Eclecticism Par Excellence at the Bulgarian Consulate
It wouldn’t be fair to let the week go by without mentioning the fascinatingly eclectic and intuitive performance that violinist Miroslav Hristov and pianist Vladimir Valjarevic put on at the Bulgarian Consulate this past Wednesday. Conceptually, the program featured composers from the Balkans and adjoining areas, from Italy all the way to Turkey, spanning from the Romantic to the 21st century. The musicians opened with the Petite Suite No. 2 for Violin and Piano by Nikos Skalkottas, shifting from lively astringencies to a quaint, wormwood-tinged surrealism, Hristov’s bracingly, vivid, occasionally searing sostenuto contrasting with Valjarevic’s matter-of-factness, casually swaying rhythm in almost ironic juxtaposition with the melodies’ bright harshness. Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Tre Canti for Violin and Piano took a casually strolling detour into neoromanticism, ending with a big cinematic theme.
Fazil Say’s Sonata for Violin and Piano was next. Part one, Melancholy, is a requiem, the plaintiveness of the violin veering into and back again from outright anguish as Valjarevic anchored it with an only slightly less apprehensive insistence. Part two, Grotesque came across as more of a parody of moody Romantic tropes including a macabre marionette’s dance with some jagged, grisly overtones from Hristov. About midway through, the duo left any thought of parody behind and went straight for the jugular. It was the night’s big, awestruck moment. The next work, Gian Francesco Malipiero’s Il Canto nell’ Infinito, reached for a more muted, dynamically-charged mysticism, followed by the pensive ballad Il Canto della Lontananza.
After a scampering take on Nino Rota’s Improvisso in D Minor for Violin and Piano, “Un Diavolo Sentimental” that managed to be jovial without losing sight of devilishness, Hristov and switched the mood radically for the richly hypnotic, glacially shifting, Messiaenesque tectonics of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Eastern Chapel Meditation. As an evocation of the stillness and mystical ambience of a chapel hidden at the back of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, it hit the mark – except for the electronic backing track, which mingled what may have been plainchant with swooshy atmospherics. But rather than enhancing the mood, it was a distraction, not unlike the crowds of tourists who’d rather yak at each other and eat crunchy snacks as they wander through the church, snapping random photos with their phones. The closing number was George Enescu’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3, Op. 3, bristling with smoldering gypsy melodies, a brooding nocturnal gleam and a coda that gave both piano and violin a chance to spread their wings and go out on a biting, acerbically charged note.
It’s surprising that the most-monthly concert series here hasn’t outgrown the quaint, old-world second-floor space here. Which isn’t to say that the ambience is anything but enjoyable: these concerts simply deserve to be far better known than they are. The next one is on May 9 at 7:30 PM with the winner (TBD) of their “Music and Earth Competition.”
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