Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catgut Trio + Senger Raise Hair

Tonight's performance of High Desert Chamber Music at the Tower Theater was, in this reporter's humble opinion, the best yet. Of course, it was only the fourth public performance by the young organization, now in their second year. They've put on consistently good shows, and the organizers have brought in some fine talent. I've never left a performance disappointed, but I've never been electrified like I was this evening.

The Catgut Trio had the stage for the first half, opening with Anton Rubinstein's Melody (Op. 3, #1), followed by Zdeněk Fibich's Poème (Op. 39), then finished with a string trio by von Herzogenberg (A major, Op. 27, #1). None of which were familiar to me or Mrs Elliott, and unfamiliar music -- serious music -- is often difficult to appreciate until it has been heard a few times.

After a few intonation problems in the first few bars, the trio got nicely warmed up and settled into their groove.

But it was in the second half of the evening, when the Trio, joined by HDCM's Isabelle Senger on second violin, kicked some serious butt on Beethoven's String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, #3("Rasumovsky").

I love me some Beethoven chamber pieces. Give me a proper piano trio or quartet and I'm a happy man. Give me some of Beethoven's middle quartets and I'm getting right cheerful. Don't even talk to me about his late quartets -- those are about a nutritious a musical meal that a man could want at a single sitting, and leave me feeling pretty pleased.

When watching the trio + Senger, it was easy to focus on Catgut's Kevin Kumar (first violin) and Armen Ksajikian (cello) -- both are expressive, idiosyncratic virtuosi, and both are fun to watch. But showmanship aside, the inner voices -- Senger's violin and Catgut's Dale Hikawa Silverman's viola -- were often where the action was because of how well they blended with each other and supported the more showy bits happening closer to the audience. Which is not to say that they weren't handed some pretty fancy arpeggi and licks to play, because they were and when it was their time to take the lead, they did, in harmony or singly.

And speaking of fancy bits to play, the final movement, a rippingly fast fugue tossed from player to player, was positively hair-raising. They tore the roof off the place. The audience heartily and loudly approved.

Bravo and brava to the players, and again, I thank Isabelle Senger for her dedication to bringing such fine players and music to Bend.


  1. Watch out, Jack -- the local rednecks are gonna be calling you an "elitist" and maybe burning crosses on your lawn. For self-protection I advise getting a large American flag to hang from your front porch and a rusted-out pickup with a McCain/Palin sticker to park in your driveway.


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