Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cohen’

Askim’s New Music Composition Revealed

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Viola Master Class with Ms. Kozasa. (from L) Sirayah, Alex, Ayane Kozasa, Kathy and Howard

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Tuesday, Nov. 8th afternoon concert at Stephens Recital Hall was limited to just a select few. Among those in attendance were student composers, poets, and musicians, along with a few teachers. What they were about to hear was a New Music composition by Peter Askim, Idyllwild Arts’ award-winning music director and composer-in-residence. Not only were they going to hear a brand-new piece, but also the viola player was a winner.

“This viola piece called, ‘Inner Voices,’ was written for the Primrose International Viola Competition in Austin last year, but the winner is here tonight to play it for us,” said Peter Askim, and then introduced Ayane Kozasa, a senior music student at Curtis Institute of  Music in Philadelphia.

“There were viola players from all over the country playing this piece, which was a required piece,” Peter explained. “Everyone had to learn it at the same amount of time, and Ayane won the prize for the best performance. And in a minute, you’ll see why.”

Peter handed out a few scores of “Inner Voices” for those who wanted to follow along, as Ms. Kozasa walked to the front of the room. She was a pretty woman in a black shift dress, and boots that matched the snow outside. Her hair was cut short, perhaps so that it wouldn’t interfere with her instrument.

Looking around, I learned quickly the best way to listen to New Music compositions, was to close your eyes. To my right, Peter had his eyes closed and was leaning forward slightly. To my left, Andrew Leeson, an Creative Writing instructor, also closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Across the room, Idyllwild Arts Headmaster Brian Cohen (who also plays the viola) had his eyes closed.

Ms. Kozasa shows Alex how to dance while playing his piece as Brian Cohen looks on.

I wasn’t sure why these guys were closing their eyes when there was a pretty coed onstage, but I guessed it was “all about the music” at this point.

From a past experience of listening to a New Music Concert at the Los Angeles Philharmonic last year, I knew that it wasn’t going to be like any standard music. It’s as if the composers crumpled it up and threw it out the window.

(from R) Peter Askim introduces Aane Kozasa to headmaster Brian Cohen

When the conductor started the New Music Concert at the LA Phil, I thought all of the musicians were still warming up. The piece had an unsettled, frenetic feeling about it.

“When are they going to start playing?” I asked the student next to me in the balcony. “Shh, they’re playing,” was my answer.

Now, sitting in Stephens Recital Hall listening to Peter’s  “Inner Voices,” I knew to expect the unexpected.

I breathed in slowly, resisting the urge to close my eyes and decided to focus on the young woman’s viola and bow.

What came out of her instrument was frenetic, and intense. Like someone running through the snow, but at a very fast pace. Maybe the person was running from the police? Who knows? But he was definitely running for his life.

Then I realized that it wasn’t likely an urban setting, but perhaps in Idyllwild. I imagined a person running through the forest. Since there aren’t any bears in these parts, perhaps the person was running from himself?

Then, after the intense part ended, the mood changed, and everything slowed down dramatically. Again, I thought of nature, and how everything seems calm after a rainstorm.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kozasa was putting on a nice performance for the audience who still had their eyes open. She moved across the stage, often times arching her bow as if it were a spear. Then she’d play the queer high notes with such delicacy that her bow barely touched the strings.

During “Inner Voices,” there were many long pauses, in which I was tempted to clap before it was over. Yet, I resisted, and succommed to the tension of the piece, which ended with more of a light “pop” than a razor-sharp dramatic ending. That was rather nice.

“That’s amazing world-class playing,” Peter said, as he stood, clapping for Ms. Kozasa.

“Peter is the master of negative space,” Andrew exclaimed.

When Peter heard that comment repeated later on, he laughed.

Ms. Kozasa works with Howard on his piece

Ms. Kozasa said that it wasn’t a difficult piece to play, once she broke it down into sections.

Peter asked her to explain to the audience how she would approach playing a new piece such as this one.

