October 2007


Hilario Duran Trio | David Virelles Quintet
at The 6th Annual Small World Music Festival
October 2, 2007 Glenn Gould Studio Toronto
Duran and Virelles meet Glenn Gould
by Tova G. Kardonne (photo of Hilario Duran by Roger Humbert, June 2005)
It was bound to be a challenging evening for both performers and listeners. To celebrate and commemorate Glenn Gould’s music, Cuban-born pianists David Virelles and Hilario Duran were commissioned to create and perform works inspired by Glenn Gould. Birds of a feather, musicians of an instrument; even from the vantage point of their Cuban origins and training, these pianists could not but have been influenced by Gould’s monumental legacy. The task of using their own musical voices while nonetheless transmitting something clearly Gouldian to the audience would be a precariously achieved balance throughout the evening.

Broadcasting live on CBC radio 2 the host, Andrew Craig, interspersed the performance with commentary on the performers and questions to Virelles and Duran about their thoughts on Gould, their impact on each other as the younger and elder generation of Cuban-Canadian pianists, and the particular inspiration for each piece. The atmosphere was scholarly, the crowd tipped towards the generation that might have heard Gould in his prime. It felt strange to await a Cuban music concert with so complete a certainty that there would be no dancing.

Virelles performed first with his quintet and the classical Penderecki String Quartet. The opening piece, “Relativity,” was (most appropriately) inspired by an Escher print of the same name. Beginning with a rubato intro on solo piano, it built towards intense and intricate improvisations that remained primarily on a cool, modern jazz plane. The music reflected its name and inspiration admirably, in the way the time signature cycled through a series of seemingly complex subdivisions, that all wound up being pieces of a deceptively simple whole. Like an Escher print, like a Bach Fugue, the piece revealed more detailed layers the more closely it was examined, but remained harmonious and uncluttered in effect. My one quarrel with it, as with a number of Virelles’ compositions that evening, was in the use of the strings. Only occasionally did they seem to be contributing an essential sound to the ensemble, and rarely, if ever, did one sense that he had written their parts with a particular desire to hear the sounds that strings alone can produce. They seemed added on, somehow, without being fully integrated into the writing. His quintet was, in itself, a smooth and sensitive collective instrument, responding in all its parts to subtle and unsubtle sounds that each member contributed. Devon Henderson on bass stood out in the finesse of his double-stop intonation, a rarity and a pleasure to hear. Virelles’ command of the piano was indeed impressive, crunchy and unexpected and thoughtful in approach.

But the energy rose from the involved and introspective to the more familiar furious and percussive Cuban vibe from the first note when Hilario Duran took the stage with his trio (also accompanied by the Penderecki quartet). The Brazilian and funk influences were clearly heard in the opening piece, “Timba y tamba,” which got the audience thrumming and straining against the decorum of the room in a collective desire to swivel inappropriately to the heady grooves. Music that kinetic always seems on the verge of bursting its bounds; Duran’s rhythmic awareness and control are all the more remarkable, and all the more apparent in his invariable stop-on-a-dime endings and transitions. The writing for strings used a number of well-placed effects such as pizzicato and spiccato (in which the strings are struck with the bow), letting those sounds take centre stage as a kind of orchestral comping instrument. Most amazing were the piano improvisations that actually incorporated fugue-like left-hand counterpoint in a few truly Gould-inspired memorable moments. Try making that up on the spot some day — it ain’t easy. At the other end of the set’s energy spectrum was “For Emiliano”, with its wave-like tremolo strings and piano landscapes and odd-time solo section. Compliments to Mark Kelso on an impressive drum solo.
Hilario Duran (June 2005)
The final tune of the night found Virelles and Duran sharing the stage for Duran’s “Prelude in C,” the piece that was inspired by the Bach opus of the same name. The strings got to do their more regular thing here — bopping along with arpeggiated chord progressions — while the pianists comped for each other with seamless facility and traded fours up to the final showdown of exchanged cadenzas. The last word went to Duran, and the crowd leapt to its feet to give the two leaders their due: a standing ovation.
David Virelles Quintet
David Virelles – piano
Luis Deniz – alto sax
Devon Henderson – bass
Ethan Ardelli – drum kit
Luis Orbegoso – percussion

Hilario Duran Trio
Hilario Duran – piano
Mark Kelso – drum kit
Roberto Occhipinti – bass

Penderecki String Quartet
Jeremy Bell – violin
Jerzy Kaplanek – violin
Christine Vlajk – viola
Simon Fryer – cello

Listen to this concert @ CBC Radio 2 – Concerts On Demand.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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