We had some lovely feedback from the presenters of our concert on Saturday. It’s especially gratifying when a presenter allows the artists to present an unusually thought-provoking and challenging program like this. I was especially taken by Ira’s statement that “It all sounds dark, but I can tell you that the light of humanity was shining in the room, and all who were listening seemed mesmerized with attention.” Sometimes the programs that could most easily scare people off coming to a concert are the ones that touch them the deepest once there.
It’s hard to put words to the profound experience we had on Saturday evening, listening to the string trio, Ensemble Epomeo, and the amazing music they prepared for us. I didn’t know what to expect, especially when I saw their program was all 20th century pieces.
David Yang, my friend and violist, began by saying how apt it was that Sunday was a Holocaust commemoration day. The three composers, relatively poorly known, except for the last (Schnittke) all had a profound connection with central Europe and the Viennese musical tradition, dating back to Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven/Schubert to Brahms and Alban Berg.
The first piece (Passacaglia and Fugue) was written while the composer, Hans Krasa, was in Theresienstadt, a waylay concentration camp, where Jews were held and encouraged to recreate a lively artistic community, before eventually going to Aushwitz. There were a group of intensely talented composers (as well as obviously millions of others) in the camps, and it was actually a hotbed of creativity, and especially so for Hans Krasa. Many, including this Czech Jew, didn’t make it out.
The second was a North American debut of a gorgeous piece (Trio opus 104) by a German Jewish composer, Hans Gal, who when young, as described by Ken Woods, the cellist, sat at the feet of the best friend of Johannes Brahms (Eusebius Mandyczewski) studying piano. His music was evocative of the romantic tradition of Brahms, and deeply moving.
After intermission, the ensemble played a Trio by Alfred Schnittke, evoking, in an incredibly viscerally sonic way, his experience as he was suffering from a stroke. It all sounds dark, but I can tell you that the light of humanity was shining in the room, and all who were listening seemed mesmerized with attention. The last piece was written and narrated by David Yang (of Chinese Jewish descent), based on the hilarious story of the Fools from the village of Chelm, set to Klezmer music. It was great – and an apt ending.
It struck me that this type of program could only be appreciated in an intimate surrounding, where every note could be appreciated, where the communication of the different musicians with each other, and the to and fro between the ensemble and the audience was felt strongly in the air. For most people, the music would not be so appreciated in a larger venue. And I can tell you, it was very appreciated by those who attended.
So our first, abbreviated season in Red Velvet Hall has been a huge success. The concert series will resume, formally, in the Fall. We’re hoping to have a concert each season. Some thoughts, which I’m working on, will be to have a cabaret/jazz night, a classical vocal recital, and of course piano through it all. There might be some informal, yes free, events this summer. We’ll see. And there will always be strawberries and cream.
So keep your eyes on your e mails
Ira and Jeanie