Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Vanessa Fadial, Aron Zelkowicz and Salley Koo Make an Auspicious Trio

Thursday at Trinity Church was the first time that pianist Vanessa Fadial, cellist Aron Zelkowicz and violinist Salley Koo had performed together. They should do this more often: they complement each other well. Their one piece together as a trio was Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor, a four-part suite. Fadial’s affectingly shimmery cantabile gave Koo the perfect launching pad for her vividly searching, soaring lines while Zelkowicz mined its myriad dynamic shifts for all they were worth. Throughout the brightness of the first movement, the brisk counterpoint of the second, the serioso intensity of the third and whirling bustle of the conclusion, they played with a singleminded seamlessness that spanned from brooding to downright joyous.

Fadial and Zelkowicz had opened the program with a lively, inspired version of another suite, De Falla’s Suite Populaire Espagnole, a series of frequently intense flamenco-tinged themes, including a couple of stately waltzes (one with a macabre marionette feel) and a plaintive lullaby. Zelkowicz followed that, playing from memory, with a solo arrangement of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 (BWV 1004). The piece is almost three hundred years old, yet was as transcendent to listen to as it must have been when it was written. Zelkowicz dug in and gave it a mighty gravitas: in his hands, it was more of a requiem than a courtly dance. When it came to the long, absolutely riveting series of eight-note broken chords about two-thirds of the way through, he pulled back just a little and let the seemingly endlessly shapeshifting series of rivulets go on their own to paint a picture that lit up the bleakness with incredible poignancy. Tony Tommasini’s consideration of Bach this past Sunday for his ongoing “top 10 classical composers of all time” pantheon in the Times couldn’t have made more sense than it did at that moment.

January 15, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyce Jones in Concert at Trinity Church, NYC 7/24/08

The reliably superb, annual summertime festival of organ concerts at Trinity Church always has a theme, and this year’s is “Organ Divas.” The artist who played today is perhaps the prototype. A legend in organ circles, Baylor University Professor Joyce Jones is something of a ham, a performer just as likely to play a supersonic Flight of the Bumblebee on the pedals as she is to keep the audience in stitches with a seemingly endless supply of puns, some of them pretty corny, delivered in a deadpan Texas accent. Self-effacing, down-home persona aside, Jones reaffirmed what an extraordinarily imaginative, sensitive and original a player she is.

Virtually every organist good enough to tour major cities has superior chops, and Jones’ are among the best. But what invariably impresses the most is how different her approach is, and how much fun she clearly has playing. Today “The Accidental Organist,” as she bills herself – a piano major in college, she hurt her hand and only turned to the organ as a way to practice to keep herself sharp until it healed – opened with Leo Sowerby’s Pageant. As the title implies, it’s a big, stately, optimistic piece that opens with the kind of pedal figure that Jones has made her trademark. She followed that with an idiosyncratic but absolutely brilliant version of the famous Bach Passaglia and Fugue in C Minor (BMV 582). Introducing the piece, she told the crowd that while a student, her playing had come to sound “like it was sprayed with Lysol disinfectant” due to overwork and perhaps overthinking. But this was anything but sterile. A lot of organists hurry through it to get to the big crescendos, but Jones took her time, making it a casual but deliberate stroll through the work’s swells and ebbs, using several different registrations to vary the tonal quality of particular sections she’d singled out. In Bach’s day, registrations were left pretty much up to the individual organist, meaning that Jones was fully within her rights to do this. And it was stunning, particularly when she balanced a fast pedal solo with screaming, upper-register chords, against which the pedal melody was only semi-audible.

She then played Marcel Dupre’s brief Fileuse, a striking contrast and showcase for speed with its somewhat hypnotic, circular upper-register motif, something akin to the Flight of the Bumblebee as the melody circles against an airy, repetitive arpeggio. Introducing the final number on the program, Liszt’s remarkably melodic, climactic Fantasie and Fugue on the hymn Ad Nos, ad Salutarem Undam, she explained how it was influenced by the composer’s student Julius Reubke (who went on to write the legendary, vengeful Sonata on the 94th Psalm) as well the Merrybeer opera The Prophet. Which makes sense: Liszt seems like someone who would be especially fond of bombast. Jones made the point that the work could be called the first real organ symphony, considering how long and segmented it is, and like the Bach she absolutely nailed it. Afterward, she rewarded the audience for their two standing ovations with a brief, percussive transcription of a Prokofiev piano toccata – a sort of organist’s revenge for all the piano and orchestral transcriptions of classic organ works – and then a classicized arrangement of The Church in the Wildwood. “If you didn’t hear this growing up, well then, you were deprived,” Jones deadpanned. No doubt she would have kept playing, and the audience would have stayed much longer, had this been possible.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments