Monday, October 12, 2020

three concerts

I attended three more online concerts over the weekend. All were ones I'd gotten publicity emails for and which I signed up for because the programs looked interesting. The results varied.

First was the Neave Trio (violin, cello, piano), who play at Bard College in New York state, so I wouldn't be too likely to come across them at home. They gave a soft, gentle version of Clara Schumann's Piano Trio in G Minor, followed by as close to a similar style as they could get with Shostakovich's Trio No. 1, the one that's rarely played, and Jennifer Higdon's Trio, a work I hadn't heard.

A much more vigorous and incisive version of the Clara Schumann came from the Delphi Trio, in the Noe Music concert series, recorded in a church in San Francisco where I've often been for concerts. (So I appreciated the intro, a montage of arriving at the church for a concert.) Equally fine was their Brahms Op. 87 Trio. These were separated by a new piece by Danny Clay called Circle Dash, because it was written as an animation of those symbols, the dashes meaning rests and the circles meaning notes, their placement and size indicating pitch and volume. The result was a series of thumps which was mildly amusing to hear, especially between two masterworks.

Both these concerts were excellently recorded in both sound and video. The third was ... not. This was the Stenberg-Cahill duo, two local specialists in new music as part of Old First Concerts, another church-based series in San Francisco. I was late for this, and when I tuned in, Kate Stenberg was playing an eerie and mesmerizing piece for unaccompanied violin by Ronald Bruce Smith. That worked pretty well, but subsequent pieces with Sarah Cahill on piano revealed technical issues. There's nothing wrong with the venue, where I've been before, but the sound quality of the recording was awful, the microphones flickered off and on and interfered with the acoustic pickup, the video was dully staged and badly lit, and the performers couldn't figure out whether to leave the stage between pieces. (After one piece, Cahill stood up, moved forward, looked around, sat down again, stood up again ...) They concluded with the Brahms Op. 100 Sonata, and I think that modern music specialists should stick to their last. I'm not taking any more of this series online unless they learn to make better recordings, and I think I'll write the publicist who sent me the notice.

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