And their interpretations of music by Schumann, Brahms, Mozart and Prokofiev set a gold standard with these four golden classics.
In Robert Schumann’s “Three Romances,” Pahud’s beefy sound throughout the compass of his instrument, especially in the low range, convinced me that these pieces, originally composed for oboe and piano, could succeed with the flute. In fact, his exquisite phrasing and feathered endings with many perilously soft and sustained high notes actually appeared to be more appropriate for the flute. But it was his sumptuous tone enriching these three perfumed flowers that began the evening, and they were just the harbinger of things to come.
In Johannes Brahms’ sonata No. 2 in E-flat major, originally for clarinet and piano (and often played also by the viola), Pahud captured the richness of this German romantic piece and didn’t allow it to sound like an overly delicate adaptation. He had enough power to pump out the many low notes in the martial mid-section of the second movement that needed military brawn. And it appeared that Bronfman didn’t hold back; because of Pahud’s potent tone, he was able to give full weight to the keyboard’s knuckle-busting role.
Their way with Mozart’s Sonata No. 21 in E minor (originally for violin) brought out the crystalline clarity of Mozart’s magical textures with deft precision and lightness, especially in the Minuet’s rolling lines of fulsome melodies and oddball departures from the template, which included a sudden chromatic solo cadenza in the piano and plunging low notes for the flute. Then the duo launched into one of the flute repertoire’s original tour-de-force masterpieces, Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major, a maelstrom of fiendish technical demand and incandescent beauty. The first movement is like a circus: full of musical cartwheels and high-wire derring-do. The second, a scherzo-presto is a beehive where the workforce is buzzing alongside a haunting little air for the queen bee, and their dizzying race to the end is an exhilarating ride. The slightly jazzy third movement’s lazy theme wanders around in search of a new home, and the fourth movement takes us back to the circus’ three-ring show of full-blown bravura, percussive punch and hilarious hocus-pocus. Pahud and Bronfman couldn’t have been more gleaming in their bejeweled performance.
PACE Percussion’s witty delights
The Borusan Music House presented the Danish trio, Pace Percussion, on Dec. 9, in the venue’s second concert in their “Borusan New Series” of international ensembles playing 21st-century music. This series is curated by Markus Hagemann from Berlin, whose fervent proprietary approach to this venue is a testament to seeing things differently. “I like the idea of composing for the building itself,” he says. “The Borusan Music House is a wonderful place for this music.” Hagemann’s basic conceit and his ineffable taste in musical artists were captured in a nutshell by what Pace Percussion did on this evening.
Dancing onto the stage in a conga line with bells on their ankles, Mathias Reumert, David Hildebrant and Mathias Friis-Hansen greeted us with the slightly wicked smiles of teenagers who had amassed a giant collection of objects that make a lot of noise -- but organized noise; in fact, so organized that it seemed like a polished, tightly choreographed cabaret show and not any adolescent impulse to explode stuff for shock value.
With personality, wit, energy and lots of style, Pace took the audience on a surprise detour from the usual esoteric banging on cans to a show of almost balletic beauty and wonder. Who would have thought that drummers, other than gung-ho marching bands at football half-time, could design a dazzling dance-like percussion escapade that had as much potential for vivid visual life as for volume meltdown? These three virtuosos smiled, joked and pranced their way through 11 compositions, nine of which were their own and two their arrangements of other composers’ music.
Of the latter, their sublime treatment of David Samuels and Dave Friedman’s “Carousel” bathed us with waves of blissful sound from the marimba and xylophone in a luminous jazz setting; Hildebrant’s arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” used the African kalimba on a loop pedal to create a haunting atmosphere. The electronic tracks from Dub Tractor and Opiate provided the bass undercurrents for Pace’s own “Shade,” “Stengade” and “Tunnel,” which used such instruments as the Korean taiko drum, a Balinese kul-kul (wooden drum with a long slit on the top), a log drum, sandpaper and chains in addition to the standard battery.
Friis-Hansen’s “Afrodite” used a series of wooden pipes perched on a long box to give a distinctly African sound; “Klapperen” used their hands -- clapping, but in unexpected ways, which included a hand-pile, clapping each other’s hands and well-timed humorous vocal sounds; and Reumert’s “Fabriccio” involved marching around a large drum set while each player kept up the same patterns while marching. The final hit of this kinetic action left them all bobbling in place like an aftershock. The group’s “Salamanca” was a vibrant almost volcanic piece, supremely muscular -- more like gymnastics. It gave the group a robust workout and gave the audience not only all the excitement a collective fortissimo can muster but all the compelling magnetism any work of art, through its exploitation of dynamic range and emotional expressiveness, can hope to offer. In Pace’s case, the added entertainment value was the icing on the cake. They go for the gold and win. I look forward to seeing and hearing what they cook up for the future.
The next concert in the Borusan New Series is on Jan. 12 with the Esbjerg Ensemble from Denmark. Don’t miss it.