Penderecki Strings Captivate

by Stuart Culver

From first to last note, the Penderecki String Quartet held the audience in their spell in the last concert of the year, Feb 24, for the South Okanagan Concert Society. Opening with Beethoven’s String Quartet in G major, they performed the sprightly dance-like introduction with a delicate formality, in keeping with its nickname, ‘The Compliments Quartet’, portraying the exaggerated courtesy of an 18th century drawing salon. The second movement features a languorous melody leading to bursts of song, cut by expectant silences. The galloping rhythms of the Scherzo moved to a faster tempo in the final movement where each instrument in turn picked up the melody, ending with the fierce energy we associate with Beethoven.

The second composition, De Profundis, by young Canadian composer Norbert Palej, was commissioned and premiered by PSQ. Jerzy Kaplanek, 2nd violin, spoke of the composer’s impetus, drawing inspiration from Psalm 130 and Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis” written in Reading Gaol. Violent percussive and staccato effects built on dissonances and the sheer physicality of the violinists drew enthusiastic applause from the Oliver audience; the musicians told us that not all audiences are as accepting of innovative styles. The piece started on a shattering unison note and ended on a single dying note, after high bird-like trills, reinforcing the notion of rising from the depths of despair. Perhaps appropriate as Oliver prepares to welcome a prison.

Debussy’s String Quartet, his only one, offered a contrast to the first half. The violinists switched positions and 2nd Jeremy Bell told about the influence of the Javanese gamelon which Debussy heard at the 1889 Paris Exposition. A simple melody recurred in different ways: the dream-like quality quickly moved from soft to strident, with ever changing rhythms and harmonies. The soft, sad and slow intro of the cello in the final movement built to a crescendo of excitement and ended with a whisper.

But the audience wanted more and the musicians obliged with an unbelievably fast little piece, with bow percussion by Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech composer. Truly, the Penderecki musicians demonstrate “a remarkable range of technical excellence and emotional sweep” Globe & Mail).

Another successful year has ended for the South Okanagan Concert Society. The 2012-13 season is planned, with the AGM on April 10 at Quail’s Nest Arts Centre. Early-bird discount tickets (bargain prices, free for students) are available now at Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos and Beyond Bliss in Oliver.

Final concert will cap a great concert series

by Marion Boyd, South Okanagan Concert Society

Mark your calendar for Friday February 24th, when the Penderecki String Quartet performs in the final concert of the South Okanagan Concert Society winter season. In the second decade of an extraordinary career, this celebrated chamber ensemble’s performing schedule takes them annually to the great concert stages of North and South America, Europe and the Far East. Making up the prestigious quartet are Jeremy Bell, violin, Jerzy Kaplanek, violin, Christine Vlajk, viola, and Paul Pulford, cello. The quartet has collaborated with many eminent ensembles as well as with artists such as James Campbell and Janina Fialkowska who have thrilled audiences here in past years.

The concert will be at the temporary venue of the Oliver Alliance Church just north of Oliver at 7:30 pm. Tickets are on sale at Beyond Bliss Esthetics in Oliver, Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos and at the door. This is the time to use up any remaining admissions on your flex pass and to bring your cheque book to catch the Early Bird prices for next season. Single admissions are $20 and students 17 and under are admitted free. This is a great opportunity to introduce the young musicians in your family to world class live music.

Sometimes people ask me why I love the concert series music so much. I decided to ask members of the audience what draws them. Here is what Brita Park told me:

“I’ve got this image of my recently immigrated parents in the early 50’s. My Dad had been working two jobs (16 hours a day) and had finally earned a bit more than was required for the daily food to feed a family of eight. My mother’s immediate thought was “New shoes for the kids!”. Too late! To her dismay, my father came home without the extra money. Instead he carried a beautiful record player and proudly chose one record from a stack of new LPs. The lively strains of a Strauss waltz filled the house, drifted over the porch and the orchard below. Father gallantly twirled my mother around the living room and we children joined in.

“Later my mother admitted that it was my father who had gauged the family needs correctly, not she. Our old shoes would have to do. It was the beautiful shared music of Strauss, Chopin, Mozart, Bach and Mendelssohn that lifted the family up, accompanying, sustaining, and delighting us through all our years of growing up.”

So come and share the beautiful music of the Penderecki String Quartet with others who love music. Allow yourself to be lifted up, sustained and delighted. Don’t be afraid of winter roads. Call Maureen at 250 495 7978 if you want to arrange transportation in the van. Join us. Come!