Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Warm Cello

Karen Freer, from the Emory Department of Music and the ASO, performed in a recital with pianist Laura Gordy.  The program included” Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Major for Viol da Gamba,” Britten’s “Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello, op. 72,” Boccherini’s “Sonata in A Major,” and Brahms “Sonata in D Major, op 78.” This was an outstanding recital with an outstanding program.  The Back has a melancholic Andante that is so beautiful.  Bach understood the value of writing slow melodies that use the entire bow, rather than the quick bowings that characterized the work of many of his contemporaries.  The Britten was a startlingly original work.  Its Lamento section was deeply elegiac and touching.  It is followed by the Canto Secondo section that reacts to the lament through quiet and sad contemplation.  The section titled Marcia, according to the notes by Ms. Freer, “suggests the approach and retreat of a fife and drum corps.”  Indeed, it was easy to visualize this through Britten’s use of harmonics and tapping of the bow.  The final movement, Moto Perpetuo, has a rapid mosquito-like sound that alternates with the slow theme presented in the earlier Canto section.  Again, according to Freer, “there is an epic battle as if between serenity and hyperactivity, the old and the new.”

The Boccherini Sonata was elegant and also beautiful.  The Brahms sonata was a perfect piece for the cello, even though the music was originally composed for the violin.   The cello’s dark sonorities matched the lush romance of the music.  Brahms had a way with a melody, as well as an understanding of how to develop it.  This was music-making at its best. 

Freer’s playing was superb.  She has a large tone when needed, and the acoustics of Emerson Hall were perfectly suited to the cello.  Ms. Freer is a petite but hard-bodied woman (and I mean that is the sense of physically fit) and I am sure that her strength supports to her ability to tackle such a demanding program.  She also had committed to memory the Britten, which seemed like no small task. 

After the recital, there was a wine and cheese reception for the artists and audience.  Ms. Freer was charming while greeting people and the champagne was quite nice. 

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