Jazz in Church: Bucharest, Romania, March 21-24, 2013
March 21-24, 2013
From the very first edition, Jazz in Church has convinced through professionalism and a musical excellence, which are sure to place it soon among the best-rated European festivals. By putting together an illustrious lineup and demonstrating exquisite selectivity, the organizers inaugurated a location that emulates an existing European tradition. For four nights the cupola of the Lutheran Church in Bucharest hosted concerts of superlative creativity and interpretative quality. Four nights which will persist in the memory of those present, like a time suspended in an ethereal weave of soundstender, powerful, subtle, celestial.
Thursday, March 21
Mircea Tiberian & Liviu Butoi
The reputed Romanian duo, Mircea Tiberian on organ and piano, and Liviu Butoi on saxophones and flute, opened the festival with long lingering tones of cloistral solemnity. Organ chords in ascension were joined by the smooth meanderings of the sopranino saxophone, which glided into heights of raking intensity, to abate then in calm stances of contemplation. Later on the sound of flute emerged from the intricate lacework of organ tones in high arches, releasing the melody, which then dissolved in departing whispers.
A calm theme on the piano ended in perfect harmonic rapport with the airy phrasing of the saxophone. Another one, more classical, combined the energetic cadence of the organ with the sonic wanderings of the flute. Like a dense veil, the sax tones smoothed the harmonic crests of the organ, plunging and arising again from abysses. The tension was taken over in minor by the keys with percussion inserts on the first beat, to get in balance with the internal harmony created by the soprano sax. The concert of the two musicians, fully improvised, lent a transcendental breath to the evening.
Nik Baertsch, Sha, Mats Eser & Romanian Strings Orchestra
Nik Baertsch on piano and Sha on bass clarinet started the first part of the program with a sound duality, which met its pendant in the obsessive repetition of two notes at the far end of the keys. The sonic arc, like a perpetual change of moods created by the alternating sounds, became gradually fluid, forming together with the clarinet a compact sonic mass. Later, the sound connected the two instruments in a sonic flow that crossed the podium until the intrusion of the high notes volatilized the dialogue. And then, right in the middle of the rhythmical summit marked by vibrant touches of the keys, the musicians smiled at each other with that nod of recognition so familiar amongst jazzmen. "Modul 42" started with a meditative counterbalance, which gradually broke into segments, resulting in harmonic calmness cluttered with crystals of sound. The intervals grew like the vibration of a seismograph, rounded up later in floral chords, and the hiss of the tide.
Other than the preceding performances, Nik Baertsch renounced the rhythmic arsenal and presented a production of exquisite chromatic complexity, giving us reason to believe that the musician will soon outrun the modular phase. Baertsch, Sha and Mats Eser were joined by a group of young Romanian musicians for a performance of transporting dynamism: Baertsch's composition "Two Three," written for string orchestra, piano, bass clarinet, and percussion (marimba, bass drum, snare drum and crotales).
This is how the journey could be rendered chromatically. The piece began with a torrent of chords, the rhythmicity of which was pierced by energetic accents marked by Mats Eser on the bass drum. The dialogue of piano-marimba became a harmonic tapestry with colorful reliefs in red and black. The tremoloed ascension of the strings was sustained by the obsessive piano balance up to the point where it became reversed. A rarefied sostenuto, in generous breaths, like a generous turn of waltz in waves of white muslin, was followed by insect hums hovering above flowers of a solar yellow. A crescendo in unison augmented gravity by adding to it a symphonic touch. The sonic dynamism seemed to follow the discontinuous thread of a thought. The lyrical alternances with concrete attacks created gulfs of blue light, fazed by momentous wind gusts, shadowed by grey clouds and smoothed by a white whirl that vanished at the horizon.
Friday, March 22
Marked by deep introspection, in which silence played an active part, Francois Couturier gave an interiorized performance punctured by abstract attacks with high falls, in which the conceptual and the lyrical components had a fortunate encounter. Transparent spheres of sound crossed the silence that accompanied them like a harmony. In fulgurant chord sequences, out of which the melody emerged unbound, adagios lashed out, tearing the rich sonic tissue. Offbeat intervals opened like a descent into the depths of consciousness, in caves where the faint streams of nostalgia ceaselessly increase their dripping. And then, again, the calm reflexivity of lyricism was followed by a monologue in firm notes and quick escalations, which adopted the repetitive cadence of a carousel. The serene meditation became a narrative sequence in tender ballad tones. The pure lyricism was stylized into tensioned harmonic modules, which then diminished fluidly like a tender breeze lost in a whisper.
