Stories » LACO - Jalbert, Bach, Part & Vasks / Performing Arts Monterey Bay review

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LACO - Jalbert, Bach, Part & Vasks / Performing Arts Monterey Bay review

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VIOLINIST MARGARET BATJER is featured in concertos by Pierre Jalbert and JS Bach and concertante works Arvo Pärt and Peteris Vasks, with music director Jeffrey Kahane conducting. Jalbert, an American composer who has appeared as composer-in-residence at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa in 2010, 2011 and 2018, has crafted a 25-minute work, in two movements, that displays extreme contrasts. The first movement begins in magical mystery that soon turns moody then fiercely virtuosic. Its middle section, Scherzando, is manic and dramatic, Jalbert's colorful orchestra palette on vivid show, hellzapopin' and timely good for Halloween, with a brief solo cadenza just before returning to its spooky opening. The second movement. marked "With great energy," restores the theatrics from the middle of the first, moans around the shadows with quarter tones, and goes quite unpredictable and angular in the dark. Rhythmic pulses alternate with hesitant lack of motion. Another, longer solo cadenza sets up a flourishing finish. Overall the piece is a beguiling shape-shifter.       

Bach's Concerto in A minor gives anyone bewildered a safe haven and, by contrast, a steaming cup of chamomile tea with a touch of lemon. (Kahane plays its harpsichord part.) Arvo Pärt's Fratres, from 1977-his ‘greatest hit'-originally for violin and piano but with many other versions, usually featuring violin solo, authorized by the composer. This one adds percussion to the strings orchestra (as does the Jalbert concerto.) The piece borrows some harmonic tricks from Bach, and opens with a flurry of arpeggios across the strings at high speed, then abruptly goes into slow motion as the strings keen long-lined lamentations. More violin arpeggios follow, at first at moderate speed, then again at high speed over a bed of the slower moving orchestra and a pedal point. These elements continue to alternate, resembling variations. In character, this is a passionate work, a cry for some kind of redemption as befits so much of the composer's music. Vasks' Lonely Angel, a reworking of a movement from the Latvian composer's fourth string quartet (1999) clearly follows the example of Fratres, but with a more lyrically consoling tone, with sad falling gestures on the orchestra. Listening to it I could not but remember and lament Christopher Rouse whose death on Saturday leaves a huge hole in the heart of new music, American and worldwide. SM