This weekend’s concert is going to be a major event. You can see the video promo for it on my post of October 20. It’s a benefit concert to support the Lakeview Lutheran Church’s outreach to the homeless, and I’ll be one of many performers. I’m excited on two counts – first, because I get to play one of the Loeffler Rhapsodies for oboe, viola, and piano; and second, because the concert will also honor Paul Hamilton, LVLC’s music director and my long-time collaborator.
Paul and I have been working together since 2001, and in that time we’ve given recitals at some of Chicago’s top venues and many of its completely unknown ones. I’ve dragged him to Springfield, IL, South Bend, IN, and Tokyo, Japan. We’ve created and performed numerous arrangements from literature that really should have been written for the oboe. Paul is unmatched as a collaborator because he never says no, no matter how difficult a 20th century orchestral transcription I plunk in front of him. He is so exquisitely sensitive that we never have to talk about our musical plan. Paul has an instinctive understanding of breathing on a wind instrument which makes it easy for me to survive through long phrases, and, perhaps most joyously, he has his own strong musical ideas and isn’t afraid to play them. This is why I call him my collaborator rather than my accompanist – he brings so much musicality to the table and I grow as a musician just by playing with him.
L’Etang or The Pool, by Charles Martin Loeffler, is a richly evocative sound painting of the following poem, by Maurice Rollinant.
Full of old fish, blind-stricken long ago, the pool, under a near sky rumbling dark thunder, bares between centuries-old rushes the splashing horror of its gloom.
Over yonder, goblins light up more than one marsh that is black, sinister, unbearable; but the pool is revealed in this lonely place only by the croakings of consumptive frogs.
Now the moon, piercing at this very moment seems to look here at herself fantastically; as though, one might say, to see her spectral face, her flat nose, the strange vacuity of teeth — a death’s-head lighted from within, about to peer into a dull mirror.
Trans. Philip Hale
For some reason the language of this poem, purple though it is, gives me chills. Although music is of course more abstract than words, Loeffler has used the instruments and a dark harmonic language to set it almost verbatim. I can really hear the water burbling and the consumptive frogs croaking, and the interior fast section of the movement has an eerily blank and impersonal quality which suggests Rollinat’s spectral moon.
Obviously, I’m really looking forward to playing this. Our violist, Sharon Chung, is marvelous and well worth coming out to hear in her own right. Paul is always a treat to work with and I’m proud to be participating an this event honoring him. There will also be great vocalists performing, and a rock band, and the concert should be loads of fun. Saturday, November 7, at 6:30 pm at Lakeview Lutheran Church, 835 W. Addison in Chicago.