martes, octubre 18, 2016

Kigawa and Cuckson, virtuoso specialists in contemporary music

            You find specialists even in the standard repertoire,  but you also have generalists who are at home in an ample display of different schools. However, you do need specialisation if your line of work is Medieval or Renaissance Music, or the Baroque. And that applies naturally to contemporary music, for its language isn´t of easy access, as it used to be in another periods. Listeners understood readily Bach or Mozart, they don´t Boulez or Berio.
            The CETC (the Colón Center for Experimentation) annually does a small cycle called Integrals, focussed on one composer´s production for an instrument, and usually there are three concerts within a small lapse. This year we were offered Sciarrino´s creations for flute, played by Matteo Cesari; Tristan Murail´s piano music, by Taka Kigawa; and veering from the term Integrals, solo violin scores by American and exiled composers that have lived in the USA, played by Miranda Cuckson.
            Frankly I am not enthusiastic about Sciarrino, so I skipped it; but I was sorry to miss the Murail Integral due to a family reunion. However, I heard Kigawa in earlier seasons and knew that he is an exceptional artist, so I was happy that he added a concert out of the Integrals series. It was presented at the Colón´s Salón Dorado for free with a packed audience and it proved memorable.
            Kigawa is Japanese, in his early forties, slim, energetic and wonderfully controlled. He lives in New York, where he obtained a Master at the Juilliard School. His short programme started with two Japanese composers.Toru Takemitsu was well known by his film music; "Les yeux clos" ("The closed eyes")  lasts seven minutes; the music is subtle and sensitive, ideal for Kigawa´s touch and total command. Karen Tanaka (b.1961) wrote "Crystalline", a good title for a five-minute piece that opts for diaphanous,  atmospheric writing.
            In a way, these composers reflect the refined, nature-loving side of Japan, and seem influenced by the Occidental musician that many believe to be the father of Twentieth-Century innovation, Claude Debussy. So it was a marvelous idea that Kigawa completed the concert with the French creator´s seminal First Book of Preludes (1910). Although they are enormously important, they are rarely done integrally. Their variety is astonishing, going from the total serenity of Nº 1, "Danseuses de Delphes", to the turbulence of Nº 7, "Ce qu´a vu le vent d´Ouest" ("What the western wind saw"), to the jazzy humor of Nº 12, "Minstrels", all the time creating new ways to harmonize and to play the piano. 
            Kigawa showed himself a phenomenal virtuoso, both in the whole First Book and in the encore, the dazzling Nº 12, "Feux d´artifice" ("Fireworks"), of the Second Book of Preludes. Following his playing with a score, the perfection of hues, articulations and rhythms was amazing. One small cavil: his fortissimi sounded too Bartokian for Debussy.
            Miranda Cuckson, also a Juilliard School Doctor in Music, faced a 75-minute recital of solo violin music, all of it very difficult, with absolute technical command and unflagging intensity. Her concert was at the CETC and she had a spare audience, though enthusiastic. She also had bad luck: they were paving Libertad and the sound penetrated the venue´s walls; but why did we also hear walking people close by? She was unfazed and completely concentrated in her playing, with a flexible body trained to such efforts.
            Stefan Wolpe (1902-72) was a Berliner who emigrated to the USA due to Nazi threats. His 1964 "Piece in two parts" (one slow, one fast) lasted 15 minutes, contrasting
twelve-tone melodies (yes, they exist!) with pizzicato interruptions. Elliott Carter perhaps was the longest-lived composer (1908-2012); the "Four lauds" were written over a lengthy span (1984-20   11) and their 18 minutes give us widely contrasting music of strong dissonance but also a certain lyricism in the "Gratitude for Goffredo Petrassi", the admirable Italian composer.
            Mario Davidovsky, b. 1934, is Argentine and has lived for decades in the USA, working in the field of electroacoustic music and its relationship to instruments. A typical and valid example is the  "Synchronism Nº9",  1988, where the violin blends easily with the electronic sounds.
            The final work is quite a challenge, a 33-minute Sonata (1953) by Roger Sessions (1896-1985), a dense serial work in four movements well crafted though sometimes arid. Cuckson played it with powerful conviction. 

For Buenos Aires Herald