#CremonaBlog Days 4 and 5: Rest of the story (4 years late)

Editorial note: After Day 3 in Cremona, I was simply too exhausted to keep up with blogging until late at night, there was simply no time during the day. So I wrote this final #CremonaBlog post only 4 years after the congress, so there are many details I don’t remember. I just wanted to mention a few of the highlights that happened during the last two days of this wonderful congress. My apologies for the long delay!
– Kristofer Skaug (DVS)

Friday October 7th, 2016

One very memorable performance in the main auditorium was the viola quartet transcription of Bach’s solo sonata BWV 1001. The arranger himself, Carmelo Giallombardo, was joined by three young violists (Benedetta Bucci, Francesca Faneschi, and Luca Cubattoli) in this luscious and very well-rendered transformation of this centerpiece from the violin solo repertoire. Not only were the lines enjoyably distributed across the four voices, but the harmonies were elongated so as to magnify those that are mere suggestions over time in Bach’s original music. Of course while listening to this piece, just like the well-known d-minor Chaconne arrangement for four violas, one cannot entirely escape the thought of the slam-dunk wittiness “how many violas does it take to play a Bach solo violin sonata?” which one might expect from the viola-jokes crowd. Nevertheless I hastened to order the sheet music for my own viola quartet (and we started rehearsing it this spring, 2020 – until Corona shut us down). Very much recommended (see the DVS Viola Ensemble Catalogue for details on where to get the sheet music). The recording of this performance has in the meantime also been published on YouTube:

Hereafter we heard a remarkable solo performance by Atte Kilpeläinen (from the Finnish Viola Society), in Gerard Grisey’s Prologue pour alto seul: Although I am not a subscribed fan of spectral music, this piece kept me spellbound for its entire (considerable) duration. I actually took a lot of notes in my programme booklet, but now (4 years later) I cannot really recall what I meant by them, so I’ll leave it there. But look out for that piece, if someone puts it on a recital programme in your neighbourhood!

The lunch-hour recital featured David Palmizio, a young Italian with a high-quality reputation that had reached me already in The Netherlands. I was not disappointed – his treatment of the Ligeti solo sonata and the Shostakovich sonata was exquisite. Then, after lunch, it was finally time for the DVS-sponsored presentation of new Dutch viola music – pieces written for the occasion by composition students at Codarts Rotterdam:

  • Cultivo No.1 for viola and electronics by Elena Garcia; performed by Raquel Sánchez (from Codarts Rotterdam)
  • Inti Raymi for solo viola by Sebastian Diakakis Nilo, performed by Ursula Skaug (Royal Conservatory of The Hague)
  • CORP for 2 violas, by Boelo de Smit, performed by duo “Everything is OK”, Kardelen Buruk and Oksana Mukosii from the Royal Conservatory of The Hague
  • Frayed Ribbon for 4 violas by Christoph Blum, performed by Kardelen Buruk, Oksana Mukosii, Ursula Skaug and Raquel Sánchez.

In the last piece, creative use was made of the auditorium upstairs gallery to create some very fancy stereophonic effects. See video below:

The post-lunch crowd was disappointingly small, but our students had every reason to be proud of their performance, which really stood out in originality and pioneering interpretation of these brand new pieces.

On the photo here (clockwise from rear left): Kardelen, Ursula, Raquel and Oksana.

I have to skip a lot of things in my report here, but I need to mention two more performances that afternoon:

Firstly the solo programme “España” by the very virtuosic Italian violist Marco Misciagna, a bunch of well-known Spanish guitar classics by Albeniz, Tarrega, Sor etc. arranged by the performer to feature a dazzling technique, particularly in terms of spectacular bowing arpeggio feats etc.

And last but not least the solo chamber recital by our very own “Young Guest of Honour” Dana Zemtsov. She played a formidable programme with among others the Vieuxtemps sonata, Schumann’s Fantrasiestücke, and ending up with the bravado Waxman/Kugel Carmen Fantasy.The evening brought us the traditionally chique IVC Gala Banquet, with speeches of thanks from the IVS President Carlos Maria Solare, as well as the official invitation to next year’s IVC congress in Wellington, New Zealand – brought to us by Anna Brooker.

Saturday October 8th, 2016

On the very last day of this congress, there were two more Dutch contributions. Amsterdam-based violist Elisabeth Smalt performed Patrick Ozzard-Low’s “Sonata: In Opposition” as part of a lecture-recital programme together with the composer himself. The performance was held in a darkened auditorium, where Elisabeth moved between different music stands all over the stage – quite an experience to let your ears explore this very modern music in this space.

Secondly, there was Kolja Meeuwsen‘s excellent lecture titled “Viola Masters from the Acoustic Era”, treating historical viola recordings from the early period 1877-1925. Lots of really interesting material was shown/played, e.g. recordings of Nedbal, Tertis, Vieux and Primrose. Kolja also brought some very fascinating hardware to show, such as an ancient suitcase-based turntable.I apologize again from everything and everyone that I’m not mentioning here, there were so many good contributions, interesting lectures, recitals, master classes. But I have to wrap up this account here and now.

During the closing ceremonies of a Viola Congress there’s (almost) always that ultimate viola extravaganza: The massed viola orhestra! Under the baton of violist and arranger Francesco Fiore, everyone present who knew how to hold a viola sat down for a fun programme of Telemann, Bizet, Wagner, Mendelssohn … and, that which you really expect and hope to do when in Italy (especially when so close to Milan and La Scala), some good Verdi opera music! such as Va pensiero from Nabucco. I hadn’t brought a viola to Cremona, but the local Cremonese (originally Dutch) luthier Mathijs Heyligers, who had his instruments on display at the congress, kindly lent me a beautiful tenor viola for this occasion. Can you tell I’m having fun? (that’s me in the corner, far right).

During this closing Ceremony, prof. Michael Kugel received the Silver Alto Clef, a special IVS award, for his contributions to the viola world.

So that was it for Cremona 2016! Thank-you so much to our host Dorotea Vismara and her team for memorable week. We – Karin and I – picked up a lot of valuable information and experience here which – in retrospect – came in very handy once we started organizing our own 2018 congress in Rotterdam.