Review by Judith Caldwell
“5 at the First” presented a very varied program of music for strings ranging from a modern duet for violin and viola to a sextet for violins, violas and celli. The young artist of the afternoon was flutist Aanya Grewel, age 13, who is a student of well-known Hamilton flutist Sara Traficante. Grewel played a typically melodic and upbeat piece by John Rutter in two movements called Suite Antique. The Aria was tuneful and the Ostinato was lively and unmistakable Rutter. Both were masterfully played by a young lady who has complete control of her instrument and is obviously a talent to watch. *
Next Czaba Koczo and Theresa Rudolph performed the duet written by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s composer-in-residence Jocelyn Morlock, who recently won a Juno, titled ‘Blue Sun’. Morlock said a Blue Sun is the ghostly residual image one has after looking at the real sun & she wrote that this music has the ghostly residual sounds left from hearing the folk music of northern British Columbia. The work consists of seven short pieces which vary tremendously from the ethereal #3, to a frantic #4, a hoedown type #6 and finally a misty Asian influenced #7. They did evoke Indigenous and folk culture from BC and were obviously very much appreciated by the capacity audience.
The first half of the concert wrapped up with an unusual string quartet for violin, viola and two celli written by Anton Arensky in 1894. Arensky was a professor of music who taught Rachmaninoff. The greatest influence on Arensky’s composing however was Tchaikovsky and the second movement of his String Quartet #2 consists of variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky. The three movements display Russian religious melancholy mixed with French influenced lightness. The first movement is very Russian – dramatic, dark and gorgeous with long cello lines. The second movement is an homage to Tchaikovsky with the theme and variations moving beautifully between the instruments, and the third movement is deep and dark and has many changes of tempo.
Yehonatan Berick, violin, Caitlin Boyle, viola and cellists Rachel Mercer & Alastair Eng handled the changes of mood and tempo flawlessly. The six string players on the program all have successful musical careers playing in chamber groups, orchestras and teaching positions and have played together at various times over the last eight years. Their friendship and musicianship means that they offer a varied program expertly played by folks who obviously do not let ego get in the way of great music.
After intermission came the String Sextet in B flat major by Hungarian composer Erno Dohnanyi. This work in four movements was his entry exam material for the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest when he was 17 years old. Unsurprisingly he was accepted by the Academy. The opening movement is complex and difficult and brilliant, featuring nuanced interweaving of the instruments and a fun ending which had the audience laughing. The Scherzo is lyrical and lively and gives the cello the best tunes. Adagio quasi andante featured controlled energy with a dramatic ending and the Finale really is Animato. This is amazingly mature music for a seventeen year old and it is no wonder the Academy approved it.
The next concert is on May 5th at First Unitarian Church.