Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

All Killer, No Filler

November 20, 2006

Gidon Kremer in NY last week
Photo Erin Baiano/New York Times 2006
It was another busy weekend in LA. Although I missed the Thomas Adès led Powder Her Face at the USC Thornton School, I did get to see the Long Beach Opera production of Glass’ The Sound of a Voice/Hotel of Dreams which I will write about later. Last night was an exceptionally good chamber performance from the unlikely trio of Gidon Kremer on violin, Andrius Zlabys on piano, and Andrei Pushkarev, on the vibraphone. This show had been seen in New York last week and was performed in the much larger Royce Hall as part of the UCLA Live series here.

The program consisted primarily of 20th-century chamber works directly inspired by Bach or adaptations of his work for this combination of instruments. The emphasis was not only about Bach’s influence but how he and other Baroque composers had an interest in variations and improvisation. Needless to say, jazz featured into the program, including a rather playful solo performance by Pushkarev of three of Bach’s two-voice inventions (in C major, D minor and B major) played on the vibraphone in the style of various famous jazz musicians including Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, and Oscar Peterson.

Three works, Pärt’s Fratres for violin and piano, Bartok’s solo violin sonata, and a set of music by Piazzolla – the Grand Tango, and Three Milongas, dominated the rest of the program. The Fratres was by far the most convincing and moving performance I’ve heard of this work in a while. It was far superior to the 8 cello version performed in the CalArts Cellos program at the REDCAT earlier this year. The crowd responded enthusiastically to both the Piazzolla and the Bartok. And in response to the woman speaking with LA Times correspondent Richard Ginell at intermission, no, it would not be nice to have heard the Bartok paired with either a Brahms or Beethoven sonata, given that such a pairing would have been beside the point of the program. Apparently, some people just can’t drink perfectly decent black coffee without drowning it in sugar and cream. It is not often that one hears a program as strong all around as this one and is both thematically cohesive at the same time. Kremer and has colleagues should be heralded for that fact alone.

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