Mr. Abrahamsen’s Preludes could have delighted by their tonal naiveté, but ten of them eventually proved cloying. Each successive piece was more confusing, with cute twists in their codettas, until the baffling last. Of this final the composer clarifies: ‘Like in the fairy tales one could say "There, this was a true story".’
However, the Danish Quartet’s performance was excellent, with sounds autumnal that ranged from golden beams of dappled light to dusky veiled tone, and our heartfelt thanks go to them for refusing musically simplistic solutions through harshness.
Closing the program was Mr. Golijov’s ponderous The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, a kabbalist 13th century rabbi, whose music is burdened by heavy religious allusions. The composer claims to hear three historical Jewish languages in its respective movements: Aramaic, Yiddish and sacred Hebrew, but this interminable work, mostly of dragging music, was undifferentiated, though klezmer touches brought smiles and nods from the audience. Featured here was the promising Canadian clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, indefatigably working her way into the scene as a force to be reckoned with.
Semitic music in its immense variety is arguably the most specific to any authentic realization. Nothing less than a cultural immersion does this music deserve. The bland score could excuse a characterless performance, but it was unseemly for Ms. De Guise-Lanblois in the post concert discussion to casually trump that in her preparation she had taken a few (!) klezmer lessons. Apparently she learned to attach annoying bulges to the ends of notes in micro-phrases, and her vibrato skirted dangerously close to the bubbling sounds of trapped water in the instrument. It was very impressive to hear her make the bass clarinet sound like a piccolo E flat, but why would a composer ask for such a thing? I’ll leave Mr. Golijov to speak for his music. “Blindness, then, reminded me of how to compose music as it was in the beginning: An art that springs from and relies on our ability to sing and hear, with the power to build castles of sound in our memories.”
The public’s response was tepid, but made curious by a partial standing ovation. Afterwards in the elevator a couple granted that it was an “interesting” evening. It will be a great pleasure to hear the Danish String Quartet again in more interesting repertoire.