So far this school year I’ve been to quite a few concerts already. I’m well over half of my concert attendance requirement, and I’ll have got my 8 concerts in within a week. I’ve been hearing a lot of great free music, but tonight was something really special.
David Rose plays viola. Really well. I mean like holy-shit-that-sound-may-be-one-of-the-most-beautiful-things-I’ve-ever-heard well. He was at one point the assistant principal viola in the San Fransico Symphony, which is, you know, pretty good (from what I’ve read he played on the SFS Mahler cycle, which is, you know, pretty cool). He’s also from Saskatchewan, which proves that people do live there. Now he teaches out in western New York. His pianist was one of the piano teachers here Dmitri Novgorodsky. He is of Irish decent…but seriously though, he’s from Russia.
The first piece on the program was the Schumann “Marchenbilder” or Fairy Tale Pictures. This is the second Schumann piece I’ve heard here, so I’m pretty sure that is a sign…I liked them both, so I think the music gods are speaking. The work was in the less-than-common slow-fast-fast-slow form, but the last two movements were the ones that got me. The third featured some fancy finger work, which he made look like child’s play. The last movement was so beautiful. When a romantic composer gives the tempo indication “Slowly, with melancholic expression” you know you’re in for some heart rending music. Ol’ Bob Schumann did not disappoint. The next work was the Schubert viola sonata. It sounded like Mozart on acid with an intensely lyrical trip. It was the low point of the concert for me. That may be due to my personal musical preferences, but when a Schubert piece is the low point, that speaks something about the rest of the program.
I must have been sitting behind some of his students, because they were going nuts. Whenever he’d nail a killer passage they would look at each other and be like “Oh shit.” My jaw dropped several times. The man looked so serious the whole time, his face didn’t change at all. His bows were so awkward, he just sorta dipped his head a bit and held it there for a couple seconds. You have to be soulless to not just love him.
The second half of the program was devoted to a work by a composer I’d never heard of before: Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata. The work was written in 1919, and is very much in a sort of post romantic idiom. The pentatonic melodies reminded me strongly of Vaughan Williams, and some of the non-pentatonic melodies reminded me of Vaughan Williams too. I swear there was one that HAD to have been stolen. Seeing as I love RVW, I didn’t think this was such a bad thing. It was played to perfection, with the big last movement being the highlight of the whole program. The whole piece was masterful. In spite of his rather unemotional appearance, Rose played with incredible passion and sensitivity, and his tone, oh my god. Dr. N (I’m not going to try to spell it again) should also be applauded. He played perfectly with Rose and his splashes of color in the Clarke made the piece. All in all David Rose’s two curtain calls and huge standing ovation was well deserved.