Ferenc Snetberger and Paolo Vinaccia
Ferenc Snetberger, guitar, together with Paolo Vinaccia, percussion, gave a performance of exquisite fluidity, in which the deeply vibrating chords of the guitar came in organic conjunction with the perfect sound architecture of the percussion. The melodic arabesques were accompanied, like an echo, by touches of snare drum and cymbal, followed by granulated gusts of percussion. The Spanish dance inlays on the guitar were generously amplified by rhythmic alternations with solar openings. The percussion on the snare drum joined the theme in counterpoint, marking the drift on parallel rhythmic tracks with a break. Vinaccia provided harmonic fullness through a fine augmentation of the melodiousness, increasing the dramatic effect of Snetberger's performance. The clapping percussion rounded the sonic picture, adding, through the irregularity of the sound an extra touch of organic cohesion. The rhythmic peaks left behind the melodic basis expanding it and creating, at the same time, a new autonomous universe with its own musical configuration.
Saturday, March 23
Misha Alperin's piano solo, "Stories for My Piano," could be compared with a grave fantasy, unraveling in a subtle balance at the point of incidence between the cerebral and the emotional, which sometimes created an image of a stony peak scattered with Edelweiss. The suite started with a robust cadence, sharply atonal curves culminating in melodic florescences. The sound succession in short intervals circumnavigated the theme; the sonic alternation with the left hand sustained a sonic flight carried by ascendant gliding. A theme with a folk touch was dismantled into modules, which recomposed themselves in autonomous structures and fragile spheres, as if set afloat by blowing on a dandelion. The sonic flux was interrupted by major chords which fell with solemnity, gradually giving way to the melody. In a perfectly balanced harmonic alternance, the sounds formed transparent stalactites, out of which the tones dripped off in diminishing successions to close the suite with a long silent note.
Anja Lechner and Francois Couturier
In addition to his how compositions, pianist Francois Couturier and cellist Anja Lechner have interpreted pieces by G.I. Gurdjieff, Federico Mompou, and Anouar Brahem. In a suite of harmonic conjugations, the two musicians alternated subtly infused reflection with dance, Chopin-like breaths with chants of sorrow, and the classical with the forgotten romance. The tone gained in gravity, the pauses grew, and the piano took over the solo part, carrying on the gracious tone of a known story that ended in unison. A dialogue in keynote explored the lyrical territory to later become a bolero with hymnal accents. A humming of strings became pure song on the piano keys. A ballad followed like a nostalgic memento, in which the theme taken over by the piano acquired languorous melodiousness. The sequential combinations of the keys on the vibrant background provided by the cello generated into stormy disjunctions followed by lyrical reconciliations, which were crowned by joyful apexes.
Sunday, March 24
Arianna Savall Petter Udland Johansen
Arianna Savall on harp and Petter Udland Johansen on violin are musical presences, who changed the atmosphere of the place as soon as they entered it, creating a state of grace that enveloped the audience in a halo of spirituality. The two musicians brought along old Catalonian chants, together with ballads of blue fjords, delicate Italian dances, and psalms raised in a diaphanous harmony, which transported the public in the time and place of past ages.
In a caress of the bell with echoes that lingered in departing waves of brass, the voice of Arianna Savall arose as if announcing the beginning of a world. The violin took over the Gregorian song and Johansen's voice answered the call in a long incantation, which he then passed over to the instrument. The touch of the harp strings, like a tactile extension of Arianna's voice, was reminiscent of Saxon damsels in white castle towers. A ballad in vibrant tones regretted the lost beauty of the short Nordic summer; the touches of harp ruffled the strings like the wind bending ears of wheat. A Spanish dance in the clear sound of the mandolin, with whirls of red skirts in large flounces, and sharp taps of the foot were followed by Arianna's composition called "The Waterfall." In the caress of the harp, the crystal course of water followed the smooth voice like a current in which the inserts of the violin created clear whirls. The rhythm amplified the waves, tensing them in downfall over the stone. In St. Francis' prayer for peace the voices rose celestially inter-flowing with the delicate chords of the instruments, creating thus ethereal and eternal chants connected to the heights.
Alexander Balanescu featuring Misha Alperin
Alexander Balanescu began his violin solo with a Bach prelude that through the masculine touch of the bow, seemed to reenact the enormous complexity of the German titan. The draws of the bow tore a cry in which the wood wailed, begged, talked and faded in mute lament, a cry that immersed the nave of the church in a deep silence, pierced only by the hiss of the traffic from a world where the time kept on flowing. "Winter Variations" developed modular sequences, which through the change of register, tempo and intensity, followed the circular meanderings of a thought that doesn't leave.
"Studies for Miriam" strung together a chain of polyphonic successions excellently served by the church acoustics. The percussion attacks on the string led, through a subtler transition, towards a harmonic communion with the piano tones brought by Misha Alperin, which expanded the emotional ambitus of the interpretation. The left hand was joined by the sound of the violin in a somber tenderness. A Romanian motif acquired rock dynamics. From the minimalist accents of the piano, the violin created arches of sound in the resonance of the wood. The two musicians closed the festival in a entwining of force and expressivity that changed the state of sound and which, giving due praise to the environment, populated the silence that followed with a single thought: a marriage made in Heaven.
All Photos: Octavian Todirut