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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 3 November 1997

An Evening of Brahms and Schubert Sonatas
James Parker, piano
La Maison des Jardins, Laval

Lorraine and Oliver Esmonde-White are on a mission to repersonalize classical music. For the past four years the Esmonde-Whites have presented a panoply of Canada's best musicians in the intimacy of their Laval home. The audience is limited by the space to about forty people, but extra concerts are often scheduled to meet demand. Piano technician by day, cultural activist and impresario by night, Oliver dreams of a network of Quebec music-lovers organizing concerts in their homes. "We're trying to create an alternative to the impersonal and sometimes acoustically unsatisfying events in huge concert halls. Our experience is more like what you hear on your stereo: the artist literally in your own living room." The Maison des Jardins is four years old and has proven artistically and financially viable. The audience gets to appreciate the artist up close, the artist sees his or her audience, and earns a welcome fee as well. On Saturday, October 18, I attended a recital by Canadian pianist James Parker, who is also a member of the Griffin Trio, familiar from recent CBC broadcasts. Hearing Schubert and Brahms played on a full Steinway grand just a few feet away is an experience to remember. After the concert, Parker expressed his satisfaction with the home recital experience, commenting that some of the piano sonatas on his program were undoubtedly first performed in just such a setting. Upcoming Maison des Jardins concerts include MSO flautist Tim Hutchins and pianist Janet Creaser Dec. 12 &13, Poulenc's Histoire de Babar for children Dec. 28, Marc-André Hamelin Dec. 29 & 31, André Laplante Jan. 9 & 10, 1998, and soprano Lyne Comtois in a Spanish and Latin American program Jan. 23 & 24, 1998. The $49 ticket price includes recital, a light buffet, dessert and coffee. A fund raiser to endow the "music in the home" project featuring Oliver Jones, Gilles Vigneault and Alain Lefevre will be held Feb. 6, 1998, at the Monument National, rue St-Laurent, Montréal. For concert information and tickets, contact La Maison des Jardins, 693, chemin du Bord-de-l'Eau, Ste-Dorothée, Laval, 514-629-1572, Fax: 514-667-2948. Martin Kamela

Brahms: Trios and Sonatas
Musica Camerata Montreal
Redpath Hall

On Oct. 18, 1997, Musica Camerata continued their centennial commemoration of the death of Johannes Brahms with two of his lesser known trios and the Third sonata for violin and piano at McGill University's beautiful Redpath Hall, an ideal venue for chamber music. In the Trio for piano, violin and horn, op. 40, horn player John Zirbel introduced just enough hunting-horn brassiness to conjure the forest images which inspired Brahms. His tone generally had a graceful liquid character, although he occasionally overpowered the violinist Luis Grinhauz. Grinhauz frequently had a raspy tone and in faster sections tended to attract attention with both squeaky notes and vigorous gesticulations. The horn player struggled to maintain equal footing with the violin, and the piano was forced into the background. There were moments of great beauty, particularly in the second movement, when the three musicians played together but elsewhere there was a disjointed feeling.The Violin and piano sonata, Op. 100, also performed by Grinhauz, suffered many of the same problems, though there was unity more often than in the Trio, Op. 40. Pianist Berta Rosenohl continued to play solidly. Cellist Leo Grinhauz gave a good finish to the performance with his remarkable leadership in the closing Trio for piano, clarinet and cello, Op. 114. Finally the group worked together. The passionate Adagio and energetic final Allegro were at times brilliant. The only problem was occasional breathiness from the clarinetist, Michael Dumouchel. Jonah Lynch

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
Holst: The Planets
Joshua Bell, violin. Charles Dutoit, conductor.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

The MSO's forgettable concert of Oct. 14, 1997, opened with the premiere performance of Bela Bartok's Three village scenes played with verve and excitement in the first and third movements, split by a lovely lullaby sung over particularly well-played violin and harp harmonies.
Unfortunately, the warm-up was better than the main piece. After a somewhat decent first movement, Joshua Bell in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto scrambled to finish the piece quickly to cut his losses. Initially Bell's nicely controlled vibrato and sincere emotion overcame the few sour notes of the opening passages.Unfortunately in later and less prominent virtuosic passages, squeaky notes were bountiful. It was as if he had perfected only the showy cadenzas, neglecting less obvious arpeggios and fast runs. Mendelssohn's ingenious continued bassoon note at the end of the first movement, written to forestall applause after a thrilling conclusion, was an unnecessary precaution in this tepid performance. It went from bad to worse with off-pitch doublestops in the second movement and a slow, forced, lifeless finale. Bell quickly left the stage, but was forced to return as the crowd inexplicably gave him an ovation.
Holst's The Planets was considerably more enjoyable, although it sometimes lacked impetus. The first and last movements were undoubtedly the best; some of the themes elsewhere shone, particularly the majestic "Jupiter", but it was really in the severity of "Mars" and mystery of "Neptune" that the orchestra was best. From the col legno introduction to the brassy climaxes and martial 5/4 meter, "Mars" was a model of intensity. The offstage chorus used in the ethereal "Neptune" sang impeccably and to great effect. Jonah Lynch

(c) La Scena Musicale