Review: Intermezzo takes chamber music in a wild, sometimes weird direction

Published July 29, 2014 12:54 pm
Review • Percussion-heavy concert shows chamber music's wild side.
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"No Brahms tonight?" a patron at Monday night's Intermezzo Chamber Music Series concert said jokingly to his neighbors at intermission. Indeed, this concert was worlds away from the melodic Romanticism of Brahms. It was loud and intense — and an excellent illustration of how wide-ranging the genre of chamber music can be.

First up was Iannis Xenakis' "Kassandra," a music drama in which a single singer portrays the Greek prophetess and the chorus of elders who refuse to believe her warnings. Tenor Brian Stucki gave a stunning performance. Though the piece is scored for baritone, Stucki was equally in command of the agitated falsetto passages depicting Kassandra and the low chanting of the elders — all while playing a psaltery. (Think "Eight Songs for a Mad King," only weirder.) Perhaps as remarkable as the seamless shifting of vocal gears was the fact that this extreme singing never seemed like a parody, but held the audience in Vieve Gore Concert Hall riveted for 15 minutes. In something of a role reversal, Eric Hopkins' vibrant playing on a variety of percussion instruments served to keep the music tonally grounded.

Hopkins was joined by his Utah Symphony colleague Keith Carrick, plus pianists Vedrana Subotic and Kimi Kawashima, in Béla Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. The stage setup had the effect of pitting the percussionists against the pianists, who sat facing them with backs to the audience; Bartók seemed to give the pianos the upper hand, and the fierce performances of Subotic and Kawashima would have left lesser percussionists than Carrick and Hopkins in the dust.

Carrick, Hopkins and Subotic returned after intermission with pianist Karlyn Bond to play Nikolai Kapustin's Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion, a heavily jazz-influenced work that had Carrick stationed at a standard kit in the middle of the stage while Hopkins dashed all over the back of the stage playing a wide range of instruments. In the meantime, Bond and Subotic showed off their impressive jazz chops. —

Intermezzo Chamber Music Series

Music of Nikolai Kapustin, Iannis Xenakis and Béla Bartók.

Where • Vieve Gore Concert Hall at Westminster College, 1250 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City

When • Monday, July 28

Coming up • Two more concerts remain on the season: a woodwind-centric evening Aug. 4 and a program of Strauss and Tchaikovsky on Aug. 11. Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $18 ($15 for seniors and free for students with ID).

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