Music Performance Reviews
Gidon Kremer, Violin
Yulia Korpacheva, Soprano
Wendy Warner, Cello
Andrius Zlabys, Piano
Shostakovich and After
At Zankel Hall at Carnegie
Raechel Alexander, Manager, Public Affairs
Valentin Silvestrov (b.1937): Postludio DSCH for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1981)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 (1923), Andante-Allegro
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998): Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, "Quasi una sonata" (1968)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12 (1926)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Seven Verses for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op. 127 (1966)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 25, 2004
On my first experience in the new Zankel Hall, under Carnegie, where the old movie theatre used to be, as we New Yorkers like to remember old landmarks that disappear to emerge as new landmarks, I was struck by the golden wood, perhaps teak, perhaps birch, that covers the interior of the contemporary design of this Hall. The ceiling is all black lighting, in various textures and layers of black wires and spotlights, but with an artistic dimension and design. There are exterior elements of steel here and there, but there is warmth and coziness, a casualness, that is quite different from Stern Hall or Weill Recital Hall. No chandeliers or red velvet, no brass or carpeting, and, from my side orchestra seat, I could hear the subway below, but in a comforting, communal way.
Gidon Kremer has always been one of my favorite musicians, as I love his Hommage a Piazzolla CD on the Nonesuch label. He was born in Riga, Latvia (where my paternal grandmother was born) and began to study violin at the age of four. At 16 he was awarded the First Prize of the Latvian Republic and apprenticed under David Oistrakh. Mr. Kremer is Latvia Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Development Program. (Carnegie Notes).
Valentin Silvestrov grew up in Kiev (where my maternal grandmother was born), and his first composition, a 1961 Piano Quintet, was daring and atonal for the Soviet Republic at that time. The DSCH in the Postludio title is the monogram of Shostakovich with standard German spelling. (Carnegie Notes). I found this piece haunting, dissonant and disturbing, and Yulia Korpacheva appeared, walked around the musicians as she sang in almost a wail, and slowly walked offstage in dramatic fashion. Wendy Warner, cellist, is a poised young woman with an exquisite talent. Andrius Zlabys, on piano, was passionate and supportive of the softness of this work.
The Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1 in C Minor allowed for alternating and evocative cello and violin leads, as the theme evolved in a sorrowful but comforting series of solos and combinations of strings and piano. A lovely moment was the single sound of the piano, cello, and violin in unison, and the tempo alternated from elongated to energized. Schnittke's Violin Sonata No. 2, "Quasi una Sonata" was dynamic and full of surprises. Schnittke is considered the leading Russian composer of the post-Shostakovich era. He was only allowed to premiere his works in out of the way venues so as not to "disturb" the conservative Soviet culture. (Carnegie Notes). This piece began with tiny crashing piano chords followed by similar violin responses and passages of silence. There were over-the-edge screeching, almost visceral notes, piercing and poignant, and it takes an ardent fan of this contemporary genre to enjoy such a work. The most fascinating point was a musical conversation between piano and violin, and Mr. Kremer and Mr. Zlabys developed a fanatical and ferocious conversation of sorts.
Shostakovich's Piano Sonata No. 1 in D Major was driven and demanding. I was in awe of Mr. Zlabys' compelling solo performance, and it was during this piece that I became aware of the high quality of the Zankel Hall acoustics, which compare quite favorably with the famed acoustics of Stern Hall. This Sonata includes extreme variations in volume and mood with repetitions and powerful crescendos that conclude in a display of percussive piano fireworks. The final piece, which was again extrapolated for the demand encore, Seven Verses for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano, brought the entire Kremerata Musica onstage. These seven songs were translated for this sophisticated audience as a program insert, and I noticed most people following the verses as the performers created an ethereal surrealism, as the verses progressed. Ms. Korpacheva is a songbird, and, in the first verse, she and Ms. Warner created a duet of longing and languor.
The third verse (…A kiss forced itself onto our lips and the violin forced itself into my heart) was lyrical, and soprano and violin formed a duet of exquisite yearning. Verse Four (The city sleeps shrouded in darkness…) presented the cello, piano, and soprano in contrasting keys and lamenting notes. Verse Five (…Sympathy dissolves in the raw cold's embrace…), with musical sensations of thunder and lightning, was stormy and violent. The final Verse Seven (…What matters life's storm if your roses bloom for me and burn…) was dark and floating with endless strings suspended and distant. I am in awe of Shostakovich's composition of poetry, which is inspiring and incredible.
Kudos to the virtuosic Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Musica. Mr. Kremer was obviously very proud of his fairly young musicians, all of whom have mastered these challenging, contemporary works and all of whom had mesmerized the Zankel Hall audience. And, kudos to the late Dmitri Shostakovich. (See additional, recent reviews of Shostakovich works).