Review by Judith Caldwell
Ensemble Made in Canada presented a concert; their sixth in six days, last night at the First Unitarian Church in Hamilton consisting of two duets and one quartet. The first duet featured Angela Park on piano and Sharon Wei on viola in a piece called “4 Visages” by Darius Milhaud, who said of himself ‘I am a Frenchman from Provence’, but he had also visited Brazil – and it showed. The four faces are those of different women – the Californian, the Wisconsonian, La Bruxelloise plus La Parisienne and Milhaud has written four distinct character pieces.
The Californian is open, expansive and sometimes playful; the Wisconsonian is like a busy bee flitting about in a dither; La Bruxelloise is calm, cultured and stately; and La Parisienne is lively, sophisticated and complex. This was difficult music played masterfully.
Next we heard from violinist Elissa Lee and Rachel Mercer (cello) in Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin & Cello. This is a challenging work that brings out the tone of the instruments and contrasts them by throwing music and pizzicato back and forth. It begins with a complex allegro; moves to an extremely difficult Tres vif which has an amusing end; on to a sombre and restrained Lent and finally to a very strange and discordant Vif, avec entrain. It was apparently written for Debussy whom Ravel admired greatly, but it is very different from anything Debussy wrote. It is much edgier and so difficult that at times the players seemed to need three hands to play it. It was, at times, also difficult to listen to and required total concentration. Not an easy piece on any level.
Post intermission, all four musicians joined for the Piano Quartet No 2 of Gabriel Faure. This piece is very orchestral and contains layers of colour and texture within a harmonic adventure. The opening Allegro molto moderato is intense and lush with the piano holding everything together; then the allegro molto has a very fast pace for the violin and piano and a slower pace for the cello and viola but they all arrive at the sudden stop together; the Adagio non troppo is brooding and as the tune moves from instrument to instrument the music swells and becomes gorgeously full; and the final Allegro molto is lively, dramatic, fiery and stirring and sounds vaguely Spanish. Again this was a complex difficult work but the Ensemble Made in Canada played it flawlessly and seemed to enjoy themselves in the process.
It is nice to see they are gaining a loyal and growing following. They have just issued their first CD of Mozart & Haydn, available on line. Their next concert is on January 11th, 2014 at 12.30pm. Note the unusual time!