Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Alissa Firsova in Seattle

All-Russian program challenges, surprises

By George H. Pro
From the Seattle Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sunday night the Seattle Chamber Players continued their tradition of presenting daring new chamber works to Seattle audiences, with an all-Russian program of keen interest.
Pavel Karmanov is a popular composer of Russian television and cinema, and the Chamber Players opened the program with the U.S. premier of his work "Get In!" The essentially bright tonal work began with a nice forward motion that had great promise but disappointed because it never went anywhere. The two main ideas stayed on one dynamic level, creating a static effect.
A complete contrast ensued with Sofia Gubaidulina's "Quartet for Four Flutes." A fragmented opening yielded to sustained atonal clusters that mostly remained in a high register, locking in a drone-like static tension. It was not an easy work to listen to because of its lack of structure and dynamics.
As the program progressed, the material became more accessible to my ear. Alissa Firsova's "Celebration" was written in memory of Shostakovich and contains skillful writing that make colorful excursions from tonal anchors. In this world-premiere performance, the playing was exemplary; in particular, the violin's expansive lines were striking. The clarinet occasionally sounded harsh, as if the tone were being pushed toward a high dynamic level.
The surprise of the evening came in the form of the Shostakovich-approved transcription of his 15th Symphony for piano trio with percussion and celesta (arranged by the pianist Victor Derevianko). Soloist Oleg Malov, who played a preconcert Shostakovich recital, was the capable piano soloist. The piano provided both thematic material and textural fullness, and when the other instruments joined in, I could almost imagine an orchestral timbre. But the character was unquestionably that of a chamber work, with Shostakovich's ingratiating rhythmic signature. All four players gave the work a stunning performance.
The group consists of Seattle Symphony musicians Laura DeLuca (clarinet), David Sabee (cello) and Mikhail Shmidt (violin). Paul Taub (flute) teaches at the Cornish School for the Arts. Elena Dubinets serves as artistic adviser.

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