by Joshua Curry
More music coverage from Lindsay Koob:
At the Dock Street Saturday, Spoleto veteran Chee-Yun and mega-cellist Alisa Weilerstein (at right) got Program VI rolling with a fiery go at Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia. This is one of the famous crowd-pleasers for these instruments, and the ladies tossed its ebullient themes back and forth like ping-pong balls.
Next came a world premiere from this year’s series Composer-in-Residence, Kenji Bunch. An amiable fellow who also plays a mean viola, he talked to us about his new Drift - scored for the same viola-clarinet-piano array as Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio. He told us that his best musical ideas often come to him while he’s drifting off to sleep at night - hence the title. It turned out to be a lovely and atmospheric work that, according to director Wadsworth, sounds different every time you hear it, since it contains improvisatory elements. Bunch played his own viola part, with clarinetist Todd Palmer and pianist Jeremy Denk. It’s a work of textures and mood rather than melody - a reflective dreamscape that the crowd really got into, judging from the warm applause.
The St. Lawrence String Quartet then dealt deftly with Mozart’s “Dissonant” quartet of his K. 465 set - one of his supreme efforts in the genre, inspired by (and dedicated to) his friend and mentor Josef Haydn. Dissonance? Yeah, it was there, right at the start - and it was outrageous in its day. But we hardly noticed it, given the far more radical stuff we've heard in the centuries since.
We got a charming, unscheduled bonus at the end, when Bunch re-emerged with his viola to offer us his Three G’s - a lively solo piece that filters bluegrass sound and technique through classical form. Bunch has played with a bluegrass band for years, and his growly viola gives him a uniquely funky sound.