Thursday, November 15, 2012

3 PM Saturday: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano

Celebrated French pianist JEAN-EFFLAM BAVOUZET makes his Spivey Hall debut this Saturday at ***3 PM*** (note time change -- originally published as 8:15 PM).  Pianophiles who also read publications such as Gramophone and BBC Music and Fanfare are likely to be familiar with his acclaimed recordings of the complete piano works of Ravel and Debussy.  I'm delighted that we'll hear Book I of Debussy's Preludes from Bavouzet as the second half of his program.  These are wonderfully evocative pieces, each creating a distinct character, highly imaginative and atmospheric in nature.

For several years I'd known of of Bavouzet's recordings before ever hearing him live.  I flew to Chicago to hear him perform the Ravel G-major Piano Concerto a few seasons ago, when he was touring with a European orchestra.  I was very taken by Bavouzet's inflections of tempo and nuance in the third movement, which were entirely natural, expressive, and in keeping with the spirit of the piece.  They took me pleasantly by surprise.  This is true artistry: revealing new meaning in a highly familiar pieceThe audience cheered.

Bavouzet is also in the midst of recording (always for Chandos) sonatas of Haydn and Beethoven -- a massive undertaking for any pianist.  We'll be hearing two Beethoven sonatas in the first half, No. 11 in B-flat major and No. 12 in A-flat major.  Both are big, four-movement sonatas.  (And I'm hoping we might have, as an encore, a lively movement from a Haydn sonata; these works retain their freshness like few others I know.)

Our program notes for this recital cite "some truly astonishing harmonies and novel pianistic figurations, especially in the Adagio movement" of No. 11.  No. 12 opens (unusually) with a theme and variations, followed by a second-movement "Funeral March on the Death of a Hero."  "Beethoven never divulged whose death is observed so solemnly in the movement," reports Wordpros (our program annotators), "which acquired a life of its own and was transcribed for every conceivable instrument and instrument combination.  In fact, an arrangement for wind band was played in Vienna's streets during Beethoven's own funeral procession."  I wonder if Beethoven, in any of his darkest moments, could ever have imagined this.  (In some future post, I will outline plans for my own "good-bye to this Earthly existence" music...certainly none of which I will have written, and none of which will involve any live performance.  I have a core list of pieces and recordings that has evolved a bit over the years, though two central pieces have endured. But I digress.)

At this recital, we'll have another opportunity to become even more familiar with "Clara," Spivey Hall's gorgeous new Hamburg Steinway.  She has risen splendidly to every occasion thus far, and yet she sounds a bit different for every pianist (it's all in the touch, of course).  Her beauties to behold, once again!

The great thing about a 3 PM recital is that no one has to worry about driving at night, and you have your evening free, say, for hearing the "Emperor" Concerto up the road a bit later on, if you're truly in need of a two-concert day.  Georgia educators with ID receive 50% off tickets at Spivey Hall, as do students with ID.  Just $10 for Clayton State students.

This is excellent music, start to finish, in the hands of a renowned and engaging artistSpend an afternoon with Bavouzet, Beethoven and Debussy at Spivey Hall, and your weekend (and your spirits) will definitely be the better for it.


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Haydn, Berg and Schubert from the Jupiter Quartet

The excellent Jupiter String Quartet is back for the fall week of their "Project Jupiter" residency this season.  The Jupiter musicians continue to work with Spivey Hall's southside partner schools' chamber orchestra programs  -- Lovejoy High School, Union Grove High School, and Whitewater High School -- while also coaching student string quartets at each school.  Plus they're out and about playing for other schools -- Bethune Elementary and at the new Cambridge High School -- as well as for seniors at The Palms at Lake Spivey Hall, music-lovers at First Prebyterian Church in Atlanta, and (last Tuesday) a return to the Atlanta Music Club at Peachtree Christian ChurchWe keep 'em busy while they're here, thanks to the outstanding work of Spivey Hall Education Manager and '"Project Jupiter' Field Marshall" Catherine Giel, who expertly organizes their residency weeks.

