THUNDER BAY, ON - October 28, 2009 - Sometimes the best surprises are where you least expect to find them. New Music North opened its Thunder Bay Concert season with an astounding performance by violinist Elena Densisova, and her pianist partner Alexei Kornienko. It seems to me a little unusual that a couple born raised and educated in Russia, living in Vienna, would come to Thunder Bay to give a concert of modern music for piano and violin as well as solo violin. What the audience witnessed on Tuesday night was an astounding demonstration of the Russian school of violin performance. For it seems the world can now be divided into three schools of thought when it comes to concertizing on the violin, and the Russian School is one of them.
The technical requirements of some of the music heard last night were of the highest order, yet the recital was about warmth, colour, and the emotion of the music. When it comes to interpreting a composer’s intentions with emotions, Denisova is an absolute master. Those who witnessed this concert at the Jean McNulty Recital Hall at Lakehead University would no doubt agree. A great performance goes well beyond having the technique to perform the music flawlessly, it requires a little Zest! Both Alexei and Elena have this quality.
Throughout the performance a number of questions kept coming to mind. One was how was it that Thunder Bay was able to attract such fine performers. The recital hall is not a posh place. In fact it is even a little run down, and the room serves as a storage facility for an extra piano chairs and other clutter. The room is grey on grey, and the art work meant to cheer the place up a bit seems obscured by some of the stuff in the room. What a far cry from the marvelous stages this couple must have played upon in Vienna, the rest of Europe and even in Moscow. New Music North have connections and the Thunder Bay organization is one of the few groups that supports recitals of professional contemporary classical music, so a foreign group doing a Canadian tour would likely make a stop-over in our city. Seriously some flowers or a bit of colour would have made a big change in the atmosphere of the room. Having said that; the room or noise from the folks in the room upstairs did not distract us once Elena picked up her bow. She had found her Canadian Jewel, an audience that loves music of modern composers.
I stopped and took some photos at the admittance table before the recital. One of the items my seatmate purchased. It was Elena Denisova’s Violin Book. It contains a number of Caprices by modern composers, edited and then recorded (CD included) by Elena Denisova. Just the thing if you want to become a violinist of the stature of Elena Denisova. This is more than a book for advanced violin players. It is a lexicon and a valuable performing edition of the music of composers of our time. This is a quality edition with large size print, and the notation is full of symbols for quarter tones, secondary overtones, and all of the technical stuff that modern violinist use to perform this music. In the same way that Bach’s book “For Anna Magdalena” sums up so much of the music of his time, the present edition should be recognized for what it is.
The couple love to perform, there is a lot of Russian heart and soul in their performance. A standing ovation at the conclusion of the program showed a love of Gershwin which was followed by a second piece for piano and violin.
This couple can perform music of all genres with an equal amount of passion. I am sure that this must be a great adventure for them, coming to and travelling across Canada performing modern music. Local composer Aris Carastathis was afforded a priceless opportunity to hear his music played by some of the great interpreters of our time, and a recording was made of the music, something that a composer would treasure for many years.
Some mothers tell their daughters that they have to kiss a lot of frogs before they find a prince. Sometimes new music can be like that. You have to go through a lot of music before we find pieces with merit. There were three Canadian Composers on the program, Pishny-Floyd, Grella-Mozejko, and Carastathis. All three I have has occasion to run into at conventions in Edmonton, or Saskatoon, and of course Thunder Bay’s own Aris Carastathis. Organizations such as New Music North give voice to composers such as these. Compared to the Russian work by Yavor Demitrov the Canadian works were shorter and smaller in scope. Just the same they are worthy of inclusion in this program, there were some princes amongst the frogs in this concert.