Mélange Extraordinaire: Jonathan Aceto and McLean Mix

Classical violinist Jonathan Aceto brought out his ZETA electric violin for a great turnout at Weatherwatch Farm.  He played two fascinating contemporary works for MIDI violin, background tape, and visuals: the hair-raising SAMPLER: Everything Goes When the Whistle Blows by Salvatore Martirano, inspired by the 1985 terrorist hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship; and the otherworldly Desert Voices by Priscilla McLean, with a slideshow of photos of the Sonoran Desert, where many of the sounds on the background tape were recorded. In between, an aural  “palate cleanser,” Jonathan played the “Sarabande” from J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied Suite No. 3 in C with Grand Canyon reverb.

But to get everyone primed for the concert beforehand, the McLeans had created an interactive installation that utilized world music, sounds of nature, intriguing experimental techniques, and projected images. Small groups of 3 to 5 entered into a darkened room to experience, create, and manipulate music and sounds. Later, to round out the evening was a screening of Rainforest Images II, the evocative music-video by Barton and Priscilla McLean based on their adventures in Borneo, Malaysia, and Costa Rica.  All the while there was plentiful eating and drinking – all good fun, punctuated with many beautiful, uplifting moments.

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Lise de la Salle, High Priestess of the Piano

The extraordinary French pianist Lise de la Salle offered “Bach Unlimited,” her current signature solo recital program, conceived as a profound and shining tribute to the timeless genius of J.S. Bach.  The concert begins with Bach’s Italian Concerto and moves through three centuries of great composers deeply inspired by Bach.  Anchors are Liszt’s Fantasy & Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H and the Bach/Busoni Chaconne, interspersed with pithy shorter works: Roussel’s Prélude et Fugue, Poulenc’s Valse-improvisation sur le nom de B-A-C-H, Kempff’s arrangement of Bach’s Sicilienne in G Minor, and Liszt’s arrangement of Bach’s Prélude and Fugue in A Minor.  Lise’s friend, composer Thomas Enhco contributed three brief works inspired by Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

The outstanding performance demonstrated not only Lise’s powerful virtuosity, but also her extreme delicacy and touching devotion to this music.  She is capable of creating a tsunami of sound, yet courageous enough also to dare a barely heard pianississimo.  Not a single passage or note is trivial every scale, roulade, and arpeggio meaningful.  Multiple lines and fast passage work are heard with astonishing clarity, while arching melodies unfold with sublime spaciousness.  Lise de la Salle has it all, and the audience recognized it!

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3-Day Groove Fest at the Fire Hall with Tim Collins USA Jazz Group

From his now-home in Germany, vibes virtuoso Tim Collins coordinated the latest incarnation of his USA Jazz Group, with Robinson Morse on double bass and Gabe Jarrett on drums – both of Vermont – forming a rock-solid earthy and warm rhythm team.   As featured special artist on guitar and vocals (really smooth delivery on both) Davy Mooney blew in from the South, where he currently divides his time between New Orleans and Texas.

The quartet converged in Saranac for a run of three shows at the Fire Hall, which was transformed into a funky little jazz club such as might be found in Alphabet City in the East Village.   The guys did a mellow mix of standards and originals by Tim Collins and Davy Mooney, with periodic bursts of energy and fireworks – overall a perfect balance of cool and hot.  Goldilocks would say “just right.”  All shows were well attended; standing room only at both Saturday and Sunday shows.

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Rhythm Future Quartet Delights and Wows!

We are so happy the word got around and weather cooperated. The hall was full with well over 150, and many new faces in the audience, too.  How lucky we are to experience a live show by Rhythm Future Quartet at the zenith of their fame and popularity, which is sure to escalate even higher.  They played a couple of Django Reinhardt classics and some standards by Cole Porter and Oscar Pettiford, interspersed with originals from their recording Travels and their soon-to-be-released recording Rhythm Future Quartet and Friends. Each player contributed at least one original composition, underscoring an amazing level of talent and creativity in the ensemble. The audience roared with appreciation after every song and finally demanded an encore, which turned out to be a very cool cover of “Come Together” by the Beatles. Fabulous show!

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Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo Astonishes and Entertains

The living room of Weatherwatch Farm was crammed full of keen listeners, many of whom had heard the Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo before.  This was the Duo’s fourth visit (combination retreat and concert) and they presented yet another completely new and challenging program.  With each visit they grow their repertoire; by now it is extensive.  Their February 24 program included Danse macabre, Op. 40 of Saint-Saëns, Night on Bald Mountain of Modest Mussorgsky, Andante and Allegro Brillant, Op. 92 of Felix Mendelsson, and Blue Danube Fantasy of Greg Anderson.

photo by Jim Dawson

There is something charming and wonderful about the intimacy that a house concert offers, and folks seem willing to endure some discomfort.  All seats are not created equal!  We had a motley assortment of chairs – some rather rickety – dragged out from every corner of this rambling old house.  A few friends even sat on the stairs, but at least they were compensated by having a view down upon those glorious fingers going a mile a minute up and down the keyboard.  Natalia and Vassily played the difficult program beautifully with dazzling technical brilliance, eliciting a great many colors, myriad moods, and above all, intense drama. Everyone loved it!

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Heart- and Mind-Opening Music & Stories with Journey West

It was an incredibly moving weekend with the superb world music ensemble Journey West. Spending time together, learning about personal histories of band members from the Middle East, and experiencing their wonderful music was shocking, touching, and ultimately uplifting. Seven guys on violins, saxophone, clarinet, flute, penny whistle, mandolin, guitar, oud, bass, accordion, and all manner of percussion took the audience on an exotic voyage, performing music from the Middle East, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and ultimately arriving in North America.  It was particularly meaningful, in that these concerts were for the benefit of Plattsburgh Cares, a nonprofit organization providing humanitarian aid for asylum seekers and refugees traveling through our community on their way to Canada, and UNHCN, the United Nations Refugee Fund. Two excellent concerts were well attended and $3000± was made for the good cause.

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Catharsis: Soovin Kim & Gloria Chien Violin-Piano Concert

Violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Gloria Chien gave an extraordinary duo recital on October 8.  Of course we knew this was going to be a wonderful concert, but it surpassed all expectations.  Those lucky enough to be present were witness to a perfect musical union of prodigious technique, profound intellect, deep wells of emotion, and the power to communicate.  Transcendent perfection.  It is mind-blowing to consider that mere humans, through art, can create and share such a euphoric experience.  Add to this the personal relationship, the long history of friendship in our community.  We feel an overwhelming deep happiness for Soovin that he has found an ideal partner in Gloria.  She is truly his musical and artistic match, and their deep love for the music and one another radiates from them.  The duo played Robert Schumann Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 105; Charles Ives Sonata for Violin and Piano, No. 2; Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 18; and four short charming works by Fritz Kreisler.  The church was full – and the music and love soared to the heavens.

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Lofty Program Divinely Performed by the Olympus Trio

Regi Papa, Ben Capps, Konstantine Valianatos

Olympus Piano Trio – Friday, September 15, 2017 –  Three young men with Greek heritage, exceptional talent, and an extraordinary rapport in bringing music to life, the Olympus Piano Trio are violinist Regi Papa, cellist Ben Capps, and pianist Konstantine Valianatos.  The dynamic ensemble formed at Juilliard in 2010 to celebrate and explore their shared passion for chamber music; they perform a repertory of classical masterpieces as well as the music of native Greek and diaspora composers.  The trio had a retreat to prepare a new program for upcoming  concerts and competitions: Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in  B Major, op. 8); Ravel Piano Trio in A Minor; and Greek-Canadian contemporary composer Christos Hatzis Odd World – which they tried out in the living room at Weatherwatch Farm.  We had a great turnout because folks remembered this trio’s superb concert last summer.  Here again several audience members pronounced it the best concert they have ever heard!  We feel that way about all of our concerts, but truly, there is indeed something extra-special about experiencing live music in such close proximity to the artists as a house concert offers.

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In the Wake of Passion (for Percussion) – Passepartout Duo

Nicoletta Favari, piano, and Christopher Salvito, percussion, of the PASSEPARTOUT DUO

Passepartout Duo performances demand a different kind of listening, of active concentration and imagination.  Yes, you can let waves of sound wash over you, but it’s more like a tsunami – you’re gonna get clobbered!  If you are looking to grab hold of a beautiful melody, fuhgeddaboudit.  Better get used to slamming layered tone clusters, piercing rhythm patterns and ostinato chords, polyrhythm pile-ups. In extended periods of sound decay you can hear overtones ad infinitum swirling overhead.  Moments of silence become colorfully alive and as important as the sounds themselves.  Frighteningly fascinating.  About 90 people turned out for our annual free concert by the Passepartout Duo on Sunday July 9 and only a few left at intermission, ha-ha!  I say “hats off” to our devoted audience for being curious and opening themselves to a totally different sonic experience outside of their comfort zone.   After all, this type of contemporary music is definitely out there on the scene – these 25 year-old adventurers are causing ripples in far corners of the globe.  In the next six months they are touring and participating in contemporary music and film festivals in Cuba, UK, Germany, Denmark, and Iceland.

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Meaty and Moving Performance by the Davydov-Fanning Duo

Cellist Dieuwke Davydov and pianist Diana Fanning, both longtime Affiliate Artists at Middlebury College, performed their celebratory 40th Anniversary Concert program on Sunday, April 9, 2017 at the Saranac Methodist Church.  The performance was one of several stops in the Northeast before taking it on tour in Europe.  Forty years’ playing together!  The inexpressible luminous rapport between two old friends married with a profound depth of musical comprehension, intense emotional expression, and pure technical skill all comes together in a suspended moment in time, a glimpse of eternity. The substantial program featured Beethoven Cello Sonata No.2 in G Minor, op.5, Hindemith Fantasiestück, Brahms Cello Sonata No.1 in E Minor, op.38, and Camille Saint-Saëns Allegro Appassionato, op.43; plus Chopin “Berceuse” and two Debussy Études for solo piano.

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