Saturday, January 23, 2016
The Art of The Chaconne
Pianist Sarah Cahill (above, with composer Danny Clay) performed a fascinating recital last Sunday which consisted completely of chaconnes, a disreputable dance imported from Mexico to Spain and Italy in the 1600s, and then domesticated by French composers during the Baroque era. There was a revival of the musical form in the 20th century, which spurred the inspired programming Cahill offered, where works by Handel, Purcell, Couperin and the remarkable Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) were interspersed with music by Stefan Wolpe, Sofia Gubaidulina, Carl Nielsen and the world premiere of a chaconne written for her by Danny Clay. My favorite of the afternoon was the 1962 Chaconne of Gubaidulina, with its crashing dissonances and brilliant, moody skittering, which Cahill performed magnificently.
The concert was presented by Noe Valley Chamber Music, a neighborhood classical music organization started in 1992, which has been wandering homeless for a number of years while its longtime host, the Noe Valley Ministry on Sanchez and 23rd, was undergoing reconstruction. The results are beautiful and the warm, resonant sound bouncing off all the wood is superb. There was a large crowd for the concert and the organizers seemed to be ecstatic over being back in their old home. So was the audience, including my date who mentioned the entire concert had made her nostalgic for the Sunday afternoon concerts she used to attend there in the 1990s.