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Review: IVCI laureate series, Vol. 2

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Harpist Agnes Clement
  • Harpist Agnes Clement

Indiana History Center; Nov. 8

Lesson learned? Never schedule a concert for the evening following any election during this consequential time in which we live. It's guaranteed to keep people home, and was surely the cause for the relatively smaller turnout for a series which usually well fills the IHC's Basile Theater. However, those who usually attend and didn't this time missed an evening of luscious harp playing, dominating the 11 offerings. They were nicely complemented by 2010's International Violin Competition of Indianapolis's sixth-place laureate, Andrey Baranov and piano accompanist Miki Aoki.

The harpist was 21-year-old Agnès Clément, first prize winner of the eighth USA International Harp Competition in Bloomington -- also from 2010. Solo harp playing is rarely heard in local environs, yet just two weeks ago, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra hosted Czech Republic harpist and international concertizer, Jana Boušková. Though they say good things come in threes, I see no more harpist appearances in the offing.

Camille Saint-Saëns' late-written (1907) Fantasie for Violin and Harp, Op. 124 began the proceedings, with Clément's arpeggiated rolls giving the, by then, conservative Romantic composer an impressionistic quality. Baranov's violin occasionally overshadowed Clément's delicate strums with somewhat brash, overpowering bowing.

Then we had five harp solos, completing the first half, Clément creating her magic across many eras, with music by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Jean Phillipe Rameau (1683-1764), Michael Maganuco (b. 1987) and Elias Parish-Alvars (1808-1849). Having witnessed so few of them in my lifetime, I confess to lacking the ability to judge harp-playing nuances. Given this qualification, Clément's strumming throughout sounded masterful, her notes right on target and her dynamic shading wholly apropos. She seemed to produce a lighter sound than Boušková, who also appeared to have a larger instrument.

Baranov joined Clément after the break for Debussy's La plus que lente, just one of many instrument combinations for which the composer arranged this waltz. Baranov continued to dominate excessively. But for the next three pieces, it was a Baranov-Aoki -- violin-piano -- duo: Shostakovich's 4 Preludes, Op. 34; Tchaikovsky's Valse-Scherzo, also Op. 34; Pablo de Sarasate's very well known Zigeunerweisen (a Spanish composition with a very German moniker), Op. 20 No. 1. Here Baranov better impressed with not only more contained bowing control, but managing the latter piece's manifest difficulties with great dispatch.

Violinist and harpist rejoined for the final number, "Tango Nightclub 1960," by that Argentine tango master, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). That's when we had the standing ovation.

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