For their second concert in the third series of 5 at the First, Rachel Mercer playing cello and Angela Parkon piano shared a concert of “Contrasts: Alone and Together”. The evening began with Mercer playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s very familiar series of six Suites for solo cello known as Suite No 1 in G major. This is a very intimate piece of music which perfectly suited the venue.
It begins with the instantly recognizable and beautiful prelude, moves to a playful courante; on to the sombre sarabande and wraps up with the deep and rhythmic Gigue. She no longer plays the Bonjour Stradivarius, but she coaxed a wonderful rich timbre from a newer instrument.
Park’s solo turn saw her playing Beethoven’s Sonata No 21 and C major – again a very well-known piece which was obviously loved by the audience. It says much of the standard of music offered when a large portion of the close to capacity audience consists of other musicians, both teachers and students. The Beethoven is an extremely difficult piece to play and at times it seemed Angela had ten fingers on each hand! For such a tiny lady she can get a big sound from a piano when necessary and she had mastered the work so well that she was able to express the different colours of the piece, from the very fast and lively allegro con brio to the deliberate and slow allegro molto, and back to fast and rollicking for the Rondo.
After intermission the duo offered us Debussy, Schumann and Piazzolla. The Debussy Sonata for cello & piano was in three movements, the first a grand architectural Prologue, then a cartoonish serenade based on a drunken clown and then a finale which was bubbly, a bit edgy and ultimately joyful.
The Schumann was quite different, offering us long, expansive lines of sheer romance in the opening adagio followed by an intense and involving allegro. The final offering was Le Grand Tango of Astor Piazzolla. This began with dissonance and I did not think I would like it, but the piece grew on me. It became quite jazzy, listenable and great fun. I had never heard it before, but would be happy to do so again.
These two very talented young ladies offered a varied and interesting selection of music which was played superbly. No wonder these concerts a becoming more popular. The next one is on January 5th, at First Unitarian Church on Dundurn Street. Don’t miss it.