Friday, October 4, 2013

Music for Oboe and Piano at the Austrian Hospice, Jerusalem

One of the festive events of the 150th anniversary of the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family in the Old City of Jerusalem was a recital on September 28th 2013 performed by oboist Demetrios Karamintzas and pianist Galya Kolarova. Prior to the recital, Father Markus St. Bugnyar, Rector of the Austrian Hospice, welcomed the many guests present.

Following completion of his Masters degree from the Julliard School of Music, Greek-American oboist Demetrios Karamintzas joined the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra IBA in 2004, where he remained for seven years. At the same time he was active with the Barenboim-Said Foundation and Al Kamanjati Music School in Ramallah, where he helped to establish the first Palestinian youth orchestra. In 2011, he moved to Berlin, where he was appointed principal oboist of the Orchestra Mobile, a chamber orchestra performing throughout Europe. Bulgarian-born Galya Kolarova is a graduate of the L.Pipkov National School of Music (Sofia) and the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, also studying at the Accademia Musicale Santa Cecilia (Bergamo, Italy). As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East and in China. In the summer of 2012, Karamintzas and Kolarova met when performing at the International Chamber Music Festival at Schloss Wonfurt, the historic home of the von Bismarck family. As a duo they have toured Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. They are dedicated to expanding the repertoire for oboe and piano by researching rarely-played existing works, transcribing works from other instrumentation and commissioning new works.

The program, “An Evening in Vienna”, opened with “Morceau de Salon” opus 228 by J.W.Kalliwoda (1801-1866), a conductor, violinist and composer more important during his lifetime than his subsequent place in history would indicate. Of the virtuoso Romantic repertoire for the oboe (the piano part certainly has much say) the artists took the listener through the piece’s many sweeping melodies, varied tempi and different moods, with Karamintzas ornamenting deftly and weaving melodic lines in an unapologetically sentimental manner. Kolarova was with him all the way, the piano part alternating between salon- and serious writing.

Galya Kolarova then performed two Intermezzi by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), beginning with the lyrical, carefully-structured Intermezzo in a minor (Andante). Composed in 1892, this piece comes from the opus 116 collection of piano pieces and reflects the explorations and intimate, somber and somewhat mystical expression of the older Brahms. From its furtive opening gestures, Kolarova’s careful strategy and sensitive touch take the piece through its reverie and personal utterance. This was followed by the Intermezzo in A major, the second of the six 118 “Klavierstücke” and dedicated to Clara Schumann. No less contemplative and autumnal than the former piece, Kolarova uses rich piano timbres to create another rewarding mood piece, drawing the listener into its lyrical but controlled painful underlay, with moments almost sounding suspended in time.

The Viennese-born musician Marcel Rubin (1905-1995), an Austrian Jewish composer, immigrated to Paris, where he studied with Darius Milhaud, then living in Mexico before returning to Vienna after the end of World War II. His Sonatina for Oboe and Piano was composed in 1927. A work in three movements, and one of the seldom-performed works in the two artists’ new repertoire project, it is has many hearty and whimsical moments, banter with asymmetric rhythms and it straddles the border between tonality and beyond. The artists’ performance of the work was clean, sincere and uncluttered, its ending placed suddenly there with a wink of the eye!

None of the works performed in the second half of the concert was originally composed for oboe and piano. Karamintzas and Kolarova opened with three Schubert Lieder, the vocal line played on the oboe. The song written in memory of the poet and dramatist Matthäus von Collin, “Nacht und Träume” (Night and Dreams) has never been one of the easier Schubert songs to perform. Undaunted by this fact, the two artists created its unique, almost motionless sense of the mystery of night, moonlight, dreams and desolation, allowing the melody’s slow, tense unfolding to take place gradually. Their performance of “Du bist die Ruh” (You are Rest and Peace) to a poem of Friedrich Rückert preserved the piece’s meditative character and inner poise as Kolarova and Karamintzas blended delicacy with richness of timbre, the Lied’s disarmingly simple melody and (Schubert’s) idealization of love evoking radiance and peace. Their playing of Schubert’s strophic “Ave Maria”, its text a German translation of a poem by Sir Walter Scott, was well shaped, the artists’ slight flexing of phrases totally together, their use of dynamics warm and sensitive - as in the building up of a crescendo culminating with a whisper! Such interpretation of this Schubert material is bound to set the lover of German Lieder thinking. Based on the surmise that one is familiar with this material, Karamintzas’ playing of the vocal lines was so expressive and subtle that the words were not missed. Kolarova presented herself as a fine Lied pianist, her shaping of small motifs as attentive as her emotional involvement in each song.

Schubert’s Lied “Ständchen” (Serenade) to words by Ludwig Rellstab, comes from the posthumous “Schwanengesang” D 957 collection, the composer’s final group of songs. Galya Kolarova played Franz Liszt’s piano setting of the song for solo piano. Her control of dynamics, her flowing style and sense of shading brought out Liszt’s brilliant use of high- and low voice verses, with the third in duet and his concept of orchestrating the piano in her evoking of the music’s sublime, magical mood and subtlety. Again, with no words, we were able to hear the piece’s sweet melancholy, the storm of the soul (Schubert’s own soul) and a glimmer of hope in the face of despair.

The final item on the program was Schubert’s Sonata for violin and piano opus 137 no.3, composed when the composer was around 19 years old, but only published after his death. Probably intended for domestic music-making, Schubert’s first three violin sonatas were published by Anton Diabelli as “Three Sonatinas, opus 137”; calling them “sonatinas” tied in with Diabelli’s aim of exploiting the lucrative amateur music market. Built on the Mozartean model, the g minor sonata creates equal partnership between the instruments. I have heard the flute and piano transcription of the g minor sonata, but find the oboe and piano version more striking in the work’s moments of passion and lacking in neither refinement nor contrast. Kolarova and Karamintzas offered a rich and appealing performance of the work, meeting the technical demands of Schubert’s writing and addressing Shubert’s lyrical melodiousness, his charm and modesty as well as the darker, more intense aspects of the composer’s mind. Karamintzas’ confrontational playing was matched by Kolarova’s sensitive and responsive pianism.

And there were two more treats in store: the fist being a hearty and entertaining performance of Johannes’ Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no.4 (1869) played by both artists in the original version for four hands on the piano! The second encore, with Karamintzas back on oboe, was a movement from Israeli composer Paul Ben Haim’s “Songs without Words”. Their playing of it presented the piece’s modality and oriental-tinged mood with poignancy, majesty and a sense of well-being.

Performed in the salon of the Austrian Hospice, this concert presented playing of a superb level and a thought-provoking evening of music.

1 comment:

lewis brown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.