The Jupiters also have also spent time with the strings of the Clayton State University Orchestra and the Southern Crescent Youth Orchestra, coaching and encouraging the younger players, and joining the students in their sections while rehearsing.  Tonight they will coach the string players participating in Spivey Hall's annual Chamber Orchestra Workshop (lovingly known by Spivey Hall staff as "the COW") who will showcase their achievements next weekend with distinguished guest conductor/clinician Dr. Alex Jimenez, a music faculty member of Florida State University.
At the Atlanta Music Club performance on Election Day, there was a great mix of adults and students in the audience (as well as a very tempting abundance of cakes, cookies, and donuts).  We were rewarded with introductions and performances of quartet movements by Mozart, Brahms, and a tantalizing preview of the late G-major Quartet by Schubert that is the centerpiece of their Spivey Hall concert this Saturday.  As Jupiter cellist Daniel McDonough commented, the G-major Quartet is at moments almost symphonic in conception (such incredible sound do the four musicians produce), which makes it a great piece for Spivey Hall, whose extraordinary acoustics will enhance the dramatic aspects of the performance, as well as the most intimate.  

This is deeply soulful Schubert, almost other-worldly in the spirituality the music evokes.  I can't wait to immerse myself in this performance Saturday night, which is preceded by the Haydn "Joke" Quartet, and a fascinating two-movement quartet (Opus 3) by Second Viennese School composer Alban Berg. Tickets are available at the Box Office or online.  If you're a student or a Georgia educator or a Clayton State faculty or staff member, you're entitled to 50% off the normal ticket price (Clayton State students just $10, and music appreciation students free with ID), but you have to call the Box Office at (678) 466-4200 to reserve these discounted tickets.  There's a free pre-concert talk by Daniel and Clayton State Division of Music faculty member Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller at 7:15 PM, and as always, the Jupiter musicians look forward to greeting everyone after their performance.

Our good friends at WABE 90.1 FM, in whose broadcast studio the Jupiters performed in Season 2 of "Project Jupiter," have posted an interview with the musicians on their website -- click here to listen.  As you'll hear, the Jupiters are intelligent, friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, highly accomplished, and passionate about their music-making, which makes them A++++  candidates for community outreach concerts, in-school education services, and Spivey Series concerts alike.  

Thus it's easy to vote "Yes" for the Jupiters. They're fantastic people and amazing musicians.  We're honored to have them with us again for the third and final season of "Project Jupiter."  For this we owe our deep and lasting thanks to the Jupiters, as well as to South Arts, the Georgia Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Hampton Inn Atlanta Southlake for sponsoring Season 3 of "Project Jupiter." 

In other Spivey Hall string quartet news, check out the new film A Late Quartet, now showing at the Regal Tara Cinemas-Atlanta (an exclusive engagement at the moment).  Borrowing a blurb about it from the web:  "The film tells the story of a beloved cellist of a world-renowned string quartet [played by Christopher Walken] who receives a life changing diagnosis.  The group's future suddenly hangs in the balance: suppressed emotions, competing egos, and uncontrollable passions threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration. As they are about to play their 25th anniversary concert, quite possibly their last, only their intimate bond and the power of music can preserve their legacy. Inspired by and structured around Beethoven's Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor, the film pays homage to chamber music and the cultural world of New York."

Supplying soundtrack performances for the film are none other than our friends, the Brentano String Quartet, last at Spivey Hall in April 2012.  I've not yet seen the film, and am curious to assess how well the actors cast as the quartet (who include Philip Seymour Hoffman) mime string playing (most times, it's a dead give-away they're NOT string players at all).  

At Spivey Hall, we last heard Beethoven's Opus 131 from the Vogler String Quartet, which gave us a memorable and compelling performance.  It truly is a masterwork. 

Anyone intrigued by the film who wants to see/hear REAL string quartet playing may come to Spivey Hall to enjoy the Graffe Quartet in February, the Jupiters in March (for the grand finale of their three-season "Project Jupiter" residency), or the Elias String Quartet in April.  Less drama, angst, and turmoil, perhaps (! -- we can only hope), but wonderfully rewarding music-making from these internationally-acclaimed quartets.