Review of Duo Rendezvous, brought to Oliver on February 6, by the South Okanagan Concert Society
Some concerts are difficult to review because the performance was disappointing. However, others, such as the concert by Duo Rendezvous–brought to Oliver as the third in its series by the South Okanagan Concert Society–are difficult to review because I just don’t have enough superlatives!
Let me sum it up for you. Amazing musicianship:check! Perfect intonation:check! Passion:check! Gorgeous tone:check! Charming personalities:check! Great selection of music:check! Excellent programming, ie., each piece built on the energy of the previous one: check! Daniel Bolshoy on guitar and Jasper Wood on violin totally in sync: check! Two virtuosi having a super night:check! check!Even more amazing, it turns out that the incredible performance that we heard in SOCS’ temporary venue at Oliver’s always welcoming Alliance church last Friday(feb.6), was only the second time that Duo Rendezvous has played this intensely demanding program!!
The “rendez-vous” scene was set visually on stage with a hint of Parisian Cafe, complete with checkered table cloth, wine glasses, roses and a basket of tasty looking baguettes. Glancing at the program, I could see that we’d be treated off this “menu” to selections from France, Spain, Germany and Argentina, moving chronologically from Baroque to Classical-Romantic, from Impressionist to Modern.
The evening opened with the soothing Sarabande by J.S. Bach, followed by a “Sonata Concertante” by violin legend Paganini and then Ravel’s familiar “Habanera”. It became obvious to us that we were in for a wonderfully varied and most deliciously satisfying “full meal deal”.
The six-movement “Suite Populaire Espanole” by de Falla entranced us with strong melodic lines, as Wood and Bolshoy captured beautifully its contrasting moods and dance rhythms. To end the first half, the duo chose a great show-off work, “Introduction and Tarantelle”, by Spanish composer-violinist, Pablo Sarasate.This particular piece of music is not often performed, and I soon found out why. It is absolutely fiendish! Full of flying staccatos, very high and extremely fast passage work, harmonics and sautille bowing, I doubt that there are many violinists in the world with the technical skills to pull it off. This brilliant performance by Jasper and Daniel left our Oliver concert goers–among them quite a number of accomplished musicians from Penticton, Summerland and Naramata who specifically came to be inspired by this duo– suitably “wowed”.
As we all took a collective breather during intermission, with the coffee, cookies and juice, I could think about the instruments themselves. Not only were we in the presence of two great performers, we were also being treated to the sounds of two exceptional acoustic instruments.Jasper now performs on a one hundred year old violin by the outstanding Italian luthier Stefano Scarampella. A “come-down”– but not by a lot–from the Stradivari violin of which Jasper had won the temporary use a few years back. The guitar Daniel performs on was recently built by the expert German builder, Mathias Damann. This modern variation on a traditional Spanish instrument uses space-age materials to create an exceptionally light and responsive soundboard. This particular guitar has a rich, deep bass response, a mellow mid-range, and outstanding projection. It is hard to believe that most of the accompaniment that we heard on this guitar had originally been composed for piano. Playing them on the guitar makes extreme demands on the guitarist that often are not obvious to audiences. Daniel, with his fabulous guitar, and his fabulous musicianship, did an outstanding job in his supporting role of backing the more “out front” sound of Jasper’s magical violin.
The hauntingly beautiful “Beau Soir” by Claude Debussy openened the second half, Jasper having first read us the poem that had inspired the work. Gentle images of twilight on the water. Next, Piazzoll’s four movement “Histoire du Tango” transported us to Argentina, delighting us with differing tango styles from 1900 to the present. The program’s “feast of music” ended with “Csardas”, by Monti. With its contrasting “birdsong” slow section and zippy “oompah-oompah” fast section, this grand old toe-tapper brought everyone to their feet, for a spontaneous “standing-O”, so richly deserved! Then we received the parting gift of a gorgeous encore. How not to be filled with deep appreciation for every single person and organization that contributes to making such an evening possible? An exceptional concert evening such as this leaves one with a new-found delight in music, —and a shortage of superlatives to describe it!