Early Music Vancouver's Fantastic Can Of V-8 JuiceFriday, January 14, 2011
|The Dark Lady, Natalie Mackie & violon
In 2007 the Campbell Soup Company initiated a series of commercials to boost the sales of their 8 vegetable juice V-8. It featured individuals hitting themselves lightly in the head and saying, “I could have had a V-8.”
I must admit that the ads hit home and I alternate my breakfast juice servings with either orange juice or V-8 (the “Smooth & Seasoned V-GO” version). I feel the same about the concerts I attend. There is always a V-8 version and it is always the better bet.
Tonight my friend Graham Walker and I walked from home to have a pre-concert nosh at Kaplan’s on 41st and Oak. We spotted three familiar faces in a booth, probably enjoying hot pastrami sandwich and Kosher pickle. We wished them a happy new year.
From Kaplan’s we crossed the street (we jay walked) too the modern and odd-shaped Unity Church. Whatever criticism any might have to a church that has stained glass windows and resembles a community auditorium will be dissipated when you notice that the sides of the church are illustrated by 8 Shadbolt lithographs, individually lit and beautifully framed.
Walker and I have been in this venue before and we always sit on the front row, a mere meters away from the performers. It has been here that I have listened to (not exactly watched and I will explain later) Marc Destrubé and his eclectic musical friends perform the works of composers like Felix Mendelssohn and a slew of to me unknown ones.
One of his friends, keyboard artist Byron Schenkman (he and violinist Chantal Rémillard were the noshers with Destrubé at Kaplan’s) has not only played the music of Andrea Falconieri (look him up if you like!) but has also managed to transpose John Cage’s complex 3-part 4 Minutes 33 Seconds to the harpsichord. Early on, Schenkman, not always an inveterate purist, decided to omit the bird and cricket sounds.
Marc Destrubé, violin of the baroque kind, and friends, Chantal Rémillard, violin, also of the baroque kind, Shenckman on harpsichord, and Natalie Mackie (sporting a brand new and smashing hair do complemented as always by a handsome black dress and serious black shoes) played a 7-string viola da gamba but seen here with her violon.
The group played the music (my Spanish grandmother would have said “illustres desconocidos”, illustrious unknowns or “En su casa los conocen,” they are known at home,” of:
D. Buxtehude (I am not a relative but I do know who he is)
Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre
Of the above the elegant Shakespearean “Dark Lady”, Natalie Mackie wrote in her concert notes:
Stylus Phantasticus –Mystery 7 Exoticism in 17th Century Trio Sonatas (on the side, this blogger would like to interject to those who are not initiated in this, that while it is not important, these trios feature four instruments. The fourth is usually, as was the case, tonight, a harpsichord that plays “continuo” in the background much like a base player would play in a modern rock band).
As in many areas of discourse amongst human beings, the history of musical style was as characterized by polemics as any political or philosophical theory, with those upholding ‘tradition’ and opposed to change, pitting themselves against those attempting to disengage from the past and venture into new territory. We see this in the early Baroque, with Monteverdi, codifying his seconda prattica in an attempt to emancipate composers from the constraints of Renaissance polyphony, allowing them to fully explore the affective power of music, most especially through the influence of the text. His opponent, the Bolognese theorist G.M. Artusi thought otherwise, expressly stating his belief that the strength of good composition rested on the control of harmony and counterpoint and that Monteverdi’s unorthodox use of dissonance threatened the very foundation of prima prattica. One of the key elements of this discourse was the controversy over the philosophical question of the opposition of reason and the senses: whether musicians should surrender to their intellect or their ear in assessing a musical composition.
In lay persons' words this could be an argument between hard-core punks and established rockers. The concert of music of the so-called Stylus Phantasticus consisted of music that was new ground then in the beginning of the 17th century. The new “rules” of composition had yet to be established for being new. The music Walker and I listened to last night (and the other lucky members of our audience) was music that was new and avant-garde when it was first played. While there are recordings available of this music the mainstream will not have ever heard of the composers or listened to this wonderful music.
|Marc Destrubé and Shadbolt's Jardin noir 2
Walker and I felt like we were attending a cutting edge concert of music that was inventive. And yet having the performers facing us, smiling at us, acknowledging us and acknowledging each other was different to a performance by Lang Lang where you go to a large venue; pay for parking; you are ushered in amongst jostling crowds; you sit, if you are lucky and rich, close to the front, and then you watch the man attack, un poco agitato, the piano in a Prokofiev piano sonata. He is on stage and you are part of the audience. And you know it.
And here is where I want to point out that Walker and I listened to tonight’s performers play virtuosic compositions (with a special emphasis on those composers) where it was not important that the performers play with virtuosity, but they do and they did! Walker and I were there to listen to the music. We were not there to watch a performer play. But watching these performers feels to me what it felt when as a little boy I was dragged to my grandmother's house. She was a coloratura soprano. My mother would play the piano, my aunt the violin and my uncle would contribute his fine tenor voice. In retrospect I see that these performances of Marc Destrubé & Friends (and the same goes to those of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra) is like having a group of your own friends play in your living room. That distance (and height) between the stage and the audience is blurred.
In that intimacy I noted Marc Destrube's Florsheims which he purchased ("They are the most expensive shoes I ever bought," he told me as I photographed him with my iPhone by the Shadbolt. "I bought them because the Axelrod Quartet[Destrubé is the leader of this Smithsonian-based string group] had to play at the White House two years ago." We could also talk with tDestrubé and friends after. They are that accessible. In fact after so many performances of Marc Destrubé and his Friends we (Walker and I) feel that they are our friends.
Kudos to Early Music Vancouver for organizing these concerts that bring that original newness and excitement of music that was new and exciting. In fact it was as fantastic as it wsa announced to be.
The group, Marc Destrubé & Friends will play again, the same program on this Sunday at the Kay Meek Studio.
Sunday matinée, 16 January 2011 at 3:00 pm
Pre-Concert Introduction at 2:15
Kay Meek Centre - Studio Theatre
1700 Mathers Avenue, West Vancouver
I do recommend going to these pre-concert talks. This one will feature Byron Schenkman. And if you happen to ask him what a passacaglia is (since he will be playing a couple of them in the program) he will demonstrate!
As Walker and I walked home I thought, “I could have had a V-8 and indeed I had and I was better for it.
Byron Schenkman plays
Marc Destrubé plays with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra