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The Great Hall of Tryon's Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) seats about 70, and on January 16 there was a full house for a delicious chamber music jewel. There was an immediacy and intimacy that delivered a very thorough knowledge of the sounds of the instruments; so often, strings are just an amorphous mass of sound, perhaps not as amorphous as Percy Faith and A Summer Place, but still no hint of the real nature of a living person playing a responsive instrument. But among 70 people in the Great Hall, every sob of the viola, every breath of the flutist, and every delicate note of the piano were heard to perfection.
Julie Daugherty and Vance Reese, although playing a modern Boehm flute and baby grand piano respectively, gave us a delicious and self-assured performance of the Bach Flute Sonata II, S.1031. Daugherty's tone was assured but not forced, and her sparing use of vibrato served the music well. Reese's playing was crisp and clear, with no damper pedal mud. His solo descending runs were impeccable.
For two dances — Sarabande and Rigaudon — by Arthur Foote, Reese and Julie Daugherty were joined by her mother Jan Daugherty, playing a handsome new viola by Asheville luthier Lawrence K. Brown. Julie Daugherty had a lovely unforced tone throughout, contrasted to her mother's somewhat tension-filled playing, but the overall sound picture was very nice. Their togetherness, in both rhythm and intonation, was far above the usual, as was Reese's accompaniment. While it could not be said that any of them was conducting, Julie Daugherty gave the upbeat at the repeats; she was just a tiny bit quick at these dramatic spots for my taste, but that may be a quibble. Their dynamics, and most notably the dying-away at the end, were handled with consummate skill.
Jacques Ibert's Aria, for flute and piano, kept me spellbound; I was sorry when it was over.
Ferguson's Five Pieces Based on Irish Tunes gave Jan Daugherty a chance to showcase both her new viola and her fine command of it. The "Lament" was dark and mysterious, exploiting the viola's deepest notes; the viola was balanced nicely against the strong and measured playing of the piano part. There was an interesting bowing towards the end that was reminiscent of the hurdy-gurdy. "A Hushaby" was lovely and lilting, with a dying strain at the close. "The Green Bushes" had a solo ending that was, well, wow! Jan Daugherty played as softly as I thought anyone could possibly play, and then she played softer — and then softer still! Her singing tone throughout all the Ferguson pieces, and especially in the "Cradle Hymn," spoke of the sorrow and repression that Ferguson seems to feel among the Irish people. The concluding "Jig" had cascading solo piano at the beginning, very neatly done. The viola part included a series of double stops, perfectly tuned.
Under the category "Don't attempt this at home" comes Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata, Kp 427, arranged for viola and double bass (played by Vance Reese). Scarlatti marks this "Presto, quanto si possibile." Daugherty suggested that, given the limitations of the bass and viola, this should be interpreted as "moderato," but their performance seemed "Presto, quanto si possibile" to me! Nobody gets a break in this piece, especially not the bass, with running sixteenth notes almost off the fingerboard. In the way of Scarlatti, the climactic points are reached at measures 15 and 18 out of 24 in the first part and 10 and 12 out of 18 in the second part; Scarlatti always gives a little walk at the end to cool down. And at these particular climaxes, in the midst of what is mostly scurrying binary counterpoint, Scarlatti calls — in the keyboard score — for a big triumphant crashing five-note I-chord. Daugherty and Reese chose wisely to enlist her husband David Daugherty to complete the tops of these chords with four notes on piccolo trumpet — Dah-da-da-dah! Any honest musician who has played this sonata at the harpsichord will admit a secret desire to have done precisely this somehow.... It was pure humor, perfectly executed, and with a rightness not always achieved by P. D. Q. Bach.
This concert was supported by funds from the Kirby Endowment Fund at the Polk County Community Foundation.