A leaky roof couldn’t dampen the Virtuosi’s spirit
A technical hitch, in the form of a rather leaky roof, delayed the box from opening for a while just prior to the Charleston Virtuosi’s inaugural concert at the City Gallery. A large crowd of eager PicoSpoletians found themselves getting cozy (and dry...) with one another in the foyer, and such repairs as could be made on very short notice were enacted. The repairs included moving the performance area across the gallery, prompting a few remarks of concern, which, once things got started, turned out to be wholly unfounded.
And with quite a bang, we were off! The leader of this intriguing new group, Tacy Edwards (flute) entered the performance area with Trevor Johnson (oboe) and Robin Zemp (piano) to perform a recently-published Fantasie, Guillaume Tell Duo Brillant on the opera by Rossini. It encompassed not only the familiar themes of the overture, but also arias from this rarely performed opera (it’s six hours long). The riotous opening themes kept both flute and oboe answering each other in delicious synchronicity. As the work settled into a groove of familiar overture themes and less familiar arias, the sound emanating from Tacy and Trevor took on the consistency of very rich and fresh cream. Their joy in making this passionate music was quite apparent!
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Zemp departed the stage to make way for Adrian Morejon (bassoon) and Christopher Teves (guitar). An unpublished three part work by composer José Lezcano titled Postcards followed, filled with the rhythmic complexity that only comes from Latin dance. Entre dos mundos, the first part, surged with a Cuban take on modern jazz, creating a bright space for the bassoon to pop and gyrate without a hitch. The slower Una tarde de agosto presented a canon for winds, bringing together the very different textures of flute and bassoon to create a vibrant whole while the guitar provided a sure sense of grounding. Mambo Jambo ends this work with a heady brew ... Latin jazz meets post-classical and decides to throw a rave based on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”
Next up, Yuriy Bekker (violin), Norbert Lewandowski (cello), and Robin Zemp performed the stark yet moving Images, by local composer Trevor Weston. From the opening whoosh of fingers on the piano strings to the lighter, yet still serious, blocks of sound that close the work, the truth of interdependence is given a palpable, tactile form in sound. All opposites set store by, and in essence, define each other. Its first movement, Shadow, creates a harrowingly dark space, relieved only by sections of almost pointillistic backdrop in the piano and keening lines of glissando in cello and violin that, while still rather dark, lighten the load enough to provide that drop of yang in its sea of yin. Lumen follows, cast in more of a major key(ish) tonality, yet holds onto the darkness.
Three Latin Rivers, in its world premiere, closed the performance. Local composer Edward Hart composed this septet after travels to Portugal, Mexico, and Argentina, naming its movements after rivers in each of those countries. All of the musicians mentioned before returned to the stage with the addition of Ruth Goldsmith (viola). Rio Douro placed the audience in the land of Fado with its sudden starts and stops, coupled with a gentle rolling feel.
Rio Grande came next. Its languid and arid texture provided a perfect picture of the Great Plains and points south, with a ravishing melody that started in the flute and was tossed around the entire group. The third movement, Rio de la Plata, kept the rhythmic fires stoked while the melody became a network of lines folding in upon themselves in a sort of celebrety dance death match; tango takes on waltz takes on.
Throughout the concert, each musician performed pretty much flawlessly and with a readily apparent joy in, and love of this occasionally challenging music. The only complaints one could make were of two cell phones that rang, and the constant drip of water from the leaky roof.
Charleston Virtuosi “Connections...Love, Light, Energy and Water“ • Piccolo Spoleto Spotlight Concert Series