Ensemble

Blaringly Unusual

MARIA NOCKIN listens to
Pittance Chamber Music's opening concert

 

On Sunday afternoon, 15 September 2019, Pittance Chamber Music opened its 2019-2020 season at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, California, USA. Pittance is made up of Los Angeles Opera Orchestra members who play in the orchestra pit at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and some of the performers were fresh from having played the opera's opening night La bohème the previous evening.

Sunday's show was entitled Nate's World and the leading artist of the matinee was Los Angeles Opera Orchestra principal double bass player Nathan Farrington. He opened with a serious rendition of the Prelude to Johann Sebastian Bach's Cello Suite No 1, which he played with love and admiration for the composer as much as for the enjoyment of the full auditorium facing him. Any thought of pressure was forgotten as he allowed himself to be free in the emotional joy of making music.

He followed the Bach with a sweet, lyrical version for double bass and piano of Gregor Piatagorsky's cello arrangement of Haydn's three movement Divertimento in D major. Farrington can make the double bass as lyrical as a cello, so his use of cello music for his double bass is an artistic success. Playing with pianist Teddy Abrams, Louisville Orchestra Music Director, the Adagio was thoughtful, the Minuet enchanting and the Allegro brought the piece to a rousing finish.

Teddy Abrams, piano; and Nathan Farrington, double bass. Photo © 2019 Justin Fields
Teddy Abrams, piano; and Nathan Farrington, double bass. Photo © 2019 Justin Fields

Farrington and Abrams continued the first half of the program on a high point with their lush plum velvet playing of the Allegro non troppo from Brahms' Sonata No 1 in E minor. Here, in the nineteenth century, for the first time the pianist was an equal partner with the stringed instrument and in this rendition Farrington made the bass sound as romantic and sensuous as a cello.

At the end of the first half, we finally heard a piece written originally for double bass. Here it was matched with violin. Farrington and LA Opera Concertmaster Roberto Cani played Giovanni Bottesini's Gran Duo Concertante to give the first half of the concert a polished finale.

Roberto Cani, violin, Nathan Farrington, double bass and Teddy Abrams, piano. Photo © 2019 Justin Fields
Roberto Cani, violin, Nathan Farrington, double bass and Teddy Abrams, piano. Photo © 2019 Justin Fields

An Intermission followed in which the audience could stroll in the conservatory's tree-lined garden and enjoy the visual coolness of its small tile-lined fountains. The first section, however, brought the classical music of this concert to a close. After the intermission the whole genre would change.

Nate Farrington opened the second half of the program with the enchanting melody of Chick Corea's sensuous Spain. Electric guitarist Molly Millar and percussionist Gabriel Globus Hoenich joined Nate Farrington at the double bass and Teddy Abrams at the piano in the following group of songs that 'crossed over' and back again a few times. Farrington even sang and played acoustic guitar.

Among the pieces we heard were Lennon and McCartney's Here, There and Everywhere, Hank Williams' I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry and his Lovesick Blues, Teddy Abrams' Teddy's Tune, Gaetano Donizetti's Una Furtiva Lagrima and Alberto Ginastera's Variation XI from his Concert Variations.

Actress Catherine Farrington Garcia recited Shakespeare's Sonnet No 130 to a varied accompaniment that even included whistling! We saw the Odessa Steps episode from Sergei Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin accompanied by Gustav Holst's Mars from his The Planets. Finally, we listened to more soothing tunes and ended our blazingly unusual matinee with an Andrea Bocelli favorite, Sartori and Quarantotto's melodic Con Te Partiro.

Copyright © 19 September 2019 Maria Nockin,
Arizona USA

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