Though six weeks ago, a duo faculty recital at WTAMU’s Fine Arts Complex Recital Hall by Evgeny Zvonnikov and Emmanuel Lopez certainly deserves mention. The two artists played works by Ravel, Gliere and Kodaly to an audience of some thirty lucky listeners.
Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello was written between 1920 – 22 and dedicated to the recently-deceased Claude Debussy. According to Rositza Gosa of the Harrington String Quartet, Ravel wrote this work to break out of a compositional writer’s block lingering from the Great War and ‘surface beauty was the last thing on his mind.’
What emerges is a work that evinces a kaleidoscope of textures possibly suggesting Ravel’s musical path forward in a decade in which iconoclasts like Stravinsky and Hindemith would dominate.
The Allegro opens with the violin, which with the cello then produces an almost oriental harmony ultimately with the two instruments juxtaposing like a seesaw.
The Tres Vif features almost aerobic pizzicato on both instruments, not a problem for virtuosos like Evgenny and Manny. The theme morphs into an angry dissonance, perhaps a nod to Stravinsky.
The entire third movement (Lent) is beautiful, opening with a languorous cello then with the violin evoking a plaintive reflective vision, certainly an homage to Debussy.
The fourth movement, or Vif , in contrast, opens with a bouncy cello, which interacts with the violin in acceleration, ultimately resonating with the theme of the good guys coming to the rescue.
The second number on the recital was Eight Pieces for violin and cello, Op. 39 by Reinhold Gliere, a composer of Imperial Russia who survived the smothering restrictions of the Revolution and Stalinism to produce a huge array of works ranging from solo and ensemble to orchestral and film scores.
This piece, was written in 1909 and composed around western European dance themes with Russian peasant overtones. The peasant theme is emphasized in the Gavotte, followed by a tender and melodic Berceuse, after which a beautiful Conzonetta sings of longing, to note just three of the eight.
Manny’s cello was lyrical and sonorous throughout, while Evgenny’s violin evoked a terpsichorean flare. After all, Maestro Zvonnikov should know a thing or two about playing Russian music.
The final work in the recital was Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7, composed in 1914 by the Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly. If there is a overarching theme in the program perhaps it focuses on works by composers trying to find their voice.
The composer sought a Hungarian Renaissance through music and education, creating works from an ethnomusicological background that balanced folk melodies with western norms in a non-traditional manner. He became fast friends with Bela Bartok and his penchant for pedagogy credits him with the Kodaly Method for instruction.
The intrusion of WWI, along with the composer’s aversion to self-promotion forestalled widespread awareness of his compositions until the 1920’s.
The first movement, Allegro serioso, non troppo, has a single theme of multiple iterations, becoming very muscular and, at times, wide-ranging. Towards the conclusion the piece turns very lyrical, but, in typical fashion for both Kodaly and Bartok, ends with a dissonant chord.
The second movement, Adagio-Andante-Adagio, opens with a strong emotive cello, but halfway through the violin takes off on a febrile frenzy which never lets up, swelling to an anguished conclusion with a lovely violin and cello pizzicato.
The third, Maestoso-Presto, initiates a restatement of the first movement’s theme decorated by pizzicato. One can’t help thinking of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Maybe on the eve of the Great War there was a dissidence in the musical air to counter the martial in politics.
All the audience could do at the end was stand and applaud enthusiastically, hardly commensurate with the quality of the art to which we were privileged.
That such art is here in Cowboy Country is because Amarillo is Artsy, and we want to keep it that way, and…”Keep Austin Weird” and, always, “Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”