United States Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich, and Schoenfield: Emily Deans (viola and violin), Jessica Lee (violin), Alan Iglitzin (viola), David Requiro (cello), Julio Elizalde (piano), Olympic Music Festival, Quilcene, WA, 21.8.2010 (BJ)
It takes a great work to withstand the exposure of two performances in successive Olympic Music Festival seasons. Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet is, happily, such a work, and it benefitted from another hearing to balance the one I enjoyed, with minor reservations, last August.
The performers this time around were violinists Jessica Lee and Emily Deans, violist Alan Iglitzin (the only holdover from last year’s team), cellist David Requiro, and pianist Julio Elizalde. My only quibble with their predecessors’ efforts was that, while the darker aspects of the work’s first four movements were beautifully realized, their somewhat measured treatment of the finale missed that movement’s almost Schubertian grace and lightness. This year, again, there was no lack of gravity or intensity where those qualities were needed, and the players’ wide range of dynamics, extending to the brink of inaudibility at one end of the scale and to remorselessly hammering fortissimos at the other, vividly enhanced the music’s sense of drama. But Elizalde, whose part is essentially responsible for setting the finale’s tone, shaped it altogether more fluently and spontaneously than had his opposite number last time around, and as a result this wonderful movement had just the right combination of depth and relaxation.
The other substantial work on the program was Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, which concluded the first half in a performance by Ms. Lee and Mr. Requiro that caught both its elegance and the compelling vitality of its last movement. Framing the afternoon was a pair of string-and-piano performances by Emily Deans and Mr. Elizalde. On viola, Deans offered a group of five Debussy songs arranged for that instrument and piano: Pantomime, Paysage sentimental, Coqueterie posthume, Musique, and Calmes dans le demi-jour. They were helpfully introduced by Elizalde, and Deans then read an English version of the poems before each song.
This was a good idea, though I doubt whether listeners at the back of the barn gleaned much from her rather hushed enunciation. She played to much stronger effect. But it was at the end of the program that the same duo really set the audience alight. Paul Schoenfield, who was born in Detroit in 1947, likes to inflect superficially “classical” styles with jazz, folk, and klezmer elements. His Four Souvenirs, for violin or flute and piano, are a particularly hyper example: hyper-energetic in the opening “Samba” and closing “Square Dance,” hyper-sweet in the intervening “Tango” and “Tin Pan Alley.” Backed up to the hilt by Elizalde, Deans cut a terrific dash through these pieces, playing them for all they are worth, which is quite a lot. It was good clean musical fun, and the audience loved it.
There are still two weekends left this summer to enjoy the Olympic Music Festival’s uniquely convivial blend of quality music-making with idyllic surroundings. On August 27 and 28 the program includes the greatest of Brahms’s three piano quartets, the one in C minor, and the season ends on September 3 and 4 with Mozart’s sublime D-major Sonata for two pianos and Ravel’s La Valse. But as festival founder and director Iglitzin warned us before the music started, fund-raising is dangerously short of where it needs to be to assure continuing viability for the series. If we are not all to wake up one day next year to the dire news that the festival’s 28th season was its last, something must be done about that. For more information about attending, or to find out how to contribute, concerned music-lovers who live anywhere near the Seattle area should call (360) 732-4800, or visit www.olympicmusicfestival.org.
A shorter version of this review appeared in the Seattle Times.