Music by Krouse, Anthony Ritchie, Lilburn, Imamovic, Piazzolla, and Bartók
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 7 March, 12.15pm
Duo Tapas has become a fairly familiar presence on Wellington’s chamber music circuit over the past couple of years, even though the combination of violin and guitar has not been a major musical genre, or one that has drawn scores of composers to write major works.
Nevertheless, the music that this attractive duo turns up is always attractive, serving to dispel the notion that classical music consists entirely of great masterpieces by great geniuses all of whom are dead.
These musicians show that very listenable programmes can be built with music written by living composers from all over the world, including some who are their friends. (All of it has been arranged for this combination from other originals). The names Krouse and Imamovic, as well as Ritchie, and some of the same music – Da Chara for example – have appeared in their earlier concerts.
The latter piece, by Ian Krouse, began with a deliberate or accidental hesitation, but it seemed altogether in keeping with its subdued Irish accents, with hesitant rhythms, the slight fragility in the violinist’s playing, evolving towards the end into a faster dance.
The New Zealand department of the recital consisted of an arrangement by Anthony Ritchie of one his own Five Dunedin Songs of 1996: Stone Woman. It had a bluesy, ‘country’ character , the guitar injecting curious figures alongside the violin’s flowing line. And Lilburn’s Canzona (not Canzonetta) No 1 followed: it seems belatedly to have become a genuinely popular piece (I think it made the RNZ Concert New Year’s Day Count-down), perhaps in a similar class to Farquhar’s Ring Round the Moon music, and similarly perhaps, not highly rated by the composer, misled during those benighted years in which melodies were scorned as a mark of non-seriousness or commercialism. The guitar part seemed the perfect accompaniment, while the violin’s velvety bowing was quite enchanting.
In a recital last year the duo played music by Bosnia-born Almar Imamovic, whom Moriarty met while studying in Los Angeles. Hints of a modal scale could be detected in Jamilla’s Dance (played in their 2010 recital at Old St Paul’s), and a characteristic Balkan, perhaps Greek touch was present as the dance slowed. It was a slight piece, though effective, given a spirited and careful performance. A second scheduled piece by Imamovic was omitted for reasons of time.
The two pieces by Piazzolla were in marked contrast. (Incidentally, try looking him up in any music dictionary more than 15 years old, even New Grove: he’s only recently been promoted into the ranks of ‘classical’ music). The first, Oblivión, was a slow tango whose tension was probably as hard to sustain as it would have been to dance to (the emotional state called up makes me think of the evocation of the tango in Kapka Kassabova’s recent memoir/novel on the subject). It’s a condition comparable to a slow elegiac aria, in long phrases, calling for extraordinary breath control. The violin remained on its upper strings while the guitar carefully picked out supporting motifs.
Libertango was a more conventional exemplar of the Argentinian dance in speed and rhythm, the player tapping the guitar body as he picked out the tune around which the violin weaved a counter-melody.
To end, the duo played Bartók’s six Romanian Dances, all quite short but in vivid contrast one with another. Bartók wrote them for publication as piano pieces; Székely arranged them for violin and piano and they in turn were arranged for guitar and violin by Arthur Levering.
The instrumentation brought them back closer to their peasant origins, arresting and strong-minded or languid, sometimes complex in rhythm, sometimes calling for a harsh bow on the strings. All very striking and an excellent way to end a very agreeable recital by excellent, skilled musicians.