The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
We’re back in the perch for the final performance of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington for 2012. Sunday afternoon is typically a more casual concert, and while it does not seem we have the skits and hijinx of some previous Sunday concerts planned, it does look like a program of shorter pieces with some players set to step center stage all by their lonesome.
First up is pianist Alessio Bax (above) playing his own arrangement of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.
Opening the curtain speech, festival president Charles H. Stone says, “This is an extraordinarily strong crowd for a Sunday afternoon when there are other things happening in the Commonwealth,” referring to the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville football game, set to tee off during the second half of this performance.
The forlorn Vocalise was an ideal opener for a concert on an afternoon when we finally got some of the predicted rain from Hurricane Isaac. Originally written for a solo soprano to sing using a vowel of her choosing, Bax’s adaptation was gentle, conveying a sense of resignation.
Piping in with a bit more force was guest artist Andrew Bain, with two works for solo horn.
Between his performances of Bernard Krol’s Laudatio for solo horn and Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, arranged by Eric Terwilliger, Bain explained that the first piece was designed to show off the capabilities of the horn, while the second was a reduction of a 20-minute orchestral piece down into a minute-and-a-half piece for solo horn.
Till didn’t come across as quite as crazy as you might expect for a piece of that description, but did show a mastery of technique and timing for the guest artist. The presence of these and several other iconic horn pieces show what a welcoming host the Chamber Festival is.
Guest violinist Jasmine Lin maybe even exemplified more how welcoming the festival has become to guest musicians. At numerous times through the weekend, Cole ceded the first violin spot or the violin chair altogether to the Chicago-based chamber musician — even bowing out of last night’s world premiere performance of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music. Sunday afternoon, he again let Lin take the lead on Rogerson’s String Quartet No. 1, (below, with cellist Priscilla Lee and violoist Burchard Tang) something he explained earlier in the week was part of the natural growth of the Festival.
When the festival began, Cole was sort of the star, being the hometown kid made good with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But now, as the festival has grown, the audience has gotten to know the core players and Cole has moved on to responsibilities as first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he said Tuesday he did not feel a need to be in the spotlight as much as he originally was, and he said he likes to sit back and listen to what he has brought together.
That said, there have been star turns for Cole, including this afternoon’s first-half closing performance of Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane: Rapsodie de concert for violin and piano with Bax.
Among those very happy with what Cole has brought together is Stone, who said before today’s concert that he is “over the moon,” with the performances and response to this year’s festival. Stone says he thinks Saturday night’s concert was the strongest crowd ever for a CMFL performance, which he says attracts 350 to 400 people on its strongest nights — the festival does not count heads as, in addition to ticket sales, festival patrons are issued free tickets they can use or not use at their discretion.
After six years, Stone says he thinks the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington has reached a pinnacle many arts groups only dream of attaining: having an audience that trusts it enough to turn out regardless of what is being played. That has shown, he says, in the popularity of its concerts that include world premiere works commissioned by the festival and a steady diet of modern works in addition to centuries-old classics.
“The mix is great,” Stone says. “It would be pretty tiresome if we only played the classics.”
Referring to Friday night’s performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art for 2 violins, which had Cole playing from outside the hall over a microphone while Lin played on stage, creating surreal effects, Stone says, “That was extraordinary.
“What we need to do now is get the word out around the country about this.”
As UK and Louisville are kicking off on the gridiron, Lin is on stage at Fasig-Tipton doing her own brand of kicking in Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D Major for violin and Piano.
Lin has shown a flair for the dramatic and a physical style of playing all week, and it is again coming out in this performance with Bax, featuring dizzying runs and softer passages she still plays like a sprite.
For fans of full circles, the Chamber Music Festival gives us a nice one, closing with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-flat major, the work that inspired the festival opener, Philip Jeremy Hall’s horn quintet. Like the other work, it was written for two violas, requiring Cole to pick up his instrument’s big brother.
“I always feel like a pitcher stepping into the batter’s box when I play next to Burchard, who is an actual violist,” Cole says to the audience.
Cole also made reference to being used to playing with Bain in the L.A. Phil, “though I’m usually not this close to him.”
It is a little reminder that after giving Lexingtonians an extraordinary week of music, these musicians head back to their real worlds.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington presented the world premiere performance of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion. This is violinist Jasmine Lin, cellist Priscilla Lee, violist Burchard Tang and pianist Alessio Bax peforming a portion of the final movement, Sleep.
The final performance of the festival is 2 p.m. Sunday at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion. I will be live blogging from there.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich