Important to Watch

Piano Quintet by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, streaming in performance by pianist Sarah Rothenberg with the Daedalus Quartet. This is a production of Da Camera in Houston, where Rothenberg is artistic director. This film premiered on Friday and is up for a week, so act fast.

Weinberg is not a familiar name but I was thrilled by this Quintet. He was an associate of Dmitri Shostakovich, and there are certainly similarities, but Weinberg is a shade more subtle in his harmonic flow, perhaps a bit more “Brahmsian.” The film is beautifully recorded and quite riveting overall. It’s a substantial work in five movements but the time just flows by. At some point I’d like to sit with the scores to three great Russian piano quintets, Shostakovich, Weinberg, and Schnittke, and study them properly as a set. Wonderful music.

Much more context and commentary in Rothenberg’s program note.

Suite à l’ancienne (Suite in the old style) by Marc-André Hamelin, streaming in performance by pianist Rachel Naomi Kudo. This is truly exciting! Hamelin is developing slowly into being one of the great composers for the piano — this is, of course, in addition to being one of the finest performers in the instrument’s history. Kudo is a young star and the winner of the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist award; this stream premiered Friday, produced by the Gilmore, and will be up for a month.

J.S. Bach wrote fair number of dance suites following a certain pattern: French suites, English suites, and Partitas for keyboard, cello, and violin. Eventually later composers wrote their own collections of Allemande, Courantes, Gigues, and the like. Grieg’s Holberg Suite is in the active repertoire; notable romantic pianist-composers Eugen d’Albert and Ernst von Dohnányi both recorded sumptuous Suites in the old style; modernist offerings include a dodecaphonic Suite from Arnold Schoenberg and a dissonant but neoclassic Partita from Yehudi Wyner.

Hamelin’s own piano scores all directly engage with the past. So far I’ve heard a stunning Prelude and Fugue, a torrential set of Etudes, two sets of Variations, a Toccata on old tune…One gets the sense of a general surveying his vast forces before almost casually deciding which battalion to update for the 21st century: “Ah. Now it is time to deploy a Suite in the Old Style.”

Hamelin’s set includes:

Air avec agréments
Gavotte et Musette

It’s classic Hamelin. The harmonies glisten with subtle, almost “jazzy” dissonances, the general air is good humored, the virtuosity required is formidable. Kudo has the measure of the score; it is simply thrilling to see two generations meet at the piano like this.

It’s still Sunday morning in Brooklyn, so perhaps I just have time to re-watch Kirk Franklin’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, which aired under the auspices of NPR earlier this week. I know little of modern gospel but this intimate performance is seriously grooving. Shaun Martin is on second keyboard, Matthew Ramsey plays bass, Terry Baker is the drummer.