Antares - Out of This World
by Joe & Elizabeth Kahn
Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh, November 21: What a refreshing change! The Raleigh Chamber Music Guild's concert Sunday afternoon featured four works, only one of which was over 100 years old!
The four musicians making up the ensemble Antares - violinist Vesselin Gellev, cellist Rebecca Patterson, clarinetist Garrick Zoeter and pianist Eric Huebner - are at home with programs ranging from the 18th century to newly commissioned works. They have performed together extensively here and overseas, especially in South America, and it shows. Throughout the difficult and diverse program, the balance among the players was impeccable. Huebner even managed to rein in the loud and resonant Bösendorfer piano to keep it in line with the other instruments.
The program opened with Eclipse, a quartet for violin, clarinet, cello and piano composed in 1995 by American composer George Tsontakis (b.1951). The work was inspired by a lunar total eclipse he observed from his home in Shokan, NY and reflects more the mood of the composer as he watched the eclipse than an attempt to describe the astronomical event. The four short movements are particularly challenging for the clarinetist, and Zoeter has all the technical and musical tools to meet it. He managed to convey subtleties - and wide discrepancies - of mood with an amazing array of nuances of tones. (The movement titles range from "Haunting" to "Hyperactive" and "serene but disturbing" to "Manaical - Distant, Serene.")
Next, Gellev, Patterson and Huebner tackled Beethoven's Piano Trio in D, Op.70/1. This is a challenging work, especially its Largo second movement - perhaps the worlds first minimalist work. It consists of only a single theme that undergoes subtle changes over numerous repetitions, each of which promises, but never delivers, resolution. The performance, while intense and sensitively played, failed to convey the large architectonic structure of the movement. Nevertheless, the balance between the players was again exceptional.
Igor Stravinsky composed L'histoire
du soldat in 1918 for narrator, two voices, violin, double bass,
clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone and drums. Shortly thereafter he
made an instrumental suite from the music, as well as a trio reduction
of five movements for clarinet, violin and piano. The energetic performance
of the trio caught the spirit of Stravinsky's dabbling with
jazz, new to Europe with the American "invasion" during
and after W.W.I. Gellev's violin was especially artful in contrasting
the wistful soldier's playing in "Le
violon du soldat" and the diabolical in the "Danse
du diable" - The Devil's Dance.
Antares constituted one of life's rarities: a high quality bargain. Not only did we hear spectacular, energetic playing, but we got four major pieces rather than the usual three. Gee, thanks, Antares! You can come back any time. And by the way, when's the CD of the Tempest Fantasy coming out?