By Jim Leonard
Some well-played Chopin from Vernon pianist Alex MacArthur was a good start to NOCCA’s final concert of the season Saturday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
The piece, Scherzo in B-flat, was played brilliantly by MacArthur, who recently joined the faculty at the Vernon Community Music School. He has also played with the Okanagan and Kamloops symphony orchestras as guest soloist.
Duo Rendezvous, with Jasper Wood on violin and Daniel Bolshoy on guitar, began their program with the Suite in E minor by J.S. Bach. The music was very intricate and at times I sensed a little uneasiness in the ensemble between the two players. This lasted for only a short time in this very demanding and complex work.
In the Suite Populaire Espagnole by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) the duo showed their skills. There were various instrumental effects: harmonics produced by touching the string(s) lightly at strategic spots on the fingerboard and pizzicato on the violin, etc.
Wood’s violin tone was extraordinarily beautiful at all times. He proved himself to be a true master of the violin.
The last piece of the first half, Introduction and Tarentelle by violin virtuoso Pablo de Saraste (1844-1908), explored the outer limits of the violin’s range. It resorted to harmonics to go beyond the usual notes of the fingerboard. Wood’s intonation was always perfect as he played in the piece’s gypsy style.
Bolshoy was up to the task of keeping the rhythm constant while providing all the harmony on the six strings of his guitar – no mean feat indeed.
The second half of the concert began with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Luiza. Jobim (1927-1994) was a Latin style composer/pianist famous for his bossa nova pieces. That’s not what we heard in Luiza. The piece was modern and emotional with complex harmonies and free rhythmic movement. Apparently Jobim had several love affairs throughout his life and Luiza is said to be one of them.
Histoire du Tango and Seasons of Buenos Aires by Italian composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) had percussion effects added by both the violin and the guitar. Wood bowed his violin close to the bridge next to the chin rest, producing a raspy imitation of maracas. Bolshoy tapped on his guitar giving a bongo effect. Each piece represented scenes from various places in Latin America. In spite of the brilliant playing of these pieces, I must admit they were beginning to sound a little similar to each other.
Csardas by Vittorio Monti (1868-1922) was a refreshing antidote to the previous set of pieces, with its lively pace and virtuosic playing of the violin. The technique of both players was flawless and exciting to witness.
A brief whimsical encore called Cafe Espresso 1930 (I didn’t catch the composer) sent the enthusiastic audience home satisfied.
I would like to thank the NOCCA organization for a wonderful season of diverse and delightful entertainment.
Review By Jim Leonard For The Vernon Morning Star