Review by Danny Gaisin
Ever wonder why composers, citizens or musicians from the Czechoslovakian Republic aren’t called ‘Checkers’? ‘Cuz the Americans patented the name for their version of draughts! This weekend the Mercer team presented a string celebration of Czech music and the guests and selections made it a standout concert. The opening works were arranged and performed by Hamilton’s talented teen cellists, Maximilian & Theodor Aoki. Pieces by Michael Jackson and the Tedder/Filkins pop rock team were ably performed, but unfortunately both opuses were repetitious with pedestrian variations.
Václav Pichl was a prolific 18th century Bohemian composer. His opus 16 comprises six duets. Caitlin Boyle & Rachel Desoer performed no.2 with an interestingly balanced theme/counterpoint rendering especially in the adagio 2nd. The familiar andantino is evocative of the Lachian folk dances of Janácěk and was only marred by a technical glitch. The composer Bohuslav Martinu certainly fits within the program parameters; his works conjure up neo-classical Stravinsky yet his violin & cello duet seem more D’Indy-ish especially as interpreted by Yehonatan Berick & Rachel Mercer. Their reading demonstrated a creative emphasis by both instruments. A challenging bowing in allegretto was only equaled by Mercer’s pizzicato in the finale movement.
Antonin Dvořák musically epitomized both the region and the genre. Drawing on the innate melodic vernacular, he emulated Smetana with his Terzetto op.74 occasionally rhapsodically educing ‘Die Moldau’. Faultlessly performed by Csaba Koczó and Berick with violist Theresa Rudolph, it was impossible to decipher who was the ‘alpha dog’ musician. The recurring thematic interpretations were enhanced by tempo modifications and then further enriched by creative phrasing and slightly extended pauses.
Post entre acte, Dvořák’s string sextet. Alas, spokesman Berick denied this scribe the opportunity to enliven my column with the usual amusing trivia, by his erudite introduction that he enlivened with just a soupçon of tongue-in-cheek humour. Some compositions are created to challenge the performers, others for the enjoyment and pleasure of the listener. This piece does both. The six musicians played the opening allegro with more of a molto than moderato tempo. The introductory four note ♪ ♪ cadenza was given a disparate treatment adding a lilt and zest to the movement. Then presto-chango the short melodic third; played harmoniously to a point of audience hummability. The finale with its viola introduction was executed with such drama as to again be evocative. The group may have taken some liberties with cadence, but this proved to be an effective enhancement.
The First Unitarian Church does have some acoustical nuisances specifically as to seat choices. We neglected to advise management of our plan to attend, hence no 3rd row center ‘Reserved- Press’ notice. So, it’s our bad, no blame can be cast!