“Well, I’d look at the bigger sections at first,” she said. “And then try and figure out the character of each part. It’s harder when its free form.”

Peter said that oftentimes, the students think about the fingerings and trying to get the rhythm right, but they have a hard time finding out the meaning of the piece.

Ms. Kozasa said that she tries to find out what the composer is trying to say within the fingerings of the piece. Whenever possible, she also researches other music from the same composer to help with the meaning.

Afterward, Peter said that he finished “Inner Voices” about this time last year, but it had nothing to do with nature or the weather in Idyllwild.

“I finished it in the winter, but started it in the summer,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the seasons.”

So much for my interpretation of a man running through the snow.

For the next hour, Ms. Kozasa held a Master Class in which sh worked with four viola players, including Howard, Alex, Kathy and Syriah. Each played a short piece for her, in which she gave input and suggestions. More often than not, Ms. Kozasa suggested the students become more physical and aggressive in their performances.

Ms. Kozasa makes suggestions to Kathy

For example, when Alex played a slow, Bach piece, Ms. Kozasa stated that it was a dance, and suggested that Alex take a few dance steps.

What?! Dance while he was playing? I tried to imagine what was going through that young man’s head!

“This piece is really about dances back then,” she said. “And the third step is really suspended in mid-air. Try and step while you play. Here, let me show you.”

And then she played the same song, but exaggerated the steps to an unknown dance as she moved across the stage.

Alex, likely eager to please, played the piece again, and moved as best he could to the ancient dance.

“That’s beautiful,” she exclaimed as he finished. “It feels more like a dance in which your whole body is moving to the music. Now, try and put character into each step. Don’t be afraid of making a huge dip.”

After all of the students had played, Peter and Ms. Kozasa stuck around at Stephens to record the piece. He said to look for it soon on iTunes.

For more information and to see a video of Ms. Kozasa at the June 5th Primrose Competition, visit www.peteraskim.com.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 11, 2011 @ 1:28

 

 

 

 

Soloist & Student Orchestra Handle Mishap with Grace

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Peter Askim's violin soloist showed grace under pressure Saturday night. (Photo from another event. Courtesy Idyllwild Arts).

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Broken strings. You can bet that world-class violin soloists playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony have broken their violin strings onstage before.

However, that must’ve been cold comfort for Ally, the 16-year-old sophomore, during her first solo with the Idyllwild Arts Orchestra (IAO) Saturday night, Oct. 15.

Halfway through her 20-minute piece, Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 61, Ally’s violin strings broke. Immediately she said, “Sorry,” and stopped playing.

“I knew that she was in trouble,” said Xiofan, better know as Sa-Sa, the principal violin player. “There’s no way she could fix it.”

Sa-Sa offered his violin to Ally, and she continued playing the rest of the piece without incident.

“You barely noticed that anything was wrong,” said Alex, a voice major from New Zealand who attended the concert Saturday night. “There was a natural pause. But afterwards, I think she sounded better on Sa-Sa’s violin.”

Ally's strings broke halfway through the Beethoven piece Sat. night (File photo).

But that left Sa-Sa without a violin. As first chair and concertmaster, you can bet that the orchestra needed him to keep playing as much as they needed the soloist.

Without prompting, Lin Ma, another student violinist, offered Sa-Sa his violin, and the music continued.

“I think that’s the natural order of things,” said one Idyllwild Arts student whose sister plays violin with a professional orchestra. “The concertmaster offers the soloist his instrument, and the violin next in line offers the concertmaster his and it goes down the line. They did the right thing.”

What Peter Askim, music director and conductor, was thinking, no one knows but him. Yet, Peter addressed the mishap with humor by using an analogy before the Sunday afternoon, Oct. 16, concert began.

“Most of the students in the orchestra are brand new to Idyllwild Arts,” Peter explained. “Like a new sports car, we took it out for a ride yesterday and tested its meddle. After shifting a few gears, we’ll sound even better today.”

