Five at the 1st and some Composers’ Love-Lives Reply

Review by Judith Caldwell

The fourth concert in the series Five at the First featured Akemi Mercer, violin and Dirk Niewoehner, viola playing two duets for violin & viola plus a solo for each instrument.   Prior to each work Akemi amused us by telling something about each composers love life; none of it very salacious.
Our first composer was Bohuslav Martinu, a Czech who relocated in Paris to meet other musicians and then was forced to move to the United States when he fell afoul of the Nazis during World War II.   Akemi and Dirk played Three Madrigals for violin and viola.  The poco allegro was energetic and playful; the poco andante was light and fluttery with dark undertones, while the final Allegro returned to the fast playful ambience of the opening.  The piece showed a strong rhythmic drive…something more lyrical than most of the music composed at this time.  The duo showed that they were masterful musicians who had played together for a long time…. they are partners in life as well as in music.
Next Mercer played Partita #2 in d minor by J. S. Bach.  Bach clearly had a lively love life with two wives and 17 children!  The Partita is in 5 parts beginning in a stately allemande and ending with a hugely complicated chaconne which must have taken quite a feat to memorise; let alone play as beautifully as she managed to do. After intermission, Niewoehner  played Sonata for viola by Eugene Ysaye, a Belgian composer of the late 19th & early 20th centuries.  The work was written for the violin but Dirk thought it suitable for the viola and in his  hands – worked well for that instrument .  It began with a soulful Allemande, moved to a very odd sarabande and ended with an upbeat Finale which showed the range of the viola.
The evening ended with a Duet for violin and viola by Alessandro Rolla.  Usually when a piece has been around for a hundred years and rarely played,  it means there is something wrong with the piece, but in this case it must be that the piece is  fiendishly difficult to play.  This piece is a gorgeous, lush composition… playful and full of fun.  It does require virtuoso players.  Akemi told us that Alessandro Rolla was a skilful viola player who was very handsome and was banned from performing for a while because women used to faint at his concerts.  He certainly wrote some beautiful music and it was brilliantly interpreted

The next concert in this series will be on Sunday 27th May at 3.30pm at the First Unitarian Church, Dundurn Street, Hamilton. And will feature Anwar Khurshid -sitar; cellist Rachel Mercer and Joseph Phillips -bass.        

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