Gidon Kremer at McCarter

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Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica

McCarter Theatre Center

Friday, February 3, 2017

By Christian Carey

 

PRINCETON – I’ve wanted to hear violinist Gidon Kremer perform Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s iconic work Fratres live since I was a teenager. Back then, Kremer’s rendition of the work on an ECM Records New Series CD was transfixing and game changing: it became an almost totemic art object for me as a composition student. On February 3rd, I got my wish at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Unlike the recording, here Kremer pushed the proceedings forward, taking a quicker tempo and engaging in more taut phrasing than he did on the CD. The work is still transfixing, but it was moving to hear its story retold in a new way.

 

Kremer and Kremerata Baltica, the chamber orchestra of Eastern European musicians that he leads, have a new ECM CD out, this one of the Chamber Symphonies of Mieczysław Weinberg, late works that sit astride Mahlerian late Romanticism and modernism that is a close cousin to the works of Shostakovich. Clarinetist Mate Bekavac, who also appears on the recording, was a sterling-toned soloist, unwinding breathless phrases and coordinating and blending seamlessly with the strings.

 

The second half of the concert had an interested concept that provided a bit of dramatic flair. Kremer began it with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade Melancolique, leaving the stage on the last note, which led directly into Kremerata Baltica’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This was resolutely played, but the absence of brass and winds led to some strangely attenuated passages (Andrei Pushkarev, a percussionist, performed formidable gymnastics to reach all of the score’s instruments). At the piece’s conclusion, Kremer returned to the stage, playing Valentin Silvestrov’s solo Serenade nearly attacca.

 

There were yet more surprises to come. Two encores, Stankovich’s Lullaby and Alfred Schnittke’s Polka gave the audience distinct flavors of music-making – one poignant and one buoyant – to send them home.

 

This is Kremer’s seventieth birthday year. To celebrate, he has not only released the Weinberg disc on ECM, but has also recorded Rachmaninov’s Piano Trios and the Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto (available on vinyl!) for DG.

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Elliott Carter’s 103rd Birthday Concert (DVD Review)

 

Elliott Carter  – 103rd Birthday Concert

92nd Street Y

December 8, 2011, New York City

NMC Recordings DVD

Elliott Carter (1908-2012) knew how to throw a musical party. His 103rd birthday concert – held at the 92nd Street Y in New York City – featured twelve compositions, all but one written since his ninetieth birthday; four world premieres, two US premieres. Five of the pieces were written since Carter’s 102nd birthday – what an amazing valedictory event for the indefatigable centenarian.

Directed by cellist Fred Sherry, the concert featured several performers who have come to be associated with Carter’s work – in particular bass clarinetist Virgil Blackwell, violinist Rolf Schulte, bassoonist Peter Kolkay, clarinetists Charles Neidich and Ayako Oshima, and pianist Stephen Gosling. Their intimate acquaintance with Carter’s work, and his with their capabilities, provide a personal cast to the pieces Carter wrote for the concert, as communications between old friends.

There were new interpreters among the performers as well – tenor Nicholas Phan gave an impassioned first performance of the formidable 2010 work A Sunbeam’s Architecture, Carter’s first E. E. Cummings settings. Of the latest works apart from the Cummings settings, the Double Trio (a rejoinder to Carter’s earlier Triple Duo) is the most extensive and substantial. Compositions such as Rigmarole for bass clarinet and cello and Figment V for solo marimba are finely crafted miniatures that, despite being aphoristic, sparkle with energy. Others, such as the String Trio, clocking in at nearly half the duration of the Double Trio, and Mnemosyné, a solo violin piece filled with slow-moving legato lines that are occasionally interrupted in angular fashion, are smallish pieces true, but ones filled with weighty ideas.

This thoughtfully produced DVD of the event also includes extras – footage of a post-tonal rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” with Carter, beaming, looking on; liner notes by John Link, Sherry, and Colin Matthews; and a segment “On Carter,” with filmed tributes by UK composers Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Oliver Knussen, George Benjamin, and Colin Matthews.