Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu – December 3, 2022

The Chamber Music Kelowna concert on Saturday evening at the Mary Irwin Theatre was a delight of moods, colours and exotic rhythms.  The powerhouse violin and piano duo of Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu took the audience on a marvelous tour of French music. They played beautifully and energetically, with Mr Chiu providing a clarity of texture and warm tone from his first sensitive touch on the keyboard, and Mr. Crow warming our hearts with a sumptuous and lyrical violin sound throughout the evening.

Jonathan Crow, a native of Prince George, BC, earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1998 from McGill University, was co-Concertmaster of the Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal from 2002-2006 and has been Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 2011. He is Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Toronto and has performed all over the world as a chamber musician. Philip Chiu, inaugural winner of the Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer, has become one of Canada’s leading musicians and is known for his brilliant performances, sensitive listening and a stage presence which engages the audience. He concertizes extensively across North America as well as in France, Japan and the United States. Both musicians have a gift for communicating with the audience.

The Sonata in A Major, op. 39 (1850) by Louise Farrenc is in four movements. As a woman composer and pianist, rare in the 19th century, she paved the way for women composers and performers today.  Jonathan Crow rather humorously mentioned that in Louise Farrenc’s time, French concert-goers didn’t care much for French music, so she patterned her style of composition on the German style, represented by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. The first movement has a pastoral feeling reminiscent of the first movement of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. In the Scherzo-Allegro, the rhythm is very complex and the tempo very fast bringing on an urge to get up and dance. The third movement is a lovely lyrical Adagio, demonstrating Farrenc’s gift of melody reminiscent of Mozart.  The final Allegro is a graceful, melodic movement with the piano and violin taking turns with the melodic lines.

In his introduction to the second part of the program, Homage to Heifetz, Jonathan Crow commented that in the late 19th and early 20th century, French audiences loved French music but French composers loved composing music of other countries, especially Spain, Brazil and other Latin American countries, which gave the audience another chuckle. The compositions in this section, including Brasileira from Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud, Beau Soir by Claude Debussy, and Excerpts from An American in Paris, by George Gershwin, were all composed for various instrumentations and arranged for violin and piano by the great American violinist of the 20th century, Jascha Heifetz.

The second half of the concert was comprised of the Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major, op. 13 (1875) by Gabriel Fauré.  This sonata was a great success at its première, with Fauré himself playing the piano.  It opens with an Allegro in Sonata form, continues with a beautiful Andante with the violin singing a barcarolle, a traditional melody of Venetian gondoliers, at the beginning.  The third movement is a scherzo, a lively playful dance with complicated rhythms and pizzicati (plucked strings), paired with a lyric Trio.  The Finale is another Allegro articulated with loud outbursts and syncopated rhythms.  In this music, there are many tonal and harmonic  colours, with some audience members seeing actual colours in their imaginations, stimulated by the music.

The audience went away thoroughly satisfied with the feast of music which was presented by these first-class musicians.

Karen Krout is a retired violinist and teacher who is fortunate enough to continue playing
chamber music with friends, truly the highlight of every week. She is inspired by the high
quality performances of internationally known musicians featured
by Chamber Music Kelowna and other arts organizations in Kelowna and the surrounding area.

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