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Intriguing rarities

The Glenn Gould Studio
10/27/2010 -  
Ravi Shankar: L'Aube Enchantée sur le Taga "Todi"
Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 6 for Solo Violin
Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances
Friedrich Kuhlau: Fantaisie No. 1 for Solo Flute (Op. 38-1)
Leo Brouwer: Elogio de la Danza
Toru Takemitsu: Toward the Sea
Astor Piazzolla: Historia del Tango
Jacques Bondon: Les Folklores imaginaires Suite No. 2

Yasuji Ohagi (Guitar), Kazunori Seo (Flute), Gentaro Kagitomi (Violin)

G. Kagitomi, Y. Ohagi & K. Seo (Courtesy The Japan Foundation)

A capacity audience at the Glenn Gould Studio were treated to an intriguingly different chamber concert thanks to a Canadian tour, organized by the Japan Foundation, of three young Japanese musicians: Gentaro Kagitomi (violin), Yasuji Ohagi (guitar), and Kazunori Seo (flute). They are not an organized trio, but three musicians with solo careers (and recordings) who have come together for this tour.

The eclectic program is a reflection of the performers’ wide-ranging interests and international training (all trained in Paris after studies in Japan).

Ravi Shankar’s L’aube Enchantée sur le Raga “Todi” was composed for guitar and flute. It is not, as one might expect, an arrangement of a sitar piece, nor is it imitative of any Indian-sounding instrument or ensemble. It is a meditative work conjuring up the feeling of the “enchanted dawn” of its title.

Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 6 does not follow sonata form and is really more a fanasy in the Spanish mode. Ysaÿe’s six sonatas were each dedicated to a noted violinist and composed to suit each player’s style. This one was dedicated to Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga Losada. It’s a miniature showpiece for the violin, ending in the form of a Habanera, and Mr. Kagitomi got to show his solid technique.

Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances were written for piano and have undergone many different arrangements, such as the one heard for violin and guitar. Both players dealt well with the abruptly contrasting moods and trajectories within the pieces.

Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), a German based in Denmark, has been dubbed the Beethoven of the Flute thanks to his devotion to that intrument and the influence Beethoven had on his style. His Don Giovanni fantasy contains variations on Batti, batti, o bel Masetto and it provides a real workout for the flutist, Mr. Seo.

Cuban composer (and guitarist) Leo Brouwer’s Elogio de la Danza ("Praise of the Dance") was composed in 1964 for noted dancer Luis Trápaga. The program notes inform us that it is also intended as a tribute to Igor Stravinsky. (Trápaga performed with one of the Ballet Russe companies and would have performed in works by Stravinsky.) It is in two parts, Lento (starting very quietly) and Ostinato, the latter not as relentless as the term ostinato implies, with frequent hesitations in the rhythm. (One might have expected a flamenco influence in a guitar work for a dancer by a Cuban composer - but no, the style is “20th century cosmopolitan” for lack of a better term.)

Following the interval, we heard a piece for flute and guitar, Toru Takmitsu’s Toward the Sea. This was commissioned in 1981 by Greenpeace to support their Save the Whales campaign. Its three sections are Night, Moby Dick and Cape Cod. The composer’s aleatory approach is in evidence, as well as a sense of distance and submergence. The final section has a bluesy sound.(By the way, Takemitsu received the quadriennial Glenn Gould Award the year of his death, 1996.)

To South America for the next work, Astor Piazzolla’s Historia del Tango. Originally written for flute and guitar, we heard it arranged for violin and guitar. Each of the four pieces is meant to represent the Tango as it was performed in different eras: 1900 (Burdel), very playful, performed with brio; Café 1930 is brooding, even sorrowful, with a wistful close; Nightclub 1960 shows a jitterbig influence; then Concierto de Hoy (1980) which has a driving rock beat behind it, leaving little room for the moods of earlier eras. This was the most extroverted work of the evening and was very much the audience favourite.

Finally, a work for all three musicians. They obviously searched the repertoire to find a piece for violin, guitar and flute, and came up with Jacques Bondon’s Les Folklores Imaginaires Suite No. 2. Bondon is a French composer (born 1927) and this work dates from 1986. Its five mostly playful sections are Danse rituelle, Romance lointaine, Chant de mélancolie, Danse des petits hommes, and Danse des guerriers (not at all martial, by the way).

For their encore piece, the three played what must be their own version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which featured rich viola-like sounds from the violinist.

Following the concert the players were presented with a number of scores by Canadian composers to add to their solo or ensemble repertoires.

The intimate scale of the program was a perfect match for the venue (seating fewer than 400). The Glenn Gould Studio is a fully-equipped recording studio inside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation centre. The CBC used to tape an annual series of concerts until recent budget cuts and a policy de-emphasizing classical music. It’s unfortunate that this concert of rarities wasn’t recorded.

Michael Johnson



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