Marina Thibeault and Corey Hamm – May 27, 2022

Chamber Music Kelowna capped off their 42nd season on Friday with an intimate recital featuring violist Marina Thibeault and pianist Corey Hamm. A near capacity audience filled the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre for the Arts for this recital, and the gratitude felt by both the audience and the performers to finally be gathering again to share live music together was palpable.

The program opened with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Divertimento D major. While originally written for baryton, viola, and cello, the version performed by Thibeault and Hamm was the transcription made by the prominent cellist Gregor Piatigorsky who is well known for expanding the cello repertoire by transcribing works by earlier composers for the instrument. While the transcribed version only loosely resembles Haydn’s original composition, Thibeault and Hamm captured the wit and charm that is so characteristic of the music of Haydn.

The program continued with the Sonata for viola and piano, op. 240 by the French composer Darius Milhaud. Comprised of four short movements: Entrée, Français, Air, and Finale, this work fuses the contrapuntal and dance form structures of the baroque era with the emerging polytonal harmonic palette of mid-20th century France.

Of particular note was the second half of the concert which was dedicated entirely to the music of the British/American violist and composer Rebecca Clarke. Thibeault’s extensive onstage remarks about Clarke clearly conveyed not only her passion for Clarke’s music but also her depth of knowledge of Clarke’s personal and professional life; Clarke being one of the few internationally recognized female performers/composers of the 20th century. Even though it is widely acknowledged that the classical music world of today is actively striving to evolve away from its patriarchal past, it is still all too rare to see music by female composers included on mainstream concert programs, let alone have the entire second half of a concert dedicated solely to the music of one single female composer. Thibeault and Hamm certainly deserve credit for presenting just such a program to Kelowna audiences; programming whose time has certainly come.

The evocative and ethereal piece Morpheus by Rebecca Clarke opened the second half of the recital. Premiered by Clarke herself in New York City in 1918, she originally presented this work under the nom de plume of “Anthony Trent” so it would be better accepted by critics and audiences at the time (just one example of the many challenges Clarke faced being a female composer in the early 1900s).

The evening concluded with Clarke’s Sonata for viola and piano. Believed to have been written in 1919, this expansive three movement work showcased Thibealult’s outstanding technical and musical abilities as well as Hamm’s always sensitive and collaborative approach. While arguably reminiscent of the music of Ravel or Debussy, this work clearly highlighted Clarke’s unique voice as a composer and the plainchant-like opening of the 3rd Movement in particular was beautifully interpreted by both artists.

Friday night’s concert was well received by the CMK audience and the artists garnered two well-deserved curtain calls at the end of the performance.

Sandra Wilmot is a Kelowna-based free-lance musician, educator and violin instructor. She plays professionally with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kelowna Community Music School.

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