Set in the Triton Museum of Art’s light and airy main gallery, Sunday’s Cal Arte concert made for a particular synergy with the combination of contemporary geometric expressionist visual art and the expressionist music of Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971).
The program opened with Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne for violin and piano, based on themes from a comic opera by Giovanni Pergolesi (1710 –1736). Played by Julian Brown (violin) and Tamami Honma (piano), the piece begins with an eighteenth century sound but ends with a fiery tour-de-force that is unmistakably twentieth century.
The second part of the program was Stravinsky’s The Soldiers Tale, a work for a small instrumental ensemble, narrator, speaking actors and dancers.
Just as Stravinsky was a composer in a class by himself, The Soldier’s Tale is a work in a class by itself. The interweaving of music, dramatic narration, spoken dialog and dance works together to create a music drama — not simply a ballet.
The piece tells the story of a soldier who trades his soul — symbolized by his violin — to the Devil in return for a book holds the secret of untold riches. The book brings the soldier wealth and the love of a princess and for a while it seems that he may escape the clutches of the infernal.
Stravinsky’s music combines familiar-sounding marches, dances and jazz motifs; but in complex and irregular rhythms that propel the story and build an edgy and off-kilter atmosphere.
When the piece reaches its demonic conclusion, the final measures of the musical duel between with the violin (the soldier) and the percussion (the Devil) are played only by the percussion: a final statement that there are no refunds on a deal with the Devil.
There are two more performances of The Soldiers Tale: Sunday, September 30 at 2 p.m. at the Community School of Music and Arts’ Tateuchi Hall in Mountain View and Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The concerts are free, with a suggested donation of $20. For information visit www.calarte.com.
Pianist Tamami Honma and violinist Julian Brown founded the Cal Arte Ensemble in 2015 and have presented nearly 100 chamber concerts in the Bay Area, including several all-Beethoven series. Cal Arte’s chamber concerts often feature less frequently heard chamber works from classical and contemporary composers. Cal Arte is the Triton Museum of Art’s ensemble-in-residence,
In May, Cal Arte performed Mozart’s Requiem at the Triton, combining the forces of distinguished local singers, choir and the Cal Arte Chamber Orchestra. You can hear Cal Arte on YouTube.