Kawakubo makes
adagio the high point

Slavic repertoire

Guest violinist Tamaki Kawakubo
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: Blaisdell
Tickets: $16-$59
Call: 792-2000

Continuing a season-long emphasis on Slavic repertoire, the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra played an all-Czech concert Friday featuring guest violin soloist Tamaki Kawakubo.

The concert opened with Leos Jánacek's "Taras Bulba," a particularly graphic example of program, or descriptive, music. It tells the story of a Cossack warrior and his two sons in a 15th-century war against the Polish. By the end of the work, all three have been killed: the father and one son by the sadistic Poles and the other son by his unforgiving father.

Jánacek began his career as an organist, and the work reflects the organist's preoccupation with timbre. He uses solo instruments in a panoply of different combinations to achieve special tonal effects. The score calls for organ, ably played by Katherine Crosier, which adds further unusual timbral possibilities.

Among the many noteworthy effects is the extensive use of sonic exuviation, in which a loud block of sound is suddenly cut off to reveal a soft sound that had been previously inaudible.

The Dvorák Violin Concerto is not as overtly nationalistic as the previous work, but its final movement elicited chuckles from the audience through its use of the "furiant" rhythm characteristic of Czech dances.

Soloist Kawakubo displayed a propulsive rhythmic sense that was evident even as she listened to the orchestral interludes. She stood in the midst of the orchestra rather than in front of it, ensuring excellent ensemble but keeping her lines from standing out as starkly as they might have.

A real pleasure of her performance was the opportunity to hear the 1707 Stradivarius violin on loan from the Mandell Collection. The instrument had remarkable warmth and richness, particularly in the middle register. This luscious timbre combined with Kawakubo's singing legato made the adagio movement the high point of the work.

The second half of the concert consisted of three tone poems from Smetana's popular "Má Vlast" (My Fatherland). These works are so imbued with the spirit and history of the Czech people that they inspired the composer's countrymen to fervent nationalistic pride at their premiere in 1882.

Samuel Wong led the orchestra in a rousing performance of these dramatic works that elicited one of the longest ovations of the season.

The programming of this repertoire celebrating unfamiliar places and events in a distant land raises the question of whether such a program enhances cultural understanding of the Czech national character or simply reinforces stereotypes of crazy Slavs who can't decide whether they are passionate lovers or passionate fighters.

Perhaps in the end it is best to enjoy the works simply as music and leave the echoes of ethnic rivalries and national pride to those who hold them dear.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --