Like most arts teams, Piano Spheres received by a performance-absolutely free pandemic the most effective it could on Zoom. But immediately after the preliminary online video-vérité fascination of peeking into pianists’ living or practice rooms, a Zoom gloom established in as on the net recitals, be they novice or professional, proliferated from seemingly everywhere.
What is the different? Sensitive pianos never like the excellent outside, that’s for the birds. So be it. The ever-venturesome piano series’ rowdy return to dwell concert events Sunday afternoon occurred to be at — the place else? — Audubon Centre at Debs Park, a stopover issue, just off our Pasadena Freeway, for migratory birds on their Pacific Flyway.
A 9-foot, wide-beaked black Steinway grand landed on the center’s patio. The event was a scarce comprehensive efficiency of Messiaen’s obsessive “Catalogue d’Oiseaux,” 13 arresting virtuosic solo items suffused with the calls of dozens of birds that the composer listened to when birding in the French countryside in the course of the mid-1950s.
Tables and folding chairs were being set up on the garden, with its beautiful pond in the rear. Birds ended up in the minority, for the most portion gracefully gliding about a distant hill probable out of assortment for the sensitively amplified piano. Just one enable out an occasional squawk.
Whilst solitary-minded birder pianists with strategy to burn off (an incredibly smaller species) do attempt the comprehensive manic “Catalogue,” which lasts shut to a few hrs in functionality, Piano Spheres realistically split the responsibilities between 13 soloists. That included the series’ main artists Vicki Ray, Mark Robson, Thomas Kotcheff and Sarah Gibson, along with guest pianists, properly-recognised and newcomers.
A description of Messiaen’s “Catalogue” would make it seem mad, which, of course, it is. Every single of the movements — they variety from about 5 to 30 minutes — is named for a certain fowl, but several other sorts make their noisy appearances as secondary figures. The at any time-clattering keyboard attempts to mimic their myriad chirps, this way and that, manufacturing a startling, exhausting, headache-generating, metallic-sounding menagerie that never would seem to stop and will make zero feeling to any one with out wings.
But that is also the genius of Messiaen’s piano crafting. There was no end to his versatility in turning birdsong into piano music. The evocations appear across not as translations of one sort of sound into an additional but as listening to birds speak in astonishing piano accents.
The composer is significantly less documentarian than poet. He destinations his birds on cliffs, at river banking companies, in punishing arid sunshine and moldy forest darkness. Some actions are about the birds and their interactions. Some are about the passage of time. The large central motion, the one particular that can final above a 50 percent-hour, signifies 27 hours in the lifestyle of the reed warbler.
Messiaen delivered florid descriptions of the movements, and in this one the reed warbler is the fantastic orator of his neighborhood lily pond. Frogs croak, a skylark soars earlier mentioned all in stunning pianistic glitter, grasshopper warblers rattle as their names recommend, and a single reed warbler enters into a rapturous contrapuntal duet with a further.
These elaborately evocative options are precisely what will make us observe the birds. The ninth movement, for instance, is devoted to Cetti’s warbler, a adorable very little brown chicken with a violent phone, still one particular incapable of breaking the spell of a little tributary that is heard flowing with such abundant harmonies that it may well be the river of enjoy. All that is winged, even the grating corn crake, is painted with a mystical birder’s unworldly rose-colored pianistic eyeglasses. All Messiaen’s birds are angels.
The 13 pianists introduced their have degrees of avian awareness. Genevieve Feiwen Lee (Alpine chough), Nelson Ojeda Valdés (blue rock thrush), Joanne Pearce Martin (rock thrush) and Nadia Shpachenko (curlew) performed as while peering by binoculars, mapping birds, marveling from afar with an ornithologist’s objectivity. Ray (golden oriole), Aron Kallay (tawny owl) and Gibson (buzzard) approached the birds near up, highlighting their shades and revealing luxuriant thoughts aroused by the atmospheric configurations.
Kotcheff (black-eared wheatear), Steven Vanhauwaert (woodlark), Danny Holt (shorter-toed lark) and David Kaplan (black wheatear) trusted their wonderful pianism to deliver birds vividly to life. In a quick and furious effectiveness, Yevgeniy Milyavskiy was the extraordinary instance of this, bringing a large audio to the reed warbler’s huge globe.
In a class of his very own was Mark Robson (Cetti’s warbler). His was a person of the more modest (all the things is relevant when it will come to Messiaen and birds) movements, but he was evidently the important determine in the whole venture. He experienced examined in Paris with Messiaen’s wife, Yvonne Loriod, for whom the “Catalogue” was prepared. He is one of the most illuminating (if the the very least recognised) of today’s Messiaen pianists.
He gave each chook in an extravagant menagerie a rapt individuality. You understood the blackcap by the piano improbably impersonating a flute. Messiaen desired the hoopoe to produce the influence of a harpsichord blended with a gong, and which is what it was. Over and above all that, Robson, in his mere dozen minutes at the keyboard, imbued an overall hen-besotted afternoon with a pervasive temper of aviary wonderment.
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