The Santa Fe Music Festival gave a short concert starting at noon today. The first piece was Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds. An ensemble conducted by Lawrence Foster gave a lively reading of the 1923 score. Listening to Stravinsky after The Rite of Spring is like reading Euclid for his entertainment value. I have at least one friend who falls in this category. There’s a lot in Euclid, but not much in the way of emotional transport. This was the period when the Russian expat decided that music had no emotional content. And so he composed.
The octet is well scored and intricately constructed. If you like music for its intellectual content, then this piece is for you. In my opinion, there was only one composer who could give music such an abundance of intellectual content that listening to such music rose to the level of an esthetic experience – that was JS Bach. No one else had this skill. Accordingly, it took a lot of willpower to keep my attention focused on the eight performers and conductor who did their best with Stravinsky’s austere score.
Next up was Ernst von Dohnány’s Serenade for Violin, Viola, and Cello. The soloists were Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, and Mark Kosower. The Hungarian composer was also renowned as a pianist and conductor. After an event filled life that included three wives he found his way to Florida State University where he spent the last 11 years of his life teaching.
His trio was written in 1902 when he was 25. It is a modest piece that has a lovely adante as its third section. It was very well played and made a listener eager to hear more of its composer’s music.
The last, and most significant, music played was Franz Schubert’s Fantasy in C for Violin and Piano D 934. It was played by violinist Daniel Phillips and Haochen Zhang. This composition is late Schubert. He was 30 years old when he wrote it! This was the period when God had granted him an 18 month lease on the entire domain of music. At its conclusion he was called home where he now resides in eternal glory.
The piece’s main theme is one of those ineffably beautiful constructions that was unique to the Viennese wunderkind. It is similar to that of another Schubert miracle the Fantasia in f minor for piano four hands D 940. The third movement quotes Schubert’s song ‘Sei mir gegrüsst!’ The Fantasy is extremely difficult to play for both performers. Mr Phillips did a good job with music that needed Oistrakh or Heifetz, but he was clearly close to his limit. The young virtuoso Zhang tossed off his notes with the ease of a C major scale and with the beauty Schubert required. The highlight of the early afternoon.