Monday, April 04, 2011

The Elberoth Duo – Dongmyung Ahn, baroque violin; Yi-heng Yang, harpsichord. March 28, 2011.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Central Park West, New York City

“Three Bach Sonatas for violin and harpsichord”
Sonata II in A major, BWV 1015 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Andante un poco

Sonata I in B minor, BWV 1014

Sonata VI in G major, BWV 1019

I have known Yi-heng since she was born – her parents and we have known each other since our college days. She now holds a Doctor’s degree from Julliard and lives in Manchester, England with her double bassist husband Max. I also met Dee a couple of summers back when I was helping out at the summer music camp at our church.

The venue is a largish church located at corner of Central Park West and 65th. It puts out these Vespers as part of its ministry. I am told it can seat 700 people, there weren’t nearly as many people at tonight’s concert.

Period instruments were used in the performance. I guess there are no “modern” harpsichords anymore. However, both instruments are quite new. The harpsichord looked spotless, nary a scratch, with a shiny polish. The violin, according to Yi-heng, was made by a violin-maker from Texas. The bow is lighter, wound tightly, it seems, and the wood has a concave shape to it. The neck is supposed shorter. Since there is no chin rest, the violin has to be held up by the left hand, which makes position changes a bit more difficult. It sounds pretty much the same, except perhaps with a bit more of a bounce and smoother tone.

My prior encounters with a harpsichord were in an orchestral setting where they were mainly used to play the continuo part. I am a bit surprised at how soft it sounds even up close, and I wonder if they have dampers as the sound was a bit muddled. The fast passages came across as a big “glob” of sound, which is unfortunate as on a piano it would probably be brilliant. Perhaps better understanding come with a bit more training.

Stradivari, who died in 1733, was Bach’s contemporary. So an unaltered Stradivarius would be a legitimate period instrument. However, I suspect anyone who gets hold of one will immediately lengthen the neck, put in a chin rest, and have it otherwise restored so it can be auctioned off for a few million dollars! There must be some irony here.

The concert lasted about 45 minutes, although people hung around for quite a while afterwards. I took the train up and got a ride from Chung Shu.

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