Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Silver Oak Series at Vail

Anne-Marie McDermott plays at the Bravo Vail festival

The Vail festival took things up a notch with a new series that programs old and new works in short sets, played together as one long piece. The music spans 500 years.  Ms. McDermott opened with a nice set of Bach, Chopin, and Thomas Ades. For such an emotional performer, she was surprisingly dry on the Bach, but her performance of the Ades "First Mazurka" was excellent. She also played the last set of the evening, a commissioned piece by Clarice Assad which was another Mazurka. The piece was modern but quite comically included a recurring "ice cream truck" theme that had apparently driven the composer crazy while trying to write. This was followed by the worst piece on the program, John Adams' vanilla and forgettable "China Gates," which was quickly redeemed by Debussy to complete the evening. 

However, the highlights of the evening were the sets perforemed by two other pianists. Steven Prutsman played the best set in my opinion, with five disparate pieces played together. I did not look too closely at the program before the performance, but if I had, I would have wondered how these pieces would work together. Original score from the movie DIVA (a favorite film of mine, with great music) was followed by Couperin, then immediately by jazz pianist Bill Evans', then into Scriabin, finished with a piano adaptation of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score to FAREWELL MOON. the entire performance was breathtaking, and the venue's beauty (with the mountains visible in the windows behind the sage) only added to the effect. 

I have often wondered why jazz and classical music are not performed together more often.  I'm very happy to see this festival moving forward. The event was sold out, and included wine tasting and appetizers. 

The other great set was performed by Bosnian pianist Pedja Muzijevic. He began with Liszt, and then moved to Morton Feldman's "Intermission 1."  He then leaped back in time almost 250 years to a Scarlatti sonata, then back to the near present with a "Pastorale" from George Crumb, which makes excellent use of the sostenuto (middle) pedal on the piano, creating a ghostly effect. H ecompleted his set with a piece I love, Debussy's Prelude "What the West Wind Saw," which I used in one of my student films at USC. 

I am really looking forward  to tonight's concert featuring Gabriel Kahane. 

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