|Audrey Hayes, Mariya Polishchuk, Aaron Blake, Kallie Ciechomski, and Elad Kabilio|
We are not at Carnegie Hall or Alice Tully Hall sitting with our hands folded in a row of somnolent obligatory attendees for two long hours, then puzzling over obscure program notes during intermission. No! We are attending Music Talks at a roomy space called Interface on West 30th St. sitting in a comfortable armchair and listening to the exciting cellist/educator Elad Kabilio actually giving us demonstrations on the instruments of a string quartet, showing us what to listen for and getting us all excited about the program.
Mr. Kabilio's enthusiasm for his music, for his cello, and for educating and involving his audience members is completely contagious. His audience is on the young side and totally absorbed. What a different experience we are having of chamber music. Mr. Kabilio wants to break down the barriers between musicians and audience. We give him an A+.
The centerpiece of last night's program was the second movement of Schubert's String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, known as Death and the Maiden. This pillar of the string quartet repertory was composed in 1824 when the composer knew his death was certain.
The theme of this movement was based on Schubert's 1817 lied "Der Tod und das Madchen, Op.7, No. 3" which was movingly sung by the famous tenor Aaron Blake immediately preceding the movement so that we could recognize the theme. Mr. Blake was successful at coloring the voice of the Maiden with anxiety, and that of Death with comfort. The poem was written by Matthias Claudius.
The movement is in the form of theme and variations. Mr. Kabilio demonstrated how the viola plays the obsessive ticking of the clock and how Schubert used the violins to create different moods whilst the cello repeated the theme, ensuring that each repetition of the theme felt different. Changes of mode from major to minor were clarified.
The program ended with a most unusual performance of Schubert's 1815 lied "Erlkonig, Op. 1". Instead of the customary piano accompaniment, we had an arrangement for string quartet by the wildly talented composer Dina Pruzhansky; it was filled with excitement. One could listen for the horse's hoofbeats and the strings augmented the mood.
A highlight for us was hearing from Mr. Blake the means by which he colored the voices of the frightened child, the father, and that of the wily Erlkonig. Of course, for the Narrator, he used his "normal" voice. He gave a demonstration of falsetto singing and how that tone is produced using just the edges of the vocal cords.
It was a perfect followup to last night's Monteverdi in that it was obvious that the text, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, shaped Schubert's music.
Also on the program was plenty more music of anxiety, this being Halloween week. Mr. Kabilio pointed out that Edvard Grieg's sole string quartet portrayed his own anxiety and frustration in tackling this musical form. The anxiety is revealed in the obsessive repetition of a motif. The strings are asked to produce double and triple stops. Grieg never wrote another string quartet!
Equally anxious and dissonant was the prelude from Bernard Hermann's Psycho Suite which set the tone for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
With all of that anxiety, it was a pleasure to hear Charles Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" which was written to parody a music critic. If any composers are reading this and you wish to write a piece to parody this music critic, we would be delighted!
We enjoyed the performances immensely but had one minor quibble. We bet readers will have anticipated the quibble. We so wanted Mr. Blake to abandon the score! He is primarily an opera singer but anyone who wishes to enter the world of lieder recital had best learn to leave the book behind. If one can commit an entire role to memory it shouldn't be out of reach to learn a few songs.
If you are heavily invested in hearing an entire work in toto, you might not enjoy Mr. Kabilio's Music Talks. But if you would like to see what's "under the hood" and expand your appreciation, these evenings are for you. The next time we hear any of the above works we will surely have reached a new level of understanding.
(c) meche kroop