The Taos Chamber Music Group celebrates the holidays with a weekend of Russian music featuring works by Alexander Borodin, Sergei Prokofiev and Anton Arensky.
The Taos Chamber Music Group celebrates the holidays with a weekend of Russian music featuring works by Alexander Borodin, Sergei Prokofiev and Anton Arensky. The concerts Friday through Sunday (Dec. 13-15) at 5:30 p.m. each day, will be given at the group's performance home, the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street.
Among performers will be virtuoso Russian pianist Gleb Ivanov, who begins the weekend on Friday with a solo recital of Prokofiev piano sonatas.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday, he joins TCMG members L.P. How on violin, Sally Guenther on cello, Nancy Laupheimer on flute and Samantha Brenner on bassoon for chamber music by Borodin ("Piano Trio in D Major"), Mikhail Glinka ("Trio pathétique in D minor") and Arensky ("Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor").
This program is titled "Return to Russia" as the group has done Russian music before with Ivanov, who will be in Taos for his eighth year with TCMG, according to executive director Laupheimer.
Called "a young super-virtuoso with musical sensitivity and an appreciation of style to go with the thunder and lightning" by The New York Times, Ivanov came to the United States from Moscow after winning the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2005.
He was presented at Carnegie's Zankel Hall and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. He has been the recipient of numerous other awards and has traveled extensively as a recital and concerto soloist.
Recently, Ivanov has performed the Herculean feat of playing all of Prokofiev's piano sonatas (there are nine) on consecutive weekends at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and at Bargemusic in New York City. Laupheimer said she thought "it would be a wonderful and rare opportunity for audiences in New Mexico to hear such a program. The intensity of Prokofiev's music combined with Ivanov's prodigious talent will make for an incredibly powerful live performance."
Ivanov has chosen the first three of Prokofiev's piano sonatas, which Laupheimer said are imbued with brilliance (and even a particular Russian fairy-tale quality in the second) for the first half of the program. "The eighth sonata, one of Prokofiev's 'War Sonatas,' will be on the second half," she said. "Its mood and style shift dramatically, at times underlining the chaos of World War II, but returning to a pronounced Romanticism and optimistic vision for the future that may have been informed by his affair with Mira Abramovna Mendelson, whom he would leave his wife to marry."
The Return to Russia program on Saturday and Sunday shifts to older 19th-century Russian composers, bringing attention to less performed gems of the repertoire.
Borodin, best known for orchestral music such as the evocative "Steppes of Central Asia," was an accomplished research scientist and lecturer by profession, composing on the side even though he was considered one of Russia's greatest natural talents, according to Laupheimer. "Perhaps demands for time were why his youthful 'Piano Trio in D Major' went unfinished," she said. "It was his first composition effort, beginning in 1850 and not completed until 1860 when he was on a scientific and cultural tour of Western Europe. The first three movements follow a classical format, but the trio lacks a finale."
Another gem is Glinka's "Trio pathétique," in which bassoonist Brenner makes her TCMG debut. Before moving to Taos recently, Brenner was principal bassoonist of the Mexico City Philharmonic and Mineria Symphony Orchestra. This past year she was acting principal bassoonist with the Auckland Philharmonic in New Zealand, a position she held previously with the National Philharmonic in the Washington, D.C., area.
Glinka's trio was written in 1832 for the unusual combination of clarinet, bassoon and piano, but for these performances flutist Laupheimer will take on the clarinet part. There is a quote at the beginning of the piece in French, which translates, "I have known love only through the unhappiness it causes." Glinka as an ardent 28-year-old had not been happy in relationships when he composed the work, which is probably why "pathétique" is part of the title.
The program will conclude with Arensky's elegiac "First Piano Trio in D minor," written at the end of the 19th century. Carrying on the Russian tradition started by Tchaikovsky, the piece was composed as a memorial to his (and Tchaikovsky's) friend, the cellist Karl Davidoff, who died in 1889.
Davidoff had been director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory when Arensky was a student there, and was recognized as the founder of the Russian school of cello playing. The prominent role of the cello in the piece is a tribute to that. For this work (and the Borodin), Ivanov, How and Guenther will unite for the sixth time as a now finely tuned piano trio.
TCMG's 27th season continues through May 2020.
Tickets are $25 and $12 for students. A 20 percent discount for museum members is only available with purchase at the museum store. A dinner discount is also offered to concertgoers after the performances from Doc Martin's, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert's restaurants.
For more information, visit taoschambermusicgroup.org or call the Harwood Museum, 238 Ledoux Street at (575) 758-9826.
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