The program began with classical guitar played by a lovely young woman, Iren Arutyunyan. It was serene, quiet and a perfect aperitif for the start of the evening. Then came the first heart attack. Moni Simeonov played the Chaconne from Bach's Partita #2 for unaccompanied violin. Just before the performance Laurence Vittes, the house commentator, said that the work would show us our souls. And then Moni played. The music grew and grew and grew and many in the audience began to weep, including yours truly. When he finished the response was so intense and heartfelt I thought some of Alexey's paintings would fall off the walls.
The first half of the program finished with CU favorite Mikael Oganessian performing his transcription of "Night at Bald Mountain" by Mussorgsky. Alexey prefaced the performance by saying that Mussorgsky captured perfectly the extremes of the Russian character with this piece. "Mika" then proceeded to play as if he had an entire symphony orchestra in his hands. And he did. For those of us familiar with the Ravel orchestration of "Night...." it was a wonderful new look at an old friend. All the color was there along with the wonder of just how he did it.
The first work in the second half was the work of a contemporary composer, Stig Petterson, entitled "". It is excerpts of a chamber opera scored for piano, 2 violins, cello, accordion, clarinet, glockenspiel and voice (soprano). It was lovely. Afterwards Stig spoke about how he loved earlier composers but found that sometimes they used too many notes for his taste. He was trying to achieve the same intensity and emotion in his pieces, but with fewer notes. Charming and revelatory.
The comments about note count became moot with the next performance. Harout Senekeremian played three pieces by Marc-Andre Hamelin. Who is Mr. Hamelin you might ask. He is a piano virtuoso who writes fiendishly complicated pieces for other piano virtuosos. In other words, a lot of notes. The fact that they are also beautiful and leave the audience gasping for breath at the end is almost an afterthought.
The final performance of the program was the return of Mika, Harout and Pepi for an arrangement for 6 hands of Rossini's "Barber of Seville", including the famous "Figaro!, Figaro!, Figaro!" passage, voice supplement courtesy Mika. It brought down the house. This time the tears were of laughter and hilarity.
As we drove home, exhausted, exhilirated (sp.) and overwhelmed by the evening, we shared our favorite moments of the evening. I have left out our interactions with other members of the audience, the discovery of two tango enthusiasts sitting in the row in front of us, Kris finding one of Elysabeth's friends coming back for his third CU, bringing some friends for their first time.