Duo mosaica – violin and guitar – in first-class recital to end St Mark’s series

Francis-Paul Demillac: Petite Suite Medievale
Piazzolla: Café 30, from Histoire du Tango
Ravel: Pièce en forme de habanera
Monti: Csárdás
Cheryl Grice: Mi Alma
Martin Jaenecke: Shade and Light; The Many Shades of Me

Duo Mosaica: Cheryl Grice, guitar, Martin Jaenecke, violin and saxophone

St. Mark’s Church, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, 31 October 2012, 12.15pm

This was the last for this year of the Hutt City lunchtime concert series.  Since early June, numerous worthwhile concerts have taken place, and the organisers are to be commended for their efforts in putting the series together.

Both the performers in the duo migrated to New Zealand – one from England; one from Germany – to teach in Nelson.  They now contribute to the musical life of Wellington, with frequent returns to Nelson for Jaenecke, who has also toured for Chamber Music New Zealand.

The varied programme was introduced by the performers – using a microphone, I’m glad to say.  The fashion for spoken introductions is fine with me as long as what is said is cogent, well-thought-out, brief and audible – as today.  Too often it is none, or only some of these things, in which case it is a waste of time, and annoying to the audience.  The dynamics and tempo of speech needs to be increased (in the first feature) and decreased (in the second) depending on the size and acoustics of the venue.  It is amazing the number of people who do not realise that in an auditorium they need to speak more slowly and loudly than in a mere room; instead, they speak as if to a small group of friends in their living room.

Speaking of dynamics; the red and black combo of the performers’ outfits added to the brightness of the event.

The duo began with an absolutely gorgeous work by Francis-Paul Demillac, a composer I had not heard of before.  The acoustic seemed to allow both instruments to speak clearly – coupled, of course, with the musicians’ impeccable techniques.

The suite opened with a calm and peaceful ‘Sicilienne’, followed by a short, lively and bouncy ‘Sonnerie’.  Next was ‘Après une page de Ronsard’ (A une jeune morte), which was much more contemplative, as suited the subject.  The final movement was entitled ‘Ronde’; a sprightly dance, with the guitar using a variety of techniques.

Piazzolla is famous for his tangoes; this one was most appealing music, more thoughtful than I imagined it would be, but full of diversity too.  These two performers are so accustomed to playing together (Martin said it was ten years) that what they produce is a unified whole, with great tone from both of them.

Ravel’s ‘Habanera’ is well-known.  Originally it was written for voice and guitar, as a vocalise – a wordless melody with accompaniment.  The players performed a transcription from Ravel’s own version for cello and piano.  The piece seemed to have less flair than usual – perhaps it was a little slow.

Cheryl Grice had to retune her guitar several times to ccommodate the requirements of the composers; I noticed that she had a cunning device (presumably electronic) attached to the top of her guitar’s fingerboard, above the tuning pegs, that she consults.  I imagine it tells her when she has precisely tuned to the required pitch.

Vittorio Monti’s famous piece has been played by all manner of instruments, but was originally written for violin.  This item was played with plenty of life – and it was obvious from the facial expressions of both performers that Martin varied things a little as the mood took him, to liven the piece up.

Then we came to the duo’s own compositions.  Cheryl said that hers was the first she had ever written, and she wrote it in 5 days.  ‘Mi Alma’ means ‘My Soul’ (why do pieces by English speakers so often get titled in another language?), and used harmonics extensively.  A gentle opening was wistful, even regretful at times, but led to more forceful passages.  It was played superbly, and ended with gentle harmonics again.

Martin’s two pieces were for guitar and saxophone; he played the soprano saxophone with aplomb.  As he said, this was a demanding combination in terms of dynamics.   After an introduction on guitar, there was a haunting, rising melody for the saxophone; after discords, the music was brought to a beautiful resolution, before darting off onto sunny slopes for the ‘Light’ part of the piece.  Altogether very attractive music.

The second piece portrayed shades of the composer’s character – introverted, extraverted, angry etc.  Parts were improvised, as he humorously explained in his introduction.  Both instruments had solo passages, the saxophone revealing its variety of tones and ability to be brazen but also subtle, though not quite as subtle as the guitar.  The piece became exciting and vigorous, then sank into a reverie, with a delicious ending.

These are two first-class musicians who play so well in combination.


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