Thursday, 27 March 2008

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

Wonderful Music – Great Musicianship
Ana Beatriz Manzanilla (Violin) and Pedro Saglimbeni Muňoz (Viola)

Violin and Viola Recital - at the Bolivar Hall, Venezuelan Cultural Centre
Thursday, the 20th March 2008, 7.30 pm

Ana Beatriz Manzanilla (Violin) and Pedro Saglimbeni Muňoz (Viola) constitute an original Duo of first-class musicianship. Venezuelan born, they live in Portugal (since 1996), and have been stars of the Gulbenkian Orchestra – honouring the name of Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955), the Armenian pioneer of the Oil-Industry known internationally in his time as Mr. Five Percent for owning that amount of the British IPC - Iraq Petroleum Company that in full daylight robbery shamelessly requisitioned the Iraqi people’s Oil for four decades without paying a penny to the people in Iraq.

The Duo opened their concert with Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, KV 423 – a joyous occasion when any Mozart is played, even if it were his darker Requiem, or the magnificent melody anticipating Don Giovanni’s throw into Hell!
Mozartologists have presumed that Mozart could not manage to finish his Requiem before The Great Reaper took him ... my own view is that Mozart consciously could not complete it – he was I think incapable of conceiving cheerless morbid music – even at his most pessimistic, in the call-to-Hell theme for Don Giovanni, there is an underlying musical grandeur and brilliant gloriousness that can only uplift the human soul, never damn it … Mozart it seems was born to be the greatest optimist of human culture on this planet.
Typical of the happy-go-lucky Mozart, this Duo was no exception, in traditional construction of 3 movements, with the Viola performing the Bass role.

What a dramatic contrast to Bohuslav Martinů’s (1890-1959) Three Madrigals, composed in 1947, when this Czech composer had already escaped the Second World War in Europe, by fleeing to the United States (1940-6) for physical safety, but curiously could not escape the profoundly disturbing psychological effects of the global European devastation, producing a series of six symphonies awash in dissonant texture and tonality, contrasted and highlighted (in neo-classical style) by the melodious snippets of dream-like classical beauty.

The “three” of the title is a clever pun on the classical form of three Movements, manifest in the traditional rhythmic structure of the piece – fast/slow/fast (faster than the first movement).

The first Madrigal (read, movement for it!) is flooded in the psychoneuroses of unbearable European warmongering – extremely unpleasant and nerve-wrecking, resulting in a jumble of jangled nerves. The second movement (read for it, Madrigal) attempts desperately to forget the jungle of warring nerves, trying to capture some kind of solace in tsigane-music. Finally, in the third madrigal, Martinů plunges headlong into the technically demanding highs of the tsigane-pyrotechnics, occasionally remembering and echoing the War, but this time emergent out of the difficulties of the nomadic Gypsy life-style reflected in the latter’s music.

Most astonishingly, the most Europeanized of the Brazilian composers, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) seems to have been totally oblivious to the miserable stupidities of the European theatre (of the Second World War). His 1946 Duo for Violin and Viola will have none of it!

Herein, the world can go to hell, as far as Villa-Lobos is concerned – he has composed a piece of classical music interest, with a remarkable innovative jazz-like experimentation.

The Allegro establishes the Viola, not as an instrument of accompaniment, but as a separate voice, independent of the Violin and equivalent to it.

Villa-Lobos goes further – dares to let the Viola begin the Adagio with a melody – a role usually left to the Violin – forcing the Violin into the secondary-role of the accompanist. However, the latter (the Violin) soon takes over, only to be sidetracked by a second theme, again from the Viola…

Again, while the Violin succeeds in eventually restoring its top status, Villa-Lobos subverts it by giving the Violin the tonality, the texture and the baser pitches of the … Viola!

Hardly the Violin has … become a Viola, when the Viola, as if in rebuke, steals the End, and ends the Adagio.

In the concluding third movement (of the piece), all is well, all bitchy competitiveness is forgiven and forgotten, and they happily play together, but as Equals, not any in a subservient role ...

Perhaps, after all - I cannot be certain - Villa-Lobos too was conscious (subconsciously?) of the European lunacies of the war, but in a sort of vague unconscious way, longing for peace and harmony, just as his Violin and Viola were achieving it in socialist equality.

And O for Handel, the great Handel of the great Messiah of the Paschal Lamb in these days of Easter … His Passacaglia contains I think an undoubted pun on the paschal hitherto undiscovered in music-history.

In the version of the Norwegian violinist/composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) played by this Venezuelan Duo, it takes on a strange life of its own – Paganini split-up in two …

Ana Manzanilla and Pedro Munňoz fittingly become a single two-in-one Paganini virtuosi – Muňoz plays his Viola astonishingly like a Strad-Violin, while Manzanilla plays her Violin in virtuosic peak-form – their ordinary run-of-the-mill instruments worked at breaking point …

I say, give this Venezuelan Duo … Stradivari and they shall produce heavenly music!


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