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Strong reviews coming in from the US for Ariadne Daskalakis' 'Music at Land's End' festival

Benjamin Dunham, Wareham Courier

Land’s End Festival rewards area audience

(Benjamin Dunham is retiring this month as editor of Early Music America magazine. He sent this review to his son Sam, who is doing research in Salzburg, Austria, while attending the Salzburg Festival to hear a complete cycle of symphonies of Anton Bruckner.)

July 27, 2014

Dear Sam:

You may be at the Salzburg Festival to hear Bruckner and I may be here by the shores of Buzzards Bay, but you won’t hear and better concerts in Salzburg than the one I heard Saturday night in Wareham!

The Music from Land’s End festival (aka Ariadne Daskalakis and Friends) concluded in the Church of the Good Shepherd with a brilliant programme constructed and partly arranged by her husband, violist and composer Sebastian Gottschick. It mixed old music and new and made the concoction appealing to all (the program was premiered with equal success the night before at St. Gabriel’s Church in Marion).

Daskalakis is an internationally acclaimed violinist who grew up in Wareham and now teaches in Cologne, Germany. She assembled a string octet of her students, friends and faculty colleagues to play a program called “Crazy Eights!, and although it was a dreamy midsummer’s evening, there was nothing by Mendelssohn to be heard!

The first set interwove works by Gabrieli and Purcell with movements from the Five Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 5 by Anton Webern (1883-1945). The players all seemed to have background in or respect for the principles of historical performance, so they sounded like a well-matched chest of viols in the early music, and their playing of the Webern was, in a word, scintillating. I doubt that Webern’s evocative music has ever been better played in this area (if at all!), and surely never better received by an audience.

The next set was made of three contrasting works, creating an appealing concerto grosso: the scherzo from Louis Spohr’s Double Quartet in D Minor, Op. 65, the andante from Mozart’s Octet in C Minor, K 388, and sections transcribed from Bach’s eight-part motet “Singet dem Herrn”. While this string arrangement was missing the text of the original, you could almost hear the words shouted out as the players kicked into the final rollicking “Alleluias”.

After intermission, three modern works for solo string were mixed with “In Nomines” by Purcell and Givvons. (An “In Nomine” was a popular genre in the Renaissance that used part of a chant from John Taverner’s Missa “Gloria Tibi Trinitas” as a cantus firmus, in the way that jazz players might use a quote from a Broadway hit song to establish he harmonies for their improvisations.) These Purcell and Gibbons works were wonderfully played and acted to clear the palette, like a slice of freshly baked bread, for the complicated bouquet of the recent-vintage wines in between. In “Per Mattia” by Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947), violinist Andreia Chang shivered through what seemed like fond and distant memories. In “Nocturne” by Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952), violinist Sini Simonen, a fellow Finn, controlled the searching double-stops and atmospheric harmonics to create the perfect mood. And in “In Nomine all’ongeres” (Hungarian) by György Kurtag (b. 1926), Gottshick skilfully delineated how and why the idea for juxtaposing these In Nomines with modern works might have first come into his head.

The concert concluded with the Dmitri Shostakovish’s Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11. In the Prelude: Adago, Daskalakis positively nailed a recitative-like cadenza at the end of the piu mosso section, rappelling down the fingerboard as if she had studied with Spiderman at The Juilliard School, and the Scherzo, as you can imagine from your own playing of Shostakovish Quartet No. 8, was powerfully slashing or slashingly powerful, take your pick. The audience jumped to their feet in appreciation and demanded two encores.

The word will have to come out: Wareham is home to a small but internationally significant summer festival. If you’re around next summer, you won't want to miss it.

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