Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wrapping up Spoleto

Back from my second, and I think final, visit to this year’s Spoleto Festival. Ended it with a performance by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. The more I saw of the group, the less I liked.

But the chamber music concert this morning rivaled (and Ravel-ed) the one Thursday.(You can read more about that concert in the entry below.) Again, it was the St. Lawrence Quartet (with pianist Stephen Prutsman which ended an already outstanding concert with the Quintet for Piano and Strings by Dmitri Shostakovich. It is one of the masterpieces of all time for the quintet and piano and the group brought all its wide-ranging emotions to the full effect, from the martial roar to the oddly quiet closing.

That was hardly the only good thing on a program that traveled to England, France and Spain as well as Russian.

It started with one of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “London trios” for violin, flute and piano on to Enrique Granados’ song “The Maiden and the Nightingale” and the “Premiere Rapsode” with clarinet (Todd Palmer) and Prutsman on piano.

It doesn’t get much better than all this.

After the Hayden, host Charles Wadsworth noted that it was “a delicious bit of wake up music.” Absolutely.

Wadsworth was in good form at the concert too (even when he wasn’t at the piano.)

“You’re only as old as you feel – and I feel 80,” said Wadsworth, who turned 80 recently and is retiring after this festival. (Everyone’s lips are still zipped – someone actually made the zipper-on-mouth motion at me today – about who will fill his shoes. His shoes, his suit, his shirt were all white one day. His tie was pink.)

Mentioned most often is Geoff Nuttall, first violinist with St. Lawrence and the associate artistic director of the series. Nuttall played last weekend with cropped brown hair but he has since bleached it yellow blonde.(He's done this kind of thing often.) Known for his flashy playing and outfits he’s sticking with a pair of two-toned black and brown boots. I’ve seen him wear them in years past, but not for every concert. Must be lucky boots.

The concert Friday was nearly as good starting with some fun waltzes by Joseph Lanner and Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata, which Wadsworth saw in its premiere performance in 1963, played by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein.

That one ended with the Two Violin Quintet in G minor by Mozart, which Nuttall called “pathetic in the best sense – sad, brooding.”

Although Nuttall invited people to get up and dance to the waltzes, no one did. Waltzes also ended my day with “Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre’s 20th Century” – people did dance for that but not many waltzed.

Wadsworth is the subject of a special on SC ETV Monday at 10 p.m. (it will be repleased June 4 at 9 pm. and June 10 at 7 p.m.) It follows him from his hometown of Newnan, Ga., to Spoleto, Italy, where he began a chamber series to Lincoln Center where he founded the chamber music society, to Charleston and beyond.

And of course you can still see and hear him every day this week. The festival runs through Sunday.

You can hear the chamber concerts from the first week at 1 p.m. Monday - Friday this week on SC ETV Radio.

Ran into many people I know: Michel McNinch of Columbia, Kent Ambler of Seneca and Peggy Howe and Taylor Blanton (left) of Charleston who are showing at the outdoor art show at Marion Square. Working in a tent in the Charleston weather for 17 days – that’s hard work.

Speaking of that (weather, not art) everyone was lucky this year. Not too hot and a breeze.

A couple of weeks ago the mural painter Jeff Zimmerman was covering the inside and outside of Redux Contemporary Art Center with giant heads, fire hydrants and crumpled soda cans. He’s finished and it looks good. The center is at 136 St. Philip St. And he was on the “Today” show last week.

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