I've come out of my groupmuse and live music hibernation. The holidays, end of the year, election, cold weather, backlogged piles of work, and relentless awful colds have kept me indoors and out of sync with the great musical happenings occurring here in Boston. When I finally made my way outside again to enjoy some live music, I happened upon Trio Notturno, whose unusual instrumental combination of viola, flute, and harp, beckoned me from my stupor.
They formed in 2012 and are based in Boston, where they pursue a mission to increase the repertoire for their quirky instrumental composite. They often commission and premier works of contemporary and Boston-based composers. As their name implies, much of Trio Notturno's rep includes nocturnes, which are typically dreamy compositions evoking the night--very romantic and mysterious, wouldn't you say? And they live up to their name!
They started their set with Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, a symphonic poem the trio arranged for their instruments. The piece itself is Debussy's musical setting of Stephane Mallarmé's poem, which depicts a faun playing in the woods, surrounded by nymphs and naiads. The faun unsuccessfully pursues these mythical creatures until it falls wearily asleep, into a vision-filled dreamscape. After this at times playful, at other times somnolent piece, Ken Allen performed three movements from contemporary Hungarian composer, György Kurtág's Signs, Games and Messages. The movements were Perpetuum Mobile, Flapping-Slapping, and The Carenza Jig.
Signs, Games, and Messages was originally composed for viola. It's made up of 24 "movements," or miniatures--solo pieces that range from two to five minutes. Indeed, only a handful of the pieces are over two minutes long. The 90-year old composer began writing them fifty years ago.
Next Deirdre Viau and Maria Rindenello-Parker performed Toru Takemitsu's arrangement of Toward the Sea for alto flute and harp, which was commissioned by Greenpeace for its Save the Whales campaign. The first two versions of the piece were composed in 1981 for alto flute and guitar and for alto flute, harp, and string orchestra. The third version took form in 1989 for alto flute and harp, sans orchestra. The work makes reference to Moby Dick and has three sections: The Night, Moby Dick, and Cape Cod. On this night, Trio Notturno introduced me to Takemitsu's subtle sense of silence, timbre, and eclectic stylistic innovations, which blend occidental philosophy with his mostly self-taught mastery of composition. This piece enveloped me in something akin to a waking dream—involving me in new sensorial perceptions of my environment. Perhaps because of its unusually sensuous and unique use of timbre, I found myself enjoying the visual and aural senses in a spellbinding, sedative way. Sight and sound, breathing—with its inspiration and subtle expiration—seemed wholly joined.
The final piece was Ravel's Sonatine en Trio, originally written for piano. Carlos Salzedo, a French composer and harpist, arranged it for harp, flute, and cello during Ravel's lifetime. When Ravel heard Salzedo's arrangement he is reputed to have exclaimed, "I wish I had thought of that!" Composed in 1937, the 12-minute piece has three movements and an exceedingly difficult-to-play harp part. Yet, Maria Rindenello-Parker transfixed me with her musical articulations. May I say it? Glissando, glissando, glissando! Indeed, the entire trio created a marvelous night of music, ranking this as an exceptional post-dead-of-winter-hiding concert for me. Not only are they wonderful musicians, but they are also lovely people, and I very much enjoyed post-music musical conversation and playing with Ken's dreamy black cat, Toby.
This groupmuse reminded me once again that art is the most important thing we humans have. Sure, we love food and we need to eat...But art is the thing that unleashes and creates forces within us, forces that connect us, ameliorate the painful human condition, and urge us to become more than what is. Art changes us, and I believe, for the better. Without art, we are lost.