Farewell to a great pianist: Family, friends and admirers gathered at the Federated Church in Charlemont, Mass., last Saturday morning to pay respects to the late Anne Koscielny, a western Mass. resident who died earlier this month. A charming lady who maintained her southern graciousness throughout her life, Anne was an admired teacher, an inspiring lecturer — and one of the finest classical pianists I have ever heard, in person or from recordings.
That’s the unanimous verdict among those I’ve spoken to about Anne. During the service, a recording Anne made of a Chopin Nocturne (Op. 27, N0. 2) played into the sanctuary where she had concertized on a few occasions. I could only agree the verdict that Estela Olevsky, herself a wonderful Chopin pianist, delivered at the post-service reception: “Perfect.”
Yet I dare say that most classical fans have never heard of her. Nor did Anne leave behind a vast discography, though I wonder what else one might find where that Chopin Nocturne came from. In a column for WNPR radio, Steve Metcalf, a long-time presence on the Connecticut classical scene, speculates as to why that was, and to why classical music has so few superstars at present. Highly recommended reading.
Guitar Nouveau: Joseph Ricker and Jamie Balmer, better known as Duo Orfeo, plug in to chill out. Playing classical music on vintage electric guitars and tube amplifiers, Joe and Jamie use the juice not for volume, but for myriad shades of quiet.
Their previous album, “I Sing the Body Electric,” explored the tradition of classical spareness from Erik Satie to John Cage to Frederic Mompou to the inevitable and most welcome Arvo Pärt. On Duo Orfeo’s latest, “Guitar Nouveau,” the range expands, both in terms of repertoire and dynamics. Arranged into two “Books,” “Morning into Evening” and “Night into Dawn,” the nineteen selections come from almost every century from the 14th to the 21st (the 15th gets left out), though their ordering is shaped by emotional affect, not chronology — smart programming.
One of the best comes first, Joe Ricker’s “Variations on a Theme from the Sacred Harp,” to which a panoply of Duane Eddy/Bill Frisell-esque twangs and bends lend a rustic coloration, much like the sepia on old photographs. Three selections from Leoš Janáček’s introspective piano cycle “On an Overgrown Path” surprised me with how well the transfer from keyboard to fretboards was made. The last of the three, “The Barn Owl has not flown away!” features the deftest and most delicate interplay on the album. And William Byrd’s “The Bells,” a classic of Elizabethan keyboard, positively jumps out of the speakers with joyous and playful energy — a delightful way to welcome dawn and conclude the album.
Having made the goal on their just-completed Kickstarter campaign, it looks like Duo Orfeo will be releasing “Guitar Nouveau” sometime in the near future. As the blog’s title says, “stay tuned…”
Breaking news: “Guitar Nouveau” will be released on March 21 at the Duo Orfeo website and the iTunes Store. There will be an album release concert on March 21st at the Thread Arts Collective, 64 Cottage St., Easthampton (7:00 p.m., $15 a the door) and May 30th at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham (details tba).