, violin and saxophone) in three movements being the opening piece, the first movement launched a dance of sprightly notes across the keyboard, the puissance of saxophone underscored by the delicate parley of violin and piano that wove in and out in lively interplay.

Written in 1887, Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccio in B Minor, Opus 62, was his second composition for cello and orchestra. The piece is in one movement, the mood sombre, reflecting the composer’s frame of mind as he witnessed the end-stage suffering of his mortally afflicted friend, Nikolay Kondratyev.

Dedicated to another friend, cellist Anatoly Brandukov, the oeuvre was first performed in 1888 at the home of Marie de Benardaky in Paris, with Brandukov on the cello and Tchaikovsky on the piano.

In 1889, it was premiered at a special concert of the Russian Musical Society, with Tchaikovsky conducting the orchestra, featuring Brandukov on cello. Soulful passages flowed from Ramm’s cello, while the piano mused in the background. Pensive, heightened by filigree touches, the pace changed as phrases tumbled in rapid profusion, slowing again as the mood reverted to melancholy before the culminating flourish.

The third piece was French composer Francis Poulenc’s (1899-1963) Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano, here arranged for piano, cello and saxophone.

In the first movement, there was a vibrant contrast between the lower notes of cello and the soprano excursions of saxophone, the two linked by a strong piano.

Long fluid passages on saxophone ended in quick thrust and parry. The second movement was one of constantly changing colour and tonality, merging, yet standing out in distinct clarity, the saxophone sounding almost flute-like. In the third movement, notes marched in jaunty step, pulling you into a circle of mirth and merriment.

Arguably, the most intriguing piece performed that evening was American-born Swiss composer Ernest Bloch’s (1880-1959) Nigun, a traditional synagogal mystic/folk melody sung by groups.

Nigun forms part of Bloch’s Baal Shem: 3 Pictures of Hassidic Life, for violin and piano or orchestra. Improvisation accentuated the palpable intensity of this passionate piece in which, the violin mined deep emotion and the piano’s richness and resonance expressed yearning and fierce exaltation. As the duo trailed off to a close, sound and silence met in prayerful accord.

At the very outset, there was an imperative urgency to the saxophone’s traverse of rapid passages in Russian composer Grigory Markovich Kalinkovich’s Concerto Cappriccio on themes of Paganini for saxophone and piano. The execution of skittering notes demanded masterful technique, as did the sliding, curling, looping passages. Piano that started out sonorously, proceeded to ripple up the scale.

The pronounced vibrato and emotive surge on the violin in the high notes complemented by the soothing, constant presence of the saxophone and gracious piano passages brought together distinct narrative strands that converged to become one in the telling, in French composer Mark Eychenne’s Cantilene and Dance for the three instruments. The trio coalesced in a celebration of the human spirit that was both humbling and exalting. Other pieces included Brahms’ Intermezzo, Op. 119.

The concluding item was described as a little Indian surprise and it was left to the audience to identify the composition. It turned out to be ‘Rara Venu Gopabala’ (Swarajati, Bilahari raga) for which the orchestra had been arranged only the previous day. Truly a delightful surprise!

Flagged off by the violin, the melody was augmented by the saxophone and some rather inventive touches on the piano. The composition exuded a retro feel reminiscent of Tamil film music of the 1960s.

With members of the Tchaikovsky club and other classical music buffs out in full force, the artists played to a rapt, discerning audience.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 11:37:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/music-for-peace-quartet-played-pieces-as-tribute-to-tchaikovsky/article7231293.ece

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