There was laughter coming from audience members who knew about the mishap, while others didn’t know why Peter was talking about sports cars.

“I checked Ally’s violin before she went onstage today,” Sa-Sa said. “Everything was just fine.”

You can bet that Ally’s heart was racing a bit faster as she neared the part in the music where her strings had broken.

“Sa-Sa was the hero Saturday night,” Alex exclaimed. “When he came onstage after the break, everyone clapped especially hard for him.”

Shen was the clarinet soloist

Sa-Sa said that he didn’t notice.

But a 10-second mishap is not the entire concert, and a lost shoe is not the game. I once saw a star shooter during a UCLA basketball lose his shoe, and scramble to recover it without stopping play.

It happens to the best of them.

For her second concert solo on Sunday afternoon, Ally showed incredible grace and composure. Perhaps only her mother would know how nervous she was. Only once during a rest did Ally inspect her violin strings, and hold the instrument up to her ear.

Mr. and Mrs. Yang came all the way from Dalian, on the coast of China, to her their daughter play. (Their uncle is a pilot so they can fly free). During the concert, both were busy recording Ally’s performance on their cameras.

Not only did Ally maintain her composure, she played the Beethoven concerto as if it wasn’t difficult at all. At times, it sounded as if two violins were playing simultaneously. And there were parts where Ally’s fingers were moving so fast, it looked as if they weren’t moving at all.

That’s the beauty of young talent, and she’s only going to get better with each experience.

“You did a great job today, honey, and yesterday too,” said one woman to Ally after the concert Sunday.

Ally thanked her and smiled. The hard part was over.

For his clarinet solo, Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 5, Shen appeared serious, but also played with grace and a loud, clear sound. For fans like me, it seemed like eternity before he got to play. Yet when Shen was in the spotlight, he took his time. Yahuda, his teacher, would have been proud.

According to the program, Crusell wrote most of his concertos so that he’d have something to play. And this clarinet concerto was one of the best works – both melodic and emotionally inventive.

On Sunday, both Ally’s and Shen’s solos were perfectly executed. During their encore bows, both received standing ovations from the audience. New headmaster Brian Cohen, who plays the violin, was first on his feet applauding loudly. Peter Askim also appeared pleased, giving Shen a hearty hug, and holding Ally’s hand as they bowed together.

As someone once said, “It’s not about the mistakes you make, but how you recover.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:56

 

 

 

 

 

Art Showcase of Faculty & Staff Talent

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

'Nate' by Rachael Welch

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the final Idyllwild Arts Faculty & Staff Art Show on Aug. 9, there was an eclectic mix of pieces. There were more paintings than pottery compared to the last show, prints from the new headmaster, some “shocking” paintings, and friendship nudity.

The three prints from Brian D. Cohen, the new headmaster of Idyllwild Arts Academy, were a perfect selection, given the natural surroundings of Idyllwild. Brian’s black-and-white etchings showed a pear-and-apple arrangement, a closeup of tree bark and a mystic silhouette of a pine tree in the distance. All showed his command of the print medium, and a keen sensitivity to nature (But they don’t photograph well!)

I especially liked his relief etching, “Tree Trunk,” although it was likely a tree from Vermont, and not Idyllwild. A teacher once told me that you could see wars in the bark of trees, if you look close enough.

'Fatherless Bride 2' by John Brosio

The two “shocker” paintings came from John Brosio. “Fatherless Bride 2,” was a medium-sized oil painting that featured a young woman in a long gown. “Carrie,” the 1976 horror movie based on Stephen King’s first novel, comes to mind.

In the movie, Sissy Spacek was doussed with pig’s blood, and appeared shocked in all the trailers, to say the least. However, in “Fatherless Bride 2,” there is the same amount of blood splattered on the young woman, with some drooling from her chin, but she has more of a “hunted” demeanor.

When several people looked at it, they marveled at Brosio’s technique, but didn’t understand the premise.

“Some artists just like to shock,” one woman said. “But he can definitely paint.”

