I heard the third concert of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society 2021 season, called “The Master and Margarita.” It was dropped online on June 26, I watched it June 28.
Co-artistic directors Stephanie Jutt (flute) and Jeffrey Sykes (piano) opened the concert with Prokofiev’s *Five Melodies,* a piece written for soprano vocalise, more commonly played by violin and played by these two in a flute and piano arrangement. Gorgeous, lush, opulent. Stephanie’s playing was rich and full and Jeffrey had just the right expressive yet urbane touch for these pieces.
Jeff introduced the Mussorsky *Songs and Dances of Death* by talking about the artistic history of pieces dealing with death. He performed the cycle with baritone Timothy Jones. These are gems of the standard repertoire, and would you believe I’d never heard them before? Fascinating songs, the music is highly dramatic but never overdone. There’s always a reserve of chilly intellect, like these stories are being told but not actively lived. Jeff’s playing was glorious and Jones sang like a dream, his voice just poured out of him. I can see why these are done so often, they’re extremely effective.
Oh yes, the Shostakovich piano trio that I love! Jeff explained that the piece was written as a memorial to a dear friend of Shostakovich, and Jeff sees it as a memorial to the whole world and the brutality and sorrow it had lived through and was then experiencing, in 1944, when the piece was written. Jeff, violinist Axel Strauss, and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau played it like the masterpiece it is, Fonteneau in particular doing a stunning job with the high, disembodied harmonics at the start of the piece.
Stephanie and Stas Venglevski played a set of pieces arranged by or written by Venglevski, written for flute and bayan, a variation on the accordion. Oh Lord. As much as I love the Shostakovich and was thrilled to hear it played so well, these pieces were the high point of the concert simply because they made me so happy. Dazzling, virtuosic, and full of zip and fizz. Here’s Venglevski playing a few pieces, starting with that old classic, “Flight of the Bumblebee:”