Monday, November 29, 2010

Letter from our loyal friends of CU - after our October 25th event

Here I am, 1:30 in the morning, and still soaring on the emotions of the evening.  I know I will land at some point, but right now it is an amazing feeling.  Tonight's Classical Underground reached a level of artistry that we can only hope will be matched in future evenings.  We all agreed that this was the best program with the best performances we have seen so far.  Alexey and Olga outdid themselves.  We wept at the beauty of Bach,  roared with laughter at piano for 6, count 'em six, hands, and experienced several other emotions in between.  But to specifics.

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.
Wondering who could follow such an experience was answered when Ben Lulich, principal clarinetist for our own Pacific Symphony, accompanied by Pepi Pilibossian on piano, played his collation of variations on "Carnival of Venice".  He clearly enjoyed playing to an audience that clearly enjoyed him.  Total delight and fabulous clarinet playing.  

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.
We staggered out for intermission, shaking our heads as what we had just heard and seen.  But Wait! There was more coming!

The first work in the second half was the work of a contemporary composer, Stig Petterson, entitled "A Dream Play".  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.
As we were settling down, or trying to, Ernie and I marveled about the evening.  We wonder how this can continue.  But we forget.  There is so much talent and so much passion for this kind of experience.  We should be thankful for Alexey and Olga having the talent and passion to bring everything together for these magical evenings.

Lynda Adams