Valentine’s Day eve in Melbourne brought an opportunity. The beautiful thing about opportunity is that it often appears unannounced and then dances before you, transforming from an anticipated formality into something more grand. And so it was on Valentine’s Day eve: a concert of violin and guitar music in the Salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre. The anticipation was pleasant and unremarkable. A concert billed as a CD launch.
Should have been smarter. The focus was Paganini and Piazzolla. When Paganini was not writing showy caprices and the like he, like many of his contemporaries, wrote joyful, melodious, romantic stuff. The sort of music the you and I of the period would have gladly played at home for family and, sometimes, friends. Piazzolla too. Not always the in your face dance style tango, but mostly introspective and reflective.
Your correspondent admits to being a romantic at heart. It did not take more than a few bars for it to become clear: this was a program for lovers. More than just “salon music”, something to carry forward into Valentine’s Day. An aural red rose.
The program was presented with spoken introductions rather than programs and notes. This was most appropriate for the style of the evening (although your correspondent did hear one or two patrons, clearly older than he, grumbling about being hard of hearing). The prefaces revealed the concert’s genesis at the Ballarat Organs of the Goldfields Festival that has been run successfully for many years by Stefano de Pieri. It was there Italian guitarist Massimo Scattolin first played with violinist Erica Kennedy. And an artIstic love affair was born. (Well, that is your correspondent’s view: a relationship based on musical trust, unanimity of purpose and enjoyment in playing together.)
The core composers’ works were split by two outliers; one of Scatolin’s own compositions, a delightful, elegiac work from a collection of four influenced by the natural and ever changing beauty of his native Italy, and a more traditional Malagan Dance work, both for guitar solo.
Not having attended lots of James Crabb concerts, your correspondent did not know that the tango had been banned by the Catholic Church (kill joys that they are, even to this day) nor the nature of the transition from bordello music to cafes, then nightclubs and into the main stream. Piazzolla was apparently taken, as a youth, to the Cotton Club in New York’s Harlem, from whence he derived many influences in his contemporary tango works. And so his evocative Histoire du Tango completed the evening, displaying in a delightful way how Piazolla was indeed a worthy successor to his antecedent Nicolo Paganini. They both knew something of love and the romantic.
Almost as a nod to the absence of anything too flamboyant in the main program, Scattolin and Kennedy delivered, by way of encore, a rousing performance of the Czardas of Vittorio Monti. The rendition was more Melbourne Recital Centre than Hungarian Tavern, but then this, sadly, reflected the audience, most of whom, it is to be feared, would not have received a Valentine’s Card the next day. Perhaps if they had let their hair down, stamped their feet, clapped and cheered they may have done better on the fourteenth of February, if not in other departments, at least in terms of flowers and chocolates.
Your correspondent will not disclose what this delightful entree brought to his Valentine’s Day, but if you should wish to embrace the opportunity and buy a copy of the CD ($30 ea. plus postage) email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Works on the CD are:
Paganini – Cantone di Sonate for violin and guitar
Paganini – Cantabile Op 17 for violin and guitar
Paganini – Sonata Concertata in A major for violin and guitar
Scattolin – Autumn from Four Songs for the Seasons for guitar solo
Piazzolla – Histoire du Tango (Bordel; Cafe; Nightclub; Concert d’aujourd’hui) for violon and guitar