Music Monday: Four concerts, six hours, almost two centuries


From Bottesini to Pamela Z

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Monday was all music all the time.

It started at 1 p.m. with the Gran Duo Concertante from 1844 by Giovanni Bottesini at chamber music, worked its way through a batch of early 20th century composers, to modern music master John Cage in a piece sort-of written in 1961, Punch Brothers who tap into Scottish/Appalachian tunes from the 1800s and maybe Led Zeppelin, and ended with a 2013 piece by Pamela Z.

If I had planned better I would have asked chamber music director Geoff Nuttall to program one of the early 18th century works Monday instead of later in the festival. That way I could have heard 300 years of music in one day — instead of only 170 years of music.

I sure don’t have any complaints about the chamber concert that was one of my favorite mixes of all time.

It began with the delightful Bottesini, a playful and sometimes dreamy romance between violin and double bass (with the piano hanging round as the third wheel.) Not only did it sound great with violinist Livia Sohn and bassist Anthony Manzo, but the two interacted very well, but didn’t overdo it, although Manzo’s eyebrows alone speak volumes.

Cage’s Variations II is 50 years old, but each time it is played it is brand new. Lines and dots are marked on transparencies then dropped, and where everything lands is when the players play. What they play is up to them — they can pick snippets from whatever they like, which Monday ranged from Mozart to Scott Joplin. The whole chamber crew — the Brentano Quartet, Nuttall, Sohn, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein, led by percussionist Steven Schick took part — a few of them playing in the hall rather than on stage.

If those were mostly fun, the Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 3, a rarely played piece by Ernest Chausson, was quite serious. Monumental at times, deeply moving, it brought together Nuttall and Weilerstein, along with 24-year-old pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. Every bit as good as the opening concert’s Schubert string quartet.

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