ChamberFest Cleveland 2016 review for “…maestoso…misterioso…” in The Plain Dealer

ChamberFest Cleveland 2016 concludes as it began, with top-notch eclectic nights
June 5, 2016

CLEVELAND, Ohio — “Once a piece of music is done, it’s not yours anymore,” said composer Kurt Rohde, whose “…maestoso…misterioso…” for amplified violin and viola and assorted items was given a stunning performance Friday night at Severance Hall, in the penultimate concert of ChamberFest Cleveland 2016.

Rohde spoke in a pre-concert interview on Reinberger’s stage of the seemingly myriad ways his piece could be performed, noting that not only are there differences between performances, but even differences between rehearsals and the finished reading.

Violinist Diana Cohen and violist Yura Lee were the main performers in this evocative and dreamlike essay, while Rohde took on the critical task of managing the electronic aspects of the piece from the front row of the auditorium, manipulating sounds that were created by the violin and viola, as well as an array of tuned gongs, harmonicas, tiny Chinese toy accordions and the ethereal voices of Cohen and Lee.

Rohde’s piece traffics in a free tonality wherein striking dissonance exists comfortably alongside moments of triadic harmony. With his laptop and mixing board, Rohde took these human-generated sounds and looped them into a background of electronic reminiscence, while the players traversed a score that took them from exuberant flux to hushed stasis.

The assorted items proved not to be mere gimmicks but important elements in the entropic progress of the work. As the activity of the music slowed to an almost molecular stillness, the emergence of harmonicas and the tiny un-tuned notes of accordions created an almost unbearable poignancy. Cohen, Lee and Rohde masterfully conjured a complete world in the span of 15 minutes, and the only cavil one might have is that the piece was not played a second time.

Rohde’s music was framed between two somewhat disparate works by Schubert, the intense and compact Quarettsatz in C Minor (a fragment of an uncompleted string quartet from 1820) and the gloriously overlong Octet in F Major, written in 1824.