Scholarship winners play music from around the globe in Arts at One
By Kealy Doyle, Contributor
This week’s Arts at One audience was treated to a whistle-stop tour around the musical globe, with interesting contemporary compositions from Austria to Brazil to Vietnam. The music department’s scholarship winners proved exceptionally competent guides, playing with skill and gusto.
First stop was Vietnam, courtesy of composer Pham Duy’s “Hen Ho.” Andrew Stevens was impressively acrobatic on the guitar and off, kicking his heels in mid-air as he entered stage left. His harmonics were delicate, his trills skilful, and the sound flowing. This was a sombre, reflective piece with, to the untrained ear, a little bit of the Andalusian air of previous weeks. Stevens ended his performance with another mischievous kick.
Next was a glimpse of home, with a piece from one of Canada’s most significant composers, Harry Somers. Jessica Shen handled this interesting, moody piano work with utter confidence. It attained the unexpected and deserved its title, “Strangeness of Heart.” It was an impressive performance from Shen, but a tense work which kept the audience slightly off balance.
If Somers kept them off balance, Austrian composer Jenő Takács toppled the audience entirely in Shen’s second performance. “When the Frog Goes Wandering” was also aptly named, veering all over the keyboard in a tumbling, erratic outpouring of notes. At a minute and a half, it was a mercifully short journey, but kudos to Shen for delivering another challenging piece.
[quote style=”boxed”]The music department’s scholarship winners proved exceptionally competent guides, playing with skill and gusto.[/quote]
It was off to Brazil next, with classical guitar duo Irish Montemayor and Tim Zacharias. They began Celso Machado’s exotic “Marchinha de Carnaval” steadily and with measure. Zacharias silently kept pace with his foot, and the two remained in perfect unison throughout the piece. It was deceptively simple, enjoyable, and upbeat. Zacharias couldn’t mask a grin over the closing chords.
The duo continued to keep things simple with their second performance. “Lesson for Two Lutes,” an anonymous piece, was an exercise in keeping excellent time—something Montemayor and Zacharias had clearly mastered. It was short and sweet, and a nice demonstration of the pair working in harmony.
The scene shifted to Europe with mezzo-soprano Joanna Henry’s rendition of “Maria Wiegenlied,” by German organist Max Reger. This beautiful lullaby was hugely popular in its time and sold more copies than all of Reger’s other works put together. It is not difficult to hear why either. Henry’s sweet, girlish voice was well suited, and Jessica Chiu provided a fine accompaniment on the piano.
We detoured to green old England with Henry’s performance of Roger Quilter’s “June.” Quilter is known for his light art songs, and this was a particularly nimble, pleasant example, which Henry and Chiu handled well.
The final stop on the tour was Hungary, and what a stop it was! Williams Budhiharto demonstrated complete mastery of Franz Liszt’s “Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este.” This was indeed a fountain of a piece, with wonderful, trilling chords and flurried notes which cascaded, slowed, rippled, and built again to a quivering rush. Budhiharto did some excellent work at the treble end of the piano, which must have required marvellous concentration. It was a tremendous finish.
The Arts at One series continues on March 29 with the award winners’ concert. Performances are free to attend and begin every Thursday at 1 p.m. in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, New Westminster campus.