Duo weekend in y-stanbul's concert halls.
On Friday, Dec. 7, two sets of duo-pianists were featured in simultaneous concerts: GE-her and SE-her Pekinel performed Bartok's Concerto for Two Pianos with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra at the Halic Congress Center, and Ferhan and Ferzan Eunder performed two-piano arrangements of Stravinsky and Ravel with percussion at the Cemal ReE-it Rey Concert Hall (CRRKS). At the same time, two French hornists, Radek Baborak and Ertuy-rul KE[micro]se, played Haydn's Concerto for Two Horns with the ystanbul State Symphony Orchestra (yDSO) at the Caddebostan Cultural Center (CKM). Then on Sunday, Dec. 9, harpsichordists Skip Sempe and Pierre Hantai performed an all-Rameau program on two harpsichords at Notre Dame de Sion.
Friday evening was an especially tough choice, but I opted for the French horns, perhaps because of the novelty of such a pairing and the fact that I love the sound of the instrument. The yDSO's program was primarily Czech-oriented, with two selections by Dvorak ("Carnival" Overture, and Symphony No. 8) in addition to Baborak, who is also Czech. Having served as principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic and several others, Baborak is now a prominent concert soloist and has an impressive discography. The yDSO program also featured him playing Reinhold Gliere's Horn Concerto, a piece which is rarely scheduled on symphony programs -- an additional factor that helped me decide to attend.
The Gliere concerto, written in 1951, is a curious mix of late romantic stylings, some military ceremonialism and early 20th century neo-classicism. The Russian composer lived from 1875 to 1956, and is primarily known for his operas, ballets and cantatas which draw on his country's folkloric music. But he carried those indigenous idioms significantly into the 20th century. Here, he shows influences from both Schumann and Richard Strauss, who treated the instrument as if it has the flexibility, range and tonal capabilities of a clarinet instead of being relegated to accompaniment duties in the back of the orchestra. The concerto employs an adventurous harmonic stretch throughout the virtuoso showpiece. Baborak tossed it off easily as if it were his daily warm-up, including a perfect soft high ending note -- one of the most difficult challenges for the horn (or most any wind instrument, including the voice).
The Haydn concerto, written two centuries earlier, harkens back to the hunting horn's use to signal the chase, and is a three-movement joyous romp in the woods. Although their tone and playing styles were different, KE[micro]se and Baborak were a harmonious pair, ably executing the unusually virtuoso writing for 18th century valveless horns.
Conductor Theodore Kuchar was on fire from the very first second, leading the fiery "Carnival" overture with tight control and brilliance, as he also did in the Dvorak symphony. This opus is not one of Dvorak's most inspired works, as it doesn't have the delicious melodies of his other symphonies, nor the inspired exposition of those melodies. Kuchar's zippy tempos and infusion of energy overcame some of the weaker aspects of the composition as well as off-moments of woodwind intonation. Impressively, he conducted these two works without a score.
French Baroque at Notre Dame de Sion
Thanks to Ecole Notre Dame de Sion's (NDS) music-loving director, Yann de Lansalut, the historic school in Harbiye has not only a regular seasonal concert series, but a resident harpsichord. He commissioned Parisian maker Laurent Saumagnac to produce a house instrument, a double-keyboard harpsichord, for the purpose of presenting concerts of Baroque music.
Starting on Dec. 6, NDS' "Baroque Days" began with French harpsichordist Pierre Hantai, who performed a recital of music by William Byrd, Louis Couperin, J.S. Bach, Francois Couperin and G.F. Handel. On Dec. 9, Hantai was joined by American harpsichordist Sempe for a delightful duo-concert of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Rameau, who lived from 1683-1763, was a prodigious composer of opera, ballet, choral music and solo works for the harpsichord, as well as a definitive tome on music theory. He epitomized the French Baroque era's elegance, humor and high style. For this concert, Hantai took selections from Rameau's opera and solo works and transcribed them for two harpsichords (the second instrument was courtesy of the Borusan Philharmonic). The results were stunning.
By listening to Hantai and Sempe's performance, one could truly be transported back to the time when the silvery sound of plucked strings within a brightly painted box was the height of musical culture, so much so that kings considered this music more important than armies in showing off their power. The French Baroque style is highly ornamented, descriptive and often referred to myths, nature and actual people. The duo played dances from the opera-ballets and comedies lyriques: "Les Indes Galantes," "Platee," and "Les Fetes d'Hebe" as well as the serious ruminations in "L'Indiscrete." A typical turn on a word/name was the selection from "Pieces de Clavecin" called "La Marais," which could refer to a swamp, a section of Paris, or the composer's colleague and gambist Marin Marais. The merry swirl of harmonic sequences, however, suggested the kind of devoted coterie in Marais' court musician life.
The glory of the Baroque musical style, via these authentic instruments and artists who use historically informed practices, now has a home in ystanbul. In addition to concerts, the NDS also sponsors workshops given by ensembles from Europe. "Baroque Days" ends tonight with Baroque flutist Nihan Atalay and harpsichordist Eriko Wakita, who will perform music by Handel, Locatelli, Forqueray, Leclair, Blavet and Telemann. The concerts are free.
(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN
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