Above: accordionist Luka Juhart
Tuesday December 9th, 2014 - This evening's concert at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center brought forth two instruments we don't hear often enough: the accordion and the harp. These distinctive voices created some fresh sonic sensations as the programme unfolded.
But first, a cellist...
...Thomas Demenga (above) opened the evening with Bach's cello suite #1. His performance had the effect of a transfusion, driving out the woes and cares of daily life with his uplifting musicality. The familiar work seemed wonderfully fresh in Mr. Demenga's interpretation which was alive with subtle dynamic shifts and the clear detailing of all the "little notes". The audience fell immediately under the spell of the music, with the cellist setting the tone for the entire evening.
Mr. Demenga's expertise as a musical arranger came to the fore next as he was joined by his brother-cellist Patrick Demenga and accordionist Luka Juhart in a set of Bach chorale preludes. The two cellos truly sang here, evoking the poignant sounds of the counter-tenor, whilst Mr. Juhart's accordion added the gentle sonority of a chapel organ.
Above: harpist Bridget Kibbey
The harp was then brought on, and the comely Ms. Kibbey was joined by a string quintet for the concerto in F-major by Johann Wilhelm Hertel, a composer unfamiliar to me. In many ballets and operas, the sound of the harp marks a spell of enchantment (think of Raymonda, or Donizetti's Lucia) and Ms. Kibbey surely found this expression in her playing which sustained a delicate lyricism. In the central adagio, there's a beautiful violin melody (Yura Lee at her most ravishing) and later the harp and violin trade phrases in an echoing effect. Daniel Phillips (violin 2), the lovely Lily Francis (viola), Patrick Demenga (cello) and Anthony Manzo (artfully plumbing the depths with his double-bass) created a finely-meshed ensemble, setting off the harpist's flourishing flights to perfection.
Mr. Juhart's playing of a set of Rameau harpsichord pieces transcribed for accordion showed off both his delicate touch and some impetuous virtuosity, the sound sometimes reminding me of that charming French instrument, the musette.
By the time Mr. Juhart joined the Demenga brothers for Bach's G-minor sonata, he had thoroughy intrigued the audience. How purely enjoyable to listen to the flowing passage-work of the sonata's opening vivace, the piquant harmonies of the largo, and the brightly engaging final allegro played by these remarkable artists.
What's a Baroque concert without Vivaldi? The evening's full complement of musicians appeared for the Red Priest's concerto in G-minor: the shortest work on the programme played by the largest ensemble. The cello-playing brothers were front-and-center, with an added cellist (Mihai Marica) joining the two violins and the viola; harp and accordion adding textured sound-layers, and Mr. Manzo's double-bass with its nimble tread. In the concerto's final allegro, a feeling of celebratory dancing filled the hall.
- Bach Suite No. 1 in G major for Cello, BWV 1007 (c. 1720)
- Bach Selected Chorales arranged for Two Cellos and Accordion (arr. T. Demenga)
- Hertel Concerto in F major for Harp, Strings, and Continuo (before 1789)
- Rameau Cinq pieces transcribed for Accordion (1741)
- Bach Sonata in G minor transcribed for Cello and Accordion, BWV 1029 (before 1741)
- Vivaldi Concerto in G minor for Two Cellos, Strings, and Continuo, RV 531 (after 1710)