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Day two in Bantry -- Saturday, 30 June

There's something to be said about chamber music played in a real chamber. A chamber, in fact, that was already elderly when most of the music was written. Such was the case in the opening concert Saturday evening of the 2007 West Cork Chamber Music Festival. The chamber, in actuality, the library of the elegant Bantry House was the setting, and the entirety was magnificent.

The oldest work, perhaps close in age to the house itself, was the opener -- the insidiously flashy Sonata No 3 in C major of Johann Sebastian Bach, from 1720. In an elegant and passionate performance, violinist Liza Ferschtman demonstrated why she won the 2006 Dutch Music Prize. Her technique is flawless, and the persistent double stops were tossed off with perfect intonation.

At times stately, at times deliberate, at other times having the timbre of the trumpet stop on a pipe organ, Ms Ferschtman delivered the ultimate in chamber music. Imagine accompanying oneself, or even having a dialogue with one's inner violinist.

At the conclusion, the woman seated next to me emitted a soft 'ooof'. I could only agree. The audience sat in stunned admiration for a moment before bursting into applause.

The musical world was saddened last year by the death of György Ligeti, one of the 20th century's composing stalwarts. The Cuarteto Casals gave an impassioned and vital performance of his Quartet No 1, Metamorphoses Nocturnes. Nearly all of this work is atmospheric In nature, conjuring up ghostly images and sounds, with bursts of sonic colorings mixed in.

There are eight short movements played without pause, contrasting episodes of extreme tranquility with slashing unison chords, played double forte! These latter can also be quite humorous in nature, as was displayed Saturday evening. At times, one could almost decipher words from the musical sounds of the quartet. Imagine recorded voices played either faster or slower than the recorded speed, and there you have it.

One section was very like a Texas swing waltz, before it changed back to atmospheric effects again. Interesting interlude from a primarily Hungarian composer!

The final portion was again of the ghostly variety, with the fingers of the musicians gliding smoothly up and down the fingerboards of their instruments, all the while bowing evenly and smoothly. The ending was prestissimo, and presented no observable difficulties for the Cuarteto de Casals in this invigorating performance.

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Copyright © 2 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland


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