Ken Harrison 4:30 p.m., Dec. 13
Beethoven at Dizzy's, via Bert Turetzky
Bert Turetzky, the legendary bassist, improviser and mentor to dozens of top flight instrumentalists, and Dizzy's owner Chuck Perrin have been quietly conspiring to bring intimate chamber music to the downtown area in periodic doses for much of 2011.
You'd usually have to get all dolled up and shell out some serious cash for this much culture in San Diego.
Last Tuesday, they were at it again, continuing the bassist's "Music Forgotten & Remembered" series at Dizzy's with a septet of woodwinds and strings playing the lesser-known composer Kreutzer's "forgotten" work, as well as the popular Beethoven piece: Septet in Eb Major, Opus 20.
Part of the beauty and appeal of these concerts is the sonic joy of hearing Turetzky and the other members of his California Consort play this music sans amplification. It's a reminder that musicians were able to present their art for centuries without "benefit" of microphones, amplifiers and mixers, which in our times, often do more harm than good.
This concert relied on achieving a "good-mix" the old fashioned way: the musicians were placed in strategic locations to facilitate the "stereo-curtain," and through a combination of listening to each other and individual dynamic control, created a sublime blend by themselves.
The three strings ( violinist Alyze Dreiling, violist Francesca Savage, cellist Lorie Kirkell) sat opposite the three woodwinds, ( clarinetist April Leslie, bassoonist David Savage, horn player Warren Gref), in an arc with Turetzky separating the two trios, upstage.
They began with the Kreutzer. Modeled on the Beethoven, this piece was a substantial work on it's own merits, although not quite a work of genius, as would become apparent later.
The opening movements seemed string heavy, with the woodwinds often waiting for long stretches before they were able to squeeze short statements in. Gradually, the winds began to feature more prominently, with April Leslie's delicious tone registering most distinctively. Dreiling's violin achieves a crystalline clarity without becoming overwhelming, while Kirkell's cello projected a piquant melancholy. Savage mainly played supportive lines, occasionally weaving rapturous harmonic latticework in.
The piece became more ominous in the fourth movement, with a dark, inchworm repetition yielding to an elegiac section that really started to soar. In the sixth, the drama ratcheted higher, with a powerful melody that ricocheted between violin and clarinet, viola and bassoon, then cello and horn. The woodwinds finally reached a par with the strings, making it the most satisfying part of Kreutzer's composition.
After a brief intermission, in which Turetzky mingled with the audience and thanked them for their participation, the Consort returned for the Beethoven.
From the opening chord, the difference between the two works was mind boggling. Beethoven sonorities were rich and sensual, and his writing for the clarinet, bassoon and horn could not have been more superior. Beethoven's septet was supremely balanced, with all instruments orbiting each other with a much more tightly woven sonic tapestry. The clarinet work of Leslie absolutely sang, Savage and Gref's parts weren't far behind her, either.
Throughout it all, supporting and transporting the music was the substantial bass work of Turetzky. Whether he was directing with a soft pizzicato or using the bow to illustrate the low harmonic motion, the bassist held the two trios together in a completely selfless fashion.
Turetzky and the rest of his virtuoso ensemble skilfully elucidated many of the reasons Beethoven continues to be revered several hundred years after his death. Incredible music, written by a genius, is timeless.
Photo by Michael Klayman