by Chris McGovern
Le Poisson Rouge was the scene where pianist Inna Faliks resumed her Music/Words series with a program of classical and contemporary classical music mixed with spoken word, and immediately sprang into action with Rodion Shchedrin’s “Basso Ostinato”, a piece that didn’t even appear on the printed program, but seemed to set a strong pace for the evening’s selections. It turned out that Inna was really playing the encore first instead of last because she says that the Beethoven piece she closed with (the Sonata Op. 111; We’ll get into this shortly) is so epic that it cannot be followed by an encore. It was probably a good call.
The show felt a bit odd in terms of its placement of material. While you have music that is sure to be in line with a perfectly consistent classical recital, even with the new piece by John Eaton, there was the poetry read by its author Sandra Beasley that, while I really appreciated her work and her quirky style (the volume and character of her delivery would have impressed the casting chiefs of Broadway), wasn’t sure gelled within the framework of this concert. In-between Inna’s selections, Beasley came on and read several original poems that were titled after lines from A.C. Baldwin’s “The Traveler’s Vade Mecum” (While it would have been genuinely practical for me to have read that beforehand, I haven’t) as well as 2 stand-alone poems titled “King” and “Mercy”. Now, it probably hurts me that I am literarily challenged to begin with, but when you have so many artists now that are merging or attempting to merge different art forms together on a single concert stage, it takes daring performances to produce the example that sets the bar–Having said this, I applaud both Faliks and Beasley for making strides in presenting this kind of concert–I still think maybe a concert with more of a new music motif would be a better placement for Beasley’s material, but perhaps if her readings had been in collaboration with Faliks’ piano work, I might feel differently.
Of the music that made up the rest of the concert, Faliks was a glowing presence on the LPR Yamaha Grand (whose lid had a perfect reflection of the piano harp strings from my vantage point) and gave beautiful attack on the John Corigliano piece Fantasia On an Ostinato. The ostinato in question is the theme from the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th–This is clearly becoming one of the most-quoted classical pieces in music having heard it in this context, and Zoe Keating’s arrangement for solo cello. Strangely enough, Pete Seeger doodling it on the banjo was something I heard recently as well.
The premiere of Eaton’s Songs of Nature…and Beyond had guest vocalist David Adam Moore and Inna performing much of the way from inside the piano–Inna had used a shot glass and a towel placed on the strings and Moore sang into the piano mike on a few lines (He even bumped his head on the lid during one of the sections, but seemed to be okay and laughed it off). The piece itself is a considerably melodic work given that the experimental nature of the performance keeps it in an edgier playing field. Moore’s booming voice had a magnificent range and clarity, and his delivery of the text (two of the selected poems are from WB Yeats and Wallace Stevens) was effectively executed (EDITOR’S NOTE: I haven’t read those beforehand, either).
Faliks’ reading of Beethoven’s Sonata #32 in c minor, Op. 111 was the finale of this concert–Played beautifully, and the piece has such a stunning presence in any concert setting with its almost swing-like Arietta, and that seemingly endless trill. Faliks indeed made the right call to switch the encore to the start of the program in order for the coda of the sonata to resonate gently into the night.