STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla created four minutes of music that makes you forget everything. Perfectly titled, “Oblivion” is a small but intense chamber piece.
At Friday night’s opening concert of the Durango Chamber Music Festival, the Red Shoe Piano Trio mesmerized the audience with a sympathetic rendering of this beautiful, melancholic work.
Now in its fourth iteration, the festival contrasts mightily with the annual Bach Festival held at St. Mark’s every March. Reason and emotion. Stately structures of sound and tumbling rivers of feeling.
Friday’s concert consisted mainly of contemporary music with only one selection from the 19th century; Chopin’s stately “Largo” from the Cello Sonata in G minor, performed by Katherine Jetter and Lisa Campi Walters.
The evening began with Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Flute and Piano. Performed by the petite musical twins Kathryn Shaffer and Kristen Chen, the French composer’s lush sound filled St. Mark’s sanctuary. The cascading themes of the first movement spilled over sonic cliffs, and the slow Cantilena felt like a dream. The second movement contrasted mightily with a very fast, virtuosic Presto.
Chopin’s Largo followed. Jetter and Campi-Walters performed the very short work by not letting the tempo stray from its expansive illusion of eternal time. Then Jetter announced the addition of Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano.
It had not been included in the program and is a major work from the composer’s final years. At the end, Debussy suffered from colon cancer and planned a series of six sonatas for different instruments. He completed only three, the first being for cello.
The Prologue opened with a strong fanfare in the piano after which the cello entered. Jetter wove serpentine lines over blocky, chime-like chords in the piano through a slow section. The Serenade seemed a long and lovely ramble with odd diversions into faster tempi. The final movement daringly set a chase with strong pizzacati in both cello and piano plus a number of extended techniques – distinctly a 20th century work. A few problems with intonation surfaced along the way, but the net effect was strong and singular.
The clarinet-piano duo, Mark Walters and his wife Campi-Walters, performed Bartok’s seven Romanian Dances. Based on folk tunes, the relatively simple, straight-forward structure ranged from various minor key slow dances to a very fast polka filled with energizing offbeats.
And the Red Shoe Trio with Campi-Walters, Jetter, and violinist Nathan Lambert closed the evening with the music of Piazzolla. The sweet melancholy of “Oblivion” gave way to a dramatic work titled La Muerte Del Angel. With its theme of an angel returning to earth only to face a violent end, the work was full of sonic spikes and high energy.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.