Review by Judith Caldwell
Sound the Trumpet …and Violin! was the latest in the 5 at the First Concert Series at First Unitarian Church. Bethany Bergman, violin and her husband trumpeter Michael Fedyshyn, joined Angela Park, piano and cellist Rachel Mercer, for an extremely varied afternoon of music. The afternoon began with a 14-year-old Natalie O’Donnell, a pupil of Fedyshyn, playing Sonata in G minor by Handel. O’Donnell showed astonishing mastery of her instrument for one so young, she had excellent control and ease of breathing but she also had a very mature respect for the music and played the difficult presto passage very smoothly.
Next was Sonata IV in C major for trumpet, violin and continuo by Heinrich Ignaz Biber, a Bohemian composer of the Baroque period. Bergman, Park and Fedyshyn played the trio which began with a stately, serious progress; followed by a livelier allegro; a very complex presto; a slow, thoughtful adagio and finally back to another lively allegro all masterfully played by talented musicians with some very impressive credentials.
Then it was off to the classical period with Bergman and Mercer playing Mozart’s Duo in G major for violin and cello. It began with a lovely Mozartian back and forth that showed off the wonderful resonance of the instruments being played this afternoon, followed by a solemn, introspective adagio, a cheery rondo and finally a thoroughly satisfying allegro. Mozart always delivers beautiful music and this was expertly played. By way of introducing the next piece of music Fedyshyn gave the audience instruction in Trumpet 101, stating that the trumpet was originally an outdoor instrument used for sending messages over distances during battles etc. It was not thought of as an art instrument until around 1670 when composers began writing small parts for it.
The valves were not invented until about 1814, so early compositions were for ‘natural trumpets’. Having stated what the trumpet could and could not do, Fedyshyn and Park offered “Last Act”, a theatre piece for trumpet & piano written in 1970 by Canadian Milton Barnes. Apparently the ‘music’ was meant to represent a Medieval King who was ambivalent about his power and this eventually drives him mad. The piece did start off thoughtfully and evoked ambivalence before becoming bizarre and atonal with Park sometimes hitting the piano with the flat of her hand and at other instants with a cloth- covered mallet, sometimes playing a note or plucking it harp-like inside the piano. The trumpet sometimes buzzed or blared and then sounding plaintive when muted. The piece had been well introduced so that the audience could follow the emotions, but even so it had a mixed reception.
After intermission another contemporary piece, this time Trio for Trumpet, violin and piano by Eric Ewazen who, Fedyshyn assured the audience, composes more in the classical style. The opening Andante was lovely, harmonious and hinted at some film music; the allegro molto began with just violin and trumpet and became quite busy and noisy when the piano joined in. The adagio was calm, introspective and lovely with a muted trumpet; then the final allegro molto had definite hints of the fun of a mariachi band. This was very well received.
Finally, it was off to South America for three tangoes by Piazzola utilizing all four musicians. Libertango was mellow with long violin and trumpet lines and the piano with the cello maintaining the beat, Oblivion was slow, thoughtful – quite lovely; and lastly La Muerte del Angel began as a frenzied danse macabre that slowed to a sensuous tango. The near capacity audience loved the second half and gave the performers a well deserved standing ovation.
The next concert in the series is on May 20th and there is a Cello Extravaganza fundraiser on April 2nd