Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review: Rachel Lee and Michael Brown at the Folly Theater

No more echoes.

Attending a concert completely oblivious to the content of the program goes against my nature. I acquired a pair of tickets to Saturday's event at the Folly Theater for two reasons. Tickets to the "Discovery" concert were free. Secondly, I adore the Folly Theater. Complimentary tickets to a show in a beautiful venue on the eve of Valentine's Day? Sold!

My blind faith in the reputation of the presenters, the prestigious Harriman-Jewell Series, was amply rewarded. The visionary performance by violinist Rachel Lee and pianist Michael Brown floored me.

The pair began by attacking Beethoven's Sonata for violin & piano No. 10 in G major with youthful fervor. Musty reverence was conspicuously absent this night. Lee and Brown went on to explore Prokofiev, Webern and Enescu. The delightfully odd Webern pieces proved too much for many in the near-capacity audience of about 1,000. A steady stream of distraught patrons headed for the exits as the mildly dissonant 20th century compositions were performed. I sat as if I was in a trance. I'd never heard this dreamlike material.

Part of the appeal was the pair's obvious predilection for the selections. Their emphatic body language reflected honest enthusiasm rather than shameless showboating. I saw violinist Karen Gomyo work the next day with the Kansas City Symphony. While I loved her performance on Sibelius' Concerto in D Minor, Gomyo and the symphony emphasized the rigorous technical aspects of the piece. Lee and Brown, on the other hand, seemed bolder and more reckless. The pair's carefree abandon felt liberating. The Symphony, on the other hand, favored tension-filled tautness.

The post-concert talk (photo) confirmed what the performance had already revealed. Lee is vivacious and engaging while Brown is a thoughtful wit. Both artists are ridiculously smart. Brown's biography lists his extensive awards and impressive resume. The up-and-comer is also a composer. His fascinating "Echoes of Byzantium," featuring his piano work and Emily Deans on violin, was recorded at the the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

The artist behind the original version of "Suzie Q," Dale Hawkins, died February 13. This video is priceless.

Jazz drummer Jake Hanna died February 13.

Who doesn't love "My Sharona"? Thanks, Doug Fieger.

I remember that I was literally afraid the first time I heard Big Black's Atomizer. Iain Burgess, one of the men responsible for that scary sound, has died.

Kansas City Click: Monday's "Love Hangover" at the Record Bar promises to mend broken hearts.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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