The latest concerts in a series of recitals presented by the Kolkata Classics Club featured the cellist, Carrie Pierce, and the pianist, Jennifer Heemstra, in brilliant performances, first at the Oberoi Grand on January 11 - this event was attended by an elite audience of members and prospective donors - and on January 18 and 19 at Kala Mandir, for school children and a wider, appreciative audience. Pierce holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan among her many other qualifications. Her presentation was named Tango, and it showed her listeners that a concert of 'classical' music in present times need not necessarily feature only the works of composers from long ago - contemporary musicians, the classical musicians of the future, can also be featured. The programme consisted of works by Astor Piazzolla and Carter Pann alongside Rachmaninoff and Brahms. The diversity of the music was scintillating.
The programme surprisingly commenced with the well-known and much-loved " Oblivion" and "Libertango" by Piazzolla. This was followed by the second and third movements of Rachmaninoff's sonata for cello and piano. Rachmaninoff, a musician known for his large hands, steely arms and golden heart, wrote these movements with an accent on one of the most difficult piano accompaniments, a little hitch which Heemstra tackled with aplomb and apparent ease. Pierce's sensitive interpretation of the Allegro scherzando and the Andante was hauntingly beautiful.
The following piece - Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1, Op. 78 - was arranged for solo cello and piano by Laszlo Varga. The performers chose it for its compelling beauty and appeal. These were brough to life by the excellent technique of the cellist. Pierce took a moment to pay a tribute to Heemstra. These works are not easy to include in a cellist's recital for want of a proficient pianist, and she expressed her delight at the opportunity to play with her brilliant accompanist and old friend.
" Differences", by the contemporary American composer, Carter Pann, was next. This is a suite of five short movements, and we heard the fourth ("Blues") and the fifth (" Song"). Would the first three have been out of place? I think not, considering the energy and vibrancy of the performers. There is a wonderful melding of the instruments in Pann's writing, and in "Blues", which begins with an enigmatic three-note piano introduction, the cello creeps in with a plaintive bi-tonal, querulous yet lyrical response; this is followed by " Song", an energetic jazz and pop gem. These new introductions to the erudite city audience should be done more often.
The finale was introduced with a brief profile of Piazzolla's life and tangos. To illustrate the metamorphosis of his tango to its larger and very popular, grand scale, Pierce and Heemstra played the familiar " Tango" by Albeniz before their exciting performance of Piazzolla's Le Grand Tango for Cello and Piano. The performance ended with a beautiful encore of a piece by Gabriel Fauré.