IVCI Laureate Chamber Series
Indiana History Center
Last Tuesday, those attending the well-filled Indiana History Center Basile Theater were treated to an excellent and somewhat novel music-making evening. In addition to featuring Susie Park - the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis' fifth-place laureate - the IVCI Laureate series' second concert also hosted the only scheduled appearance this season of Suzuki and Friends, a chamber group currently without a sponsor. But more than that, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's principal doublebassist, Ju-Fang Liu, made her chamber-soloist debut. And, "bottom line," she practically stole the show.
Susie Park, the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis' fifth-place laureate, performed last Tuesday.
As the leader of eight ISO doublebassists, Liu regrettably keeps her light under a bushel most of the time. The reason is that the music literature for bass solo is quite scant, with few bass players able to make a living concertizing. However, we can thank Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889), a great bassist himself, for providing much of the extant solo-bass repertoire from the Romantic era. His Gran Duo Concertant (1880) for violin, bass and piano allowed Liu's light to shine brightly enough that the audience was captivated with her bowing, her finger work, the controlled opuence of her tone, her exactitude of pitch over her behemoth instrument's multiple-octave range. Though not great music by any means, the Gran Duo is an excellent vehicle for showcasing the talents of one who makes her living providing excellent group leadership.
Violinist Park and pianist Zeyda Ruga Suzuki more than held up their own ends of the Bottesini, Park among the better laureates since the quadrennial IVCI's 1982 launch. As for Zeyda, she remains in a class by herself as a chamber pianist; one hopes to hear more of her in some venue this season.
Departing from his usual violin, Hidetaro Suzuki - now retired ISO concertmaster - played the viola in the two other programmed works. First we heard the very imposing Piano Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 26 of Brahms - a piece I don't recall ever previously hearing locally. With four movements lasting 50 minutes, it's easily among the great German Romantic's longest instrumental-genre works. And, quite frankly, one becomes conscious of length, despite its manifold beauties.
Featuring violinist Park, violist Hidetaro Suzuki, cellist Dennis McCafferty and pianist Zeyda Suzuki, the foursome strode through the quartet's intricate textures and lovely pastel harmonies scattered among the many discursive passages with an aplomb born of careful preparation. Zeyda provided the pianistic zest to bind all this material together - nowhere more than in the captivating Scherzo movement.
As a cap for the evening, violinists Park and Jennifer Greenlee, violist Hidetaro Suzuki, cellist McCafferty, bassist Liu and pianist Zeyda Suzuki joined to play the Grand Sextet in E-flat for Doublebass, Piano and String Quartet by Russia's "first" composer, Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857). A light-veined, three-movement work, the sextet betrays none of the "Russian" style Glinka originated as an early Romantic; it sounds exactly generic for its 1832 composition date. Here, once again, Zeyda was the fulcrum, her shapely keyboard work shining through while covering no one else. Park began the slow movement with a nicely played solo. As for Liu: We applauded her Bottesini - once again.