By Ted AYALA
Cellist Maksim Velichkin’s series of chamber concerts at Atwater Village’s ATX Kitchen, dubbed the M3 series, have been one of the successes of local music making in the past year.
Held in a back room of the ATX Kitchen – complete with a small bar – an assortment of classical works are offered in a casual atmosphere that quietly subverts the notion of classical music as a stuffy and elitist pastime. Audience members happily clap between movements, enjoying a drink or meal, while passing Metrolink trains provide their occasional rumbling counterpoint.
The music presented on July 10 as a whole gave the impression of a kind of platter of various hors d’oeuvres. While their quality varied from one to the other, the flavor of each was distinct.
Distinguished and of remarkable quality were the two pieces by Los Angeles area composer George N. Gianopoulos. Receiving their world premieres were his “Monologue for Solo Cello” and “Three Conversations for Two Clarinets.”
The latter work was rich with the sly humor and chromatic slide-slips characteristic of Gianopoulos’ music. Though conservative in harmony, Gianopoulos’ music has a freshness of utterance that gives his work an unmistakably modern flavor. Clarinetists Virginia Figuereido and Jonathan Sacdalan played well, if rather too carefully, evincing that they had yet not quite absorbed the music. Nevertheless, the easy wit of Three Conversations managed to shine through.
Somewhat different was the Monologue. Though still bright in sections, it was riddled with a sense of gloomy introspectiveness. Accentuating this was the expressive playing of Maksim Velichkin, who underlined this aspect of the Monologue with his own sense of Slavic melancholy.
Velichkin, along with pianist Motoko Honda, offered an eight-minute improvisation, with snatches of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G stirred deep in a postmodern stew.
Pianist Harout Senekeremian also provided an improvisation, a Romantic era pastiche. He followed this with a solid Schumann “ABEGG Variations,” the composer’s playful love letter to the pianist Clara Wieck, who eventually became his wife. Senekeremian’s choice of tempi, as well as telling weighting and shading of chords, was deeply satisfying.
Amidst these offerings were three slender salon pieces and a Liszt piece transcribed for harp played by Vanessa Sheldon. Though her intonation soured at places, she nonetheless was able to convey the winsome charm of her selections well. Even so, one wished she had chosen a more varied program. Pleasant music it all was. But playing them back-to-back resulted in a loss of their sweetness. Cumulatively the pastel colors of each canceled the others out, making for a monotony of tone and expression that wore out each piece’s welcome fast.
There was a little something for everyone at the concert, with the Gianopoulos pieces easily the choice pick.