The Sarasota Music Club started its 90th Year off with a bang on October 11. Ninety years of sponsoring concerts, giving scholarships to deserving young musicians, and helping to shape the Sarasota area into the musical Mecca that it has become!
In keeping with that tradition, the Bay Arts Trio brought a program of passionate music “with a Latin Flair” to the very appreciative crowd in Eicher Auditorium in Sunnyside Village. Consisting of Margot Zarzycka (violin), Diego Villa (cello) and Lise Frank (piano), the highly skilled international ensemble brought to fiery life the Second Piano Trio in b minor of Joaquin Turina and Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The Turina reminded me that Spanish music of the Romantic and Modern period always sounds so angry... and the flamenco dancers always look so angry, even though they are equally intent on seducing each other. (Sex. What’s to be mad about?)
But it is that fierce intensity – demonstrated by quick changes of tempo, dynamics, and tonality – that gives the ‘Latin Flair’ to this music. In the performance, I feared for the safety of Zarzycka’s violin; she raked her bow across the strings so roughly I thought she might cut it in half. The sounds produced were not always lovely; they were not meant to be. They were meant to be raw, passionate, hot-blooded... very definitely Latin. And the audience loved it!
The four Piazzolla Seasons were more of the same. As with Vivaldi’s Seasons, these four pieces were named Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring, but they did not try, as Vivaldi had, to sound seasonally warm or shivery, they just sounded like the dance music of jazzy, mid-twentieth century Buenos Aires. Piazzolla started out, and remained, a working popular musician. His instruments were Bandoneon (a large, fancy accordion) and piano. His music of choice was the national dance of Argentina, Tango. His creativity inspired him to fuse the traditional rhythms of the Latin Tango with the syncopations of Negro jazz, resulting in Nuevo Tango. He traveled to France to study with Nadia Boulanger, the respected teacher/mentor for so many 20th century “serious” composers. Rather than let him adopt the symphonic style of European composers, she urged him to expand the complexity and sophistication of his native Tango. Which he did, with excellent results.
He wrote largely for a quintet, built around the Bandoneon, but also for larger groups. Aware of plagiarism and copyright law, he was careful to formally write out his compositions, and then legally protect them. In a way, this kept his music from being more widely known, as he did not allow others to copy or arrange his music. After his death in 1992, his family was very protective of his legacy, and his music tended to remain a guarded secret, limited to Argentina. I first heard his Nuevo Tango style about 15 years ago in a summer resort camp in Michigan, played by a Flute & Guitar duo who performed their own, slightly illegal transcriptions of two of his Seasons. The Piazzolla family has since allowed a number of his compositions to be arranged and transcribed for other groups, and his music is enjoying the increasingly wide-spread acclaim that it deserves.
Well, the Bay Arts Trio played both the Turina and the Piazzolla beautifully, then capped the program with the very Tango-like Habanera that Carmen sang to seduce the naïve soldier, Don Jose, in Bizet’s opera, Carmen.
The pianist, Lise Frank, appeared on the Music Club stage about four years ago, with her husband (a singer) before my time as a member of SMC. She was quietly and competently supportive, as really good accompanists are. The cellist, Diego Villa, was equally supportive musically, and a little more visibly involved in the passion onstage. The audience favorite of the morning was the irrepressible violinist, Margot, who, when she was not physically assaulting the violin, was charming the audience at the microphone as she introduced each number.
Margot (rhymes with ‘Largo’) is a violinistic Force of Nature, very skilled, very intense. She spoke A Truth that many a musician feels, but rarely expresses – these three people love playing this music. They love preparing it, they love performing it, they love sharing it with their audiences. We (yes, I’m one, too) tend to hide behind serious faces and tuxedos, but it is the personal Joy of making melody, harmony and rhythm all come together that keeps us practicing, paying for lessons, and buying strings, reeds, rosin and sheet music. We love making music. And what better place than Sarasota’s own Music Club.
Our thanks to Margot, Lise and Diego! Keep on loving making music.
On November 1st at 10:30 a.m. another person who loves to make music, the lovely Soprano, Diana Vytell, will perform for Sarasota Music Club. Hope to see you there.