May 26 was the official opening concert of the festival as well as the first performance of The Lumina Quartet for the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music. Of course, they played beautifully, presenting music of New York University's own Dinu Ghezzo (http://education.nyu.edu/music/faculty/ghezzo_dinu.html - note to NYU - you need a much better picture of Dinu for this webpage) and the world's own Duke Ellington. More about this in a bit.
It had already been an interesting day for me, having delivered a lecture earlier that day at the Union of Composers of the Republic of Tatarstan headquarters on the subject, “A Chronological History of American Jazz.” I was told I had roughly one hour for the talk. Of course, trying to fit the history of jazz into one hour is like trying to fit a hippo into a doghouse. So, I gave a sort of quick overview (with recorded examples) of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Weather Report, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Paquito D'Rivera. However, it was a pretty hip audience, who knew most, if not all of the names in question and really seemed to enjoy the discussion. I was also able to leave a nice jazz listening library as well as the companion book to Ken Burns' Jazz documentary series for the permanent collection of the Union of Composers.
Back to the concert that evening. It took place in yet another lovely space for music, the Agro Hall of the Kazan State Agricultural Academy. I must say that this city is blessed with a number of lovely concert spaces.
The first piece we heard was Tapio Tuomela's (http://webusers.siba.fi/~ttuomela/koti_e.htm) marvelous Pierrot, Quintet No. 2 for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello. I was already a bit familiar with his work (and liked it very much), having listened to him lecture about his new opera right after my gloss on jazz that morning. It also turns out that Tapio is a delightful man who I hope to stay in touch with.
Next up was the already mentioned Rapid Deployment Consort from Belgium. They presented Night, a very snazzy piece for bass clarinet, violin, tabla and tanpur, written by one of their members, Hans Vermeersch. The tabla player Anil Dikshit was superb, and added considerable rhythmic and sonic interest.
Tatarstan's Radik Salimov has created something called Pianophrenia for dancing pianist and electronics. This showcases a piano playing and string-plucking dancer against a background of interesting to odd electronic effects. The dancer was quite good, both as a dancer and pianist, and was called upon to practically undress and perform some exceptionally gymnastic and even semi-erotic things on top of and down the side of the instrument. As she was dressing again (still part of the performance), it occurred to me that the piece was not nearly as out there as the description might sound, but it wasn't as coherent either, especially the wrapping of herself and the keyboard in what appeared to be a huge Ace bandage.
Next was Tso Chenguan's Three Pieces for piano, very capably performed by pianist Mihkail Dubov of the Moscow Ensemble of New Music. The music is a series interesting but not entirely engaging exercises in odd chromatics and Eastern serenity interrupted.
The rest of the first half was given to a series of wonderful songs of Paul Hindemith, performed wonderfully by the Swedish vocal quartet Vox. More about them later.
The second half began with Russian Gyorgy Voronov's intense and substantial “I'm Looking At Mountains from A High Shore” (Fantasy in Style of Li Bo) for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello, presented with consummate style and artistry by the Moscow Ensemble of New Music.
Then, finally, the first festival performance by The Lumina String Quartet - Dinu Ghezzo's Suite for clarinet and string quartet and Duke Ellington's “Take the A Train” for clarinet and string quartet, arranged by Paul Chihara. Both pieces were wonderfully performed, with the A Train especially grabbing the audience. Great work in the latter piece from clarinetist Phillip Bashor and first violin Asya Meshberg who kept things sailing along melodically and cellist Jennifer DeVore who kept things swinging along rhythmically.
The repertoire that the quartet brought with them seemed very much to reflect the programming philosophy of the festival – keep it eclectic and keep it interesting. Of course, the quartet routinely constructs programs in this way, but it was wonderful, after so many hidebound Great Master, Great Master, quick piece of obligatory new music, Great Master, Great Master concerts by so many other groups and festivals to be part of these marvelous events.
More in Part 4.