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Life and Transfigurations

New York
12/16/2021 -  
George Meyer: Duo for Violin and Viola (Word Premiere)
Ljova: Voices for pianist and Historical Recordings
Peter Golub: Bagatelle
Ludwig van Beethoven; Bagatelles, Opus 126, No.1, 2, 4 & 5
Tamir Hendelman: Bagatelle
Richard Danielpour: Bagatelle (“Childhood Nightmare”)
Mark Carlson: Sweet Nothings
Billy Childs: Pursuit (in response to Ravel’s “Scarbo”
Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit: 3. “Scarbo”

Emma Frucht (Violin), George Meyer (Viola), Inna Faliks (Piano)

E. Frucht/G. Meyer (© Courtesy of the Artists)

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), Sonnets to Orpheus

Whew!!! As if the variants of the virus weren’t enough (Covid’s Metamorphoses?) BargeMusic presented eight transformations last night, ranging from a three Hassidic riffs to four Beethoven bagatelles to a transformation from an impossible-to-play Ravel to a more impossible-to-play “response” to said piece.

And while transformations were not actually improvements on the originals, the stunning performance by Inna Faliks overrode any questions about the composition. The result was a BargeMusic concert which whirled away from its hour-plus duration to a minute-to-minute revelation.

Ms. Faliks was not the only performer. Composer George Meyer started, playing viola his own Duo with violinist Emma Frucht in a jolly tightly constructed work. After a single quiet measure, the two launched into a danceable jig (not a Bach “Gigue”), a piece of Celtic laughter. (And oh, how I wished this Irish music had been used for Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast instead of the pretentious crap written by Van Morrison.)

The jig was followed by a canonical lullaby, and then a tarantella putting both artists to the test.

Ljova/I. Faliks (© Courtesy of the Artists)

Pianist Inna Faliks has a devoted following on both coasts, not only for her own artistry but the unusual premieres. Last night, for Ljova’s Voices, she was accompanied by three century-old recordings from the Jewish Ukrainian community. The unforeseen challenge was that Ljova’s trio of compositions were so innovative that the recordings were almost irrelevant.

That was not exactly true. The voices from the old records are fascinating to a degree. First an opera singer who sounded like a cantor. Third, a woman cantor (the Yiddish is Chazaneet). Each had Inna Faliks playing music not as accompaniment but which had its own expression. The first was a slow minor-scale arpeggio where the recorded voice arrived like the theoretical past from a futuristic telescope. As in the third, it comes as an alien interruption. Frankly, I wished Ljova hadn’t been so inventive.

The second “voice” was more familiar, the klezmer bumptious melodies, reflected in an equally bumptious piano.

Each of the three were fascinating in a peculiar way Perhaps an aging Ukrainian Jewish community would be moved. (It moved greatly Odessa-born Inna Faliks.) To others it was a curiosity.

Less unorthodox (no pun intended), were four inspirations from five of Beethoven’s final set of Bagatelles. Ms. Faliks chose to play the modern inspirations prior to each Beethoven, but without a pause between. They were exercises, not terribly brilliant in their own minute-long finish (save for Richard Danielpour’s touching Childhood Nightmare proceeding from tender sleep to a moderate fierce middle and back again…to a wakening?)

The last two works showed two miracles. First was the Pursuit (in response to “Scarbo”) by Billy Childs. The challenge? Could anybody make music more difficult than the original? Ravel set out to make it the most difficult work ever written. That was obviously true in 1908 before the atonalists. Mr. Childs succeeded wildly, with a wild piano monstrosity which seemingly would take thirteen fingers to play.

Mr. Childs’ piece was unfamiliar. The familiar miracle was Ms. Faliks. She succeed with digital faultlessness in Ravel’s original. But, as in her Beethoven Bagatelles, her fingers were the tools for emotional subtlety . Whether the simple clarity of Beethoven’s simple sketches, or Ravel’s elaborate, swirling gyrations of a demon flying and crashing, moving so quickly that time and space were colliding.

Ravel wrote this the year of Einstein’s great time/space discovery, yet Ms. Faliks turned his pre-quantum mechanics into a personal cosmic journey of hide-and-seek shadows and blazing light, a cosmic chase and a moonlit nightmare.

As I said at the beginning, “Whew.” No other words describe it.

Harry Rolnick



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