Classical Music Last Wednesday’s East Meets West concert certainly wasn’t the result of an “occidental orienting” (pun intended, with apologies). No, it was planned, programmed and presented by the Amelia Piano Trio — joined by Chinese musicians Betti Xiang and Yang Wei — and sponsored by our own Ensemble Music Society, its fourth program of 2003-’04. Another nearly-filled Indiana History Center Theater saw one of the most novel, most interesting cross-cultural concert concepts of any season and series. To begin with, the 5-year-old Amelia Trio consists of violinist Anthea Kreston, cellist Jason Duckles and pianist Rieko Aizawa (Japanese), where East is already meeting West. Of their Chinese guest colleagues, Xiang plays the “erhu” — a Chinese violin and a precursor, by many centuries, of the Western violin. Consisting mostly of staff and strings, its resonant chamber is a hollow, flat cylinder barely visible at the bottom. The slender instrument is encased within the bow: the stick on one side, the horsehair engaging the strings on the other. Wei plays the “pipa,” a Chinese lute, its frets numerous and prominent. With their smaller resonant chambers, both instruments produce lighter bodied timbres than what we’re used to. And they both add fascinating colors to an aural display featuring pieces mixing both the familiar and the exotic worlds. All these people play with polish and panache. Duckles and Wei first joined for Two Pieces for Cello and Pipa by contemporary Chinese composer Lu Pei (b. 1956). Then, for a complete cultural melding, we heard the sublime Largo from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043, with the erhu as the second violin and the string-orchestra part taken by the pipa and cello. The resulting lighter, iridescent texture not only worked, but once again showed that Bach can be played and savored on any set of instruments. “Melody of the River” for Erhu and Piano followed, a traditional song arranged by Jin Fuzia (b. 1942). The entire quintet of players then joined for “Songs of Consonance,” which Pei wrote for the group. The ensuing “Rainbow Dance” for Pipa and Erhu prominently featured the pentatonic scale (produced by sounding only the piano’s black keys), plus otherwise sounding “oriental.” Then followed Ravel’s only Piano Trio (1914), played by the Amelia group on its written-for instruments — an “occidental” piece nonetheless displaying occasional Eastern sounds. For a true cross-cultural encore, Wei brought back his pipa and plucked: “Home … Home on the Ra-a-nge” — to the delight of one and all.

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