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The Incredible Lightness of Hearing

New York
Tenri Cultural Institute
06/25/2011 -  
“Hue For Two”
Toru Takemitsu: From far beyond Chrysanthemums and November Fog
Felipe Lara: Prisma for violin and piano
Salvatore Sciarrino: Sonatina for violin and piano
Bernard Cavanna: Fauve (Six pièces pour violon seul)
Ezequiel Vinao: Fantaisie for piano solo
Mari Kimura: Hue for Two for violin and piano (World premiere)
Claude Debussy: Sonate Nr. 3 pour violon et piano

Mari Kumura (Violin), Stephen Gosling (Piano)

M. Kimura, S. Gosling (© Lee Wexler)

It’s almost perverse that Mari Kimura, a violinist of the most nuanced gifts, should become famous for creating “subharmonic” notes on her instrument. Yes, like Paganini, she did offer new sonic worlds on her instrument. But these notes (what a New York Times headline writer called “a new low point”) were secondary to the delight of her inaugural concert with pianist Stephen Gosling, presented by New Spectrum Foundation and International Research Institute on Human Environment.

The duo belong to each other. Not simply because they are daring in their choices of contemporary idioms. Not because both Kimura and Gosling are technically masters of their craft. But because both artists understand that musical showmanship is a momentary thrill, but the deep plumbing of meaning is a more serious responsibility.

How does one measure this responsibility? The first work, Toru Takemitsu’s From Far Beyond Chrysanthemums and November Fog, despite its bulky title, means exactly literally that the artists should step aside from pictorialism and offer nuances, impressions The first two movements were literally that. First, the playing waves of music, and the violin commenting, briefly, with whispers, on those same notes. The second movement reversed the situation, and the finale was a slight timorous dance for both, far from imagery.

It was in Sciarrino’s Sonatina (possibly an American premiere), where the two, with no blatant emphasis, displayed the composer’s ineffable effects. Mr. Sciarrino must be judged by an entire work (as in his Kafka opera last year), not a particular theme or series of moments. The Sonatina again showed Ms. Kimura dazzling not with a series of brilliances, but with light-fingered figurations, almost improvisatory. Her jumps from all ranges of the violin were quantum movements without space, without time.

But it was Mr. Gosling who offered new sounds. I never saw the score, but Mr. Sciarrino must have signified something which said, “Breeze over the keys from top to bottom Dust them, rather than play the notes.”

And while this is impossible to actually do, Mr. Gosling played these notes as though cobwebs landed on all the keys. Strange, mesmeric sound.

Both artists had solos. Mr. Kimura played Bernard Cavanna’s Fauve, six works so brief they make Webern sounds like Bruckner.

E. Vinao (© Coco T. Dawg)

But my own favorite–possibly because I could grasp onto some familiar music–was Ezequiel Vinao’s Fantaisie. The work was based (and I use the word loosely) on the classic mournful “Folia”, but like a post-modernist critic, Mr. Vinao never repeated the theme in full, but made pianistic comments on each note or phrase. The intimations were Iberian (without being blatantly Spanish), the theme was never brought to fruition (quotes were one or two notes).

The result, then, was “La Folia” as a recognizable constellation. And Messrs. Vinao and Gosling visualized all the stars, nebulae and dusts which constitute the reality of that constellation.

Ms. Kimura’s own work was a difficult romp called Hue for Two, which showed all those subterranean notes on the violin, but at the same time dabbled in pop rhythms (Tea for Two was vaguely quoted) and some samba syncopations in homage to Ms. Gosling’s Brazilian mother.

Finally we had Debussy’s Violin Sonata, which–like a precursor to the other works played last night–is never blatant, never predictable, piano and violin dancing down different lanes. This was Debussy’s final work, but nothing even hinting at the plaintive is here. It is a work of charm, fantasy and Harlequins (especially in the second movement), and was played just that way.

One might say that Ms. Kimura was less than totally expressive, but the Debussy calls for glimmerings rather than glamour. Ms. Gosling, as always, showed that nothing is beyond him. He took even the last movement at an easygoing pace. The two together, in their first concert, created a “Spring Sonata”. And like all their playing, the music, didn’t so much soar as float on its own radiant notes.

Harry Rolnick



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