I heard Melissa Reardon (viola) and Raman Ramakrishnan (cello) in an Open Space recital on 7/11/20. This is an online recital series created by my friends Greg Beaver and Hyeung Yoon, I had heard them do the inaugural concert in May. I can't tell you what a treat it is to hear live music performed by first-class musicians, like a drop of rain in the desert, as Eve Harrington would say. The concert was co-presented by the Portland Chamber Music Festival.
Reardon and Ramakrishnan did their concert from their apartment in New York City. It was a sweet treat seeing shelves full of books behind them, just like when you see someone being interviewed on MSNBC! They opened with Beethoven's "Duet with Two Obligato Eyeglasses for Viola and Cello," and early piece cracking with charm and wit. I'm sure there's a cute story about the eyeglasses, but I haven't been able to find it online.
The next piece was "Relics," a new piece (2019) by Iman Habibi, written for Reardon and Ramakrishnan. Habibi introduced the piece and said that growing up in Iran, he had very little opportunity to listen to music. Nearly the only music on the radio was sort of propaganda music chosen by the government-run radio stations. He expanded his horizons by learning to play the piano and immersing himself in Iranian folk music. "Relics" drew on his Iranian heritage. It had an involving sense of drama and skillful writing for the strings.
Ramakrishnan played the sarabande from Bach's 4th suite for solo cello. He dedicated it to his cello teacher, who had died the month before. Maybe he lacked the transcendent quality that I like with Bach, but he played it with beauty and feeling.
Reardon played "Franklin," a piece from 2015 for solo viola written by Michi Wiancko. She had moved from NYC to Boston when she wrote it and wanted to write music inspired by her new environment. The best aspect of the piece was the wide range of effects she got out of the viola, at times it was hard to believe it was only one instrument being played. Reardon played it with elegance and style.
My favorite piece on the program was Rebecca Clarke's "Lullaby." It had a delicious interplay between the two instruments and just plain gorgeous music. It gave me chills, and isn't that what we're all looking for? Here's a performance by Duo-B:
They ended the concert with Walter Piston's duo for viola and cello. Reardon described it as "bustling" and it did have an urban flavor. It was a fun way to end the concert.