Live Review / Preview: An Die Musik presents 3-Part Haydn/Mendelssohn Fest (2009.07.09)

Philadelphia Camerata Orchestra‘s goodwill tour hit B-more with its first concert in a three-part series honoring two bicentennials: the death of Haydn and the birth of Mendelssohn.  An Die Musik offers two more nights of music at 8 pm on July 16 and July 20. Cellist Steven Framil is the star of the series, hands down.  This is not the first time I’ve heard him, and it won’t be the last.  Both times the audience has been so thin that it’s a sin.  Come for Steve alone, and you’ll not be disappointed to get his friends in the Camerata.

First up: Haydn‘s Piano Trio in G Major, fondly nicknamed “Gypsy.”  The Poco Adagio was the most painful I’ve ever heard in my life.  (I fear Framil couldn’t hide his own grimace, although he held down the fort admirably under such duress from his violinist.)  I’ll be generous and chalk it up to boredom; a lack of evocative, vibrant content compared to the fun of the finale Rondo all’Ongarese with all its presto and gypsy-mustering.  After all, back in Haydn’s day, they had accompanied sonatas — meaning that the violin and cello’s main duty was to duplicate the keyboard’s sounds — which had no sustaining quality of its own.  Pulsing, breathing reverb depended on the strings.  In this case, cello mocked the left-hand part and violin pushed along with the right-hand part.

Skipping ahead to the beacon of shining modern temptation sandwiched between the two holy old duffers: Sergei Prokofiev.  I came only for his Sonata in C Major for Cello and Piano, Op. 119.  Composed in 1949, as Sergei’s musical brothers were denounced left and right by Stalin stooges, his own music highly questioned, Sergei fearlessly pressed on.  Always with the music-sensors, the work was to reflect the unfailing good taste of the masses.  Here Sergei snickers in wonderfully wicked farcical indulgences, Hollywood touches.  Framil thrumped down with pizzicato beats 39 times in a row, as the pianist built up the higher notes with his right hand — in it we heard clangs of factory and anvil.  Framil easily conquered deft switches from deep, long strokes to high glissando.  Pianist Robert Gajdos supported and matched him in every moment.  They reclaimed the evening.  Kicking off the violinsit and putting Framil front and center, wrought magic.  The stage itself seemed to grow larger — expand outwards — popping the cap off the sound.

Framil’s racing bow and light touch, paced with the in-out of his breath carry the mark of a true musician who truly feels the music and does not only play it.  The piano showed itself so differently from the Haydn — a percussive instrument glittering with tensions and unanswered questions.  Framil and Gajdos punctuated with perfect comic timing worthy of a stand-up duo.  In the second movement — Moderato — Gajdos offered suppresed rolls on the keys, while Framil’s bow leapt and darted up to nose level.  Never have I heard a more taunting Allegro, ma non troppo.  All the while, Framil shoots his eyes to the right, as if to see Gajdos behind him, to time every stroke in perfect sync.

How can a cellist see the man behind his head, you ask.  Simple.  An act of willfully pure focus, all stimuli driven to one point, so he can hear better.  Such training pays off.  Together, Framil and Gajdos bit down on the last note like two gymnasts vaulting simultaneous and sticking the landing on two firm feet.

With the Prokofiev as my reward and greedy to a fault, I fled at intermission.  I darted out the door and into the night to preserve my aural memory.  May Steve Framil forgive me.

Go here to get the details on the next two concerts: http://www.andiemusiklive.com/

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One Response to “Live Review / Preview: An Die Musik presents 3-Part Haydn/Mendelssohn Fest (2009.07.09)”

  1. E.K. says:

    I wonder how the problems with the “poco adagio” got missed in rehearsal? Did the group have a rehearsal? Did the violinist swear up and down he’d learn the part before the show and then pull a Marlon Brando and show up completely unprepared? I’d be fascinated to know how this went down behind the curtain.

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