Sitting just six feet away from the performers reminded me of the original intent of the traditional chamber repertoire. Music in the home (albeit many noble dwellings)—where moneyed, gifted amateurs and struggling professionals alike performed one-person-per-part compositions for friends, family and colleagues—caused much concert-hall music to be written. Being “at home” for these concerts must have been a marvellous treat indeed (it boggles today’s digital mind as to how few people on the planet ever knew of, much less heard these masterpieces before the advent of recordings).
These days, the economics of art pretty much precludes this sort of intimate-venue performance if to be played by our finest, living practitioners. Instead, all manner of venues are pressed into service, allowing more people to attend but exponentially fewer of those the chance of experiencing the magical feeling of being within arm’s reach to those sharing their skills.
For this Monday afternoon performance, the dark-wood confines of The Church of St. John the Evangelist became the acoustic “chamber” for a delightful program of Romantic duos and art songs.
No doubt, the newly tiled floor (the previous vibration-sucking carpet having been removed in favour of a more reflective surface) added much to the clarity of sound for those straining their eyes to witness the event in the back pews—at least their ears had nothing to fret about.
Clarinetist Kimball Sykes and pianist Alexander Tselyakov convincingly combined for Robert Schumann’s lyrical/emotional, mini tour de force. These ears had never imagined/heard/performed the opening movement at such a leisurely pace, yet by journey’s end the compelling blend, timbre and tone made a case—save and except for a tad too much affectation that nearly pushed the dreamy close into the realm of trite.
The following “Lebhaft, leicht” was exquisite with both players’ give-and-take the epitome of good manners serving great art.
Sykes showed more caution than suited the dramatic “Finale,” despite the fact that his reed selection gave no cause for worry of unwanted “closure.” Here’s to more “throwing caution to the wind!”
Next up, Jamie Parker took over the keyboard as the ever-sensitive accompanist (master class level) for six Polish songs from Chopin. Soprano Anna Kwiatkowska employed great lyricism, sense of fun and thoughtful understatement; baritone Maciej Bujnowicz was clearly out of his range in his first offering but captured the room and the musical intent in the final pair.
Annalee Patipatanakoon’s radiant sound-production and instinctive feel for tempo and cadence provided the basis for a magnificent reading of Schumann’s first violin sonata. The opening movement was a model of thoughtful amiability sprinkled with passion. The “Allegretto” was painted with a broad brush: appropriately misterioso at times, and always pulsing forward. Numerous compositional twists, turns and self-quotation made for a completely satisfying “Lebhaft,” resulting in a deserved ovation from the audience, which was so universally entranced that the unorchestrated camera click intruded like an unwanted guest at a fine meal.
This bounteous feast concluded with a riveting rendition of Chopin’s only string sonata. Cellist Roman Borys left the considerable stresses of his role of artistic director in the warm-up room and bound the four movements into an impressive whole that abundantly displayed his mastery of the instrument and deep understanding of style, tempo, tone, and luxuriating lines (the “Largo” was superb; few will forget the “Scherzo’s” Trio). For his part, Tselyakov was with his colleague at every juncture; both brought the “Allegro moderato” to such a stunning conclusion that—for an instant—they might have been tempted to pack their bags and stop while so artistically ahead. Happily the pair kept on, but not before one of Borys’ over-worked strings exploded under the pressure of such a demanding workout. No worries: “part left” resumed within minutes and unstoppably drove to the patiently waiting double bar with freshly steeled vigour. JWR