Forcing Winter To Come To Our Own Terms

Sam Black

 While Thomas More gets credit for being A Man for All Seasons, the label more appropriately belongs to William Shakespeare (however you choose to spell his name). As the writer who created the most incredible assortment of human personalities, Shakespeare is still unrivalled in the history of literature, regardless of language. Local writer/actor/Shakespeare enthusiast, Jason Scorich, created Rough Magic, a masterful celebration of personalities from the plays included in that very First Folio of 1623. Excerpts from ten different plays were presented, connected by historical comments on the nature of Elizabethan stage conditions, and contemporary comments on the actors and writers in those amazingly creative years right around 1600.

Six actors - Kate Horvath, Robert Lee, Mike Pederson, John Pokrzywinski, Christa Schulz, and Christine Winkler Johnson - portrayed at least 36 different characters from these plays. There were no sets, no props, simply the words from The Bard, and those words were shared with deep intentionality. For four nights this was an incredibly rich introduction to the life, times, and creative language of Shakespeare. All too soon the presentation was over. This was powerful, and I certainly hope it comes back locally for those who missed the initial first run.

Snowfall across the Elysian Fields

Perhaps you’ve noticed that ancient Greek and Roman myths don’t always synchronize with the weather patterns in Duluth, MN, USA. The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, tantalizingly led by Music Director Dirk Meyer, offered the Saturday night audience an alternative to the bone-chilling, record-setting temperatures of this April 09, 2016. A curious taste of American jazz, with a dedication to the Russian style, opened the DSSO concert at Symphony Hall. During the evening, I was amused that five percussionists were required for this piece by Igor Stravinsky, four percussionists were required for the Ravel piece that followed, and only one percussionist (on tympani) was required for the Brahms symphony.

Fortunately, an orchestra and solo pianist were also required for the Maurice Ravel Piano Concerto in G. Very early in this performance, I realized I had never heard so delicate a rendering of this concerto. Pianist David Kadouch, from Nice, France, was primarily finger-tips, even during the explosive moments of this brief work. The opening three minutes of the second movement were totally worth the price of admission. Kadouch caressed the melody so lovingly, that it was a beautiful pairing for Michael Dayton to bring his oboe into the continuing ensemble. Right to the end of this piece, Kadouch continued his exquisitely French interpretation. Therefore, he decided that only something as polished as the Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy, could make an appropriate encore. Had the concert ended there, all would have been quite content.

Meyer, however, had programmed the Second Symphony by Johannes Brahms to close the evening. All four movements of this symphony share the breathtaking scenery of the Alps, and the sense of satisfaction that Brahms felt at this point in his musical life. I felt a showering of Alpine rainbows (that I’ve never witnessed) throughout this work. The cellos sang passionately of their lakeside love affairs, and the French horns offered echoing melodies, floating in and around the mountains and lakes near Poertshach in southern Austria.

Once again, as I’ve written before, Meyer’s narrative skills in front of an orchestra are exceptional. He creates drama, with moments of excitement and moments of repose, and he tells a beautiful story from one movement on into the next. The emotion of the second movement was followed by the sprightly dance of the third. The finale was filled with enthusiasm at all times. In particular the pizzicato of the violas and counter rhythms near the end brought the audience to the edge of their seats. When the final fanfare concluded, all the audience could do was stand up and applaud.

Musically speaking, winter is over!! Brahms and Meyer have made it completely clear. I hope Mother Nature is paying attention.