The second of Brosio’s two paintings showed a close up of a fish head with a cigarette in its mouth. Everyone knows that fish don’t smoke, so this couldn’t be a preachy commentary about that.

“Just look at the way the head was cut off,” exclaimed Tressa, one of the attendees, pointing to the sharp diagonal.

'Stefania' by Jacqueline Ryan

Everyone was searching for the artist, who had just left.

Next to his paintings however, was a single portrait by Rachael Welch, who has taught painting many summers at Idyllwild Arts. She also works at Cafe Aroma, and showcases many of her paintings in their library/gallery.

Moreover, some of her jazz portraits have graced Cafe Aroma’s house wine labels, namely Marshall Hawkins, Barnaby Finch and lately, Casey Abrams.

Rachael’s single painting in the show had a predominately green and salmon palette. It was a portrait of “Nate.”

It wasn’t your typical portrait pose. This young man held his fingers up to his face in a sort of a “bugaboo” fashion, like he was mugging for the camera. There was also a faraway look in his eyes.

'Jackie' by Stefania Ford

“Why did she use salmon for the background color?” one woman asked her friends.

The others were trying to figure out what Nate was doing. Was he high on something? Was he playing a video game? The colors and the composition made it compelling.

Jacqueline Ryan, a painting assistant, was the one who convinced me to enter the faculty show.

“There’s never enough paintings by staff members,” she said. “Keep trying.”

However, this young woman, who just graduated from college, had a command of the medium. Her painting of a nude woman was connected to another sculpture in the show. Jacqueline told the story:

“This painting is of Stefania, the ceramics teacher,” Jacqueline explained. “She finished this sculpture of me that she started last year, so I decided to do a painting of her.”

(From top) Jazz greats Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday by Marcia E. Gawecki

“Jackie,” Stefania’s ceramic sculpture, featured a Rueben-esque kneeling nude, which captured Jacqueline’s energy. Stefania wasn’t around to comment on her piece.

She also had several organic pottery pieces on a pedestal next to her sculpture.

Next to “Stefania,” was my larger-than-life banner of Barnaby Finch, a local jazz musician who has played with some big-name jazz musicians. (I drive for Idyllwild Arts, so I’m considered a staff member.)

The banner measured about five feet across and nearly seven feet long. Cristie Scott, the gallery assistant, had to hang the banner by herself, which is quite the feat and without the slightest irritation.

Last year, the banner of Barnaby hung outside Cafe Aroma’s deck during the Jazz in the Pines event. It served as a backdrop for many jazz performances.

“It’s definitely the largest piece in the show,” Cristie said.

At first inspection, I noticed that the perspective was off. Barnaby’s head was much larger than his jawline. Most of my painting was done on my kitchen floor, so it was hard to get a perspective. Yet, I should have hung it over the porch railing before hanging it in the gallery.

'Paint the Black Hole Blacker' by David Delgado

“I want to disappear!” I thought to myself. “What was I doing showing a piece with an off perspective?”

I was grateful that Barnaby himself hadn’t showed up!

So when a young woman in a bright orange dress started dancing in front of the Barnaby banner, laughing with her friends and mugging for the camera, I was convinced that she was making fun of it.

“No, she’s just wearing a bright orange dress, and reacting to the colors of your piece,” explained Cristie.

She was right because I followed the woman around the gallery, and she wasn’t dancing in front of other pieces, including”Fatherless Bride 2.”

(From L) 'Double View Evening' and 'Tree Shadows at Sue's House' by Jessica Schiffman

All of the pieces are for sale. Part of the sale proceeds go to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program.

This faculty show will remain on display at the Parks Exhibition Center until this Saturday, Aug. 20. The gallery will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Cristie at the gallery at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2251

EDITOR’S NOTE: Technically, I should not review an art show that I have pieces in. It would never fly in a standard newspaper–conflict of interest and all that. But, for now, a biased perspective is better than none at all, right?

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Aug 13, 2011 @ 21:41