David Eggert’s mother must have felt proud as she listened to her 26-year-old son wrestle seemingly impossible notes from the cello at Wednesday’s concert presented by the North Okanagan Community Concert Association.
And the chests of the family of local pianist Jim Leonard must have swelled too, as he stepped into the breach left by Eggert’s original accompanist, Arnold Draper, who was forced to cancel due to ill health.
The program could not have been more varied, nor could it have more thoroughly exhibited the skill of both musicians.
The first half embraced the romance of Gabriel Fauré’s Sicilienne, which Eggert played twice due to a page-turning issue at the piano when two pages of music “merged” into one, and it progressed to Iannis Xenakis’ Kottos –– the only piece for which Eggert required sheet music, several sheets in fact, which overflowed two separate music stands.
Yet the sounds that emerged from his 1871 Niccolo Bianchi cello, loaned by Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben in Hamburg, bore little resemblance to conventional music notation, and required an acquired taste.
Eggert explained how the composer, Xenakis, pioneered the use of mathematical models in his work and likened his patterns and rhythms to those of falling rain, to which no time signature can be applied. A fuller analysis of Xenakis’ fascinating theories can be followed in his filmed interview with Andrew Toovey on YouTube.
Both Eggert and Leonard played as if they’d been working together for years rather than a mere five hours of rehearsal. Leonard said Eggert eased his task of taking over at the last minute by explaining what he required with clarity and humility, and added, “He will go far. His sense of fun is as inspiring as his gift for making great music.”
That clarity, humility and sense of fun, as well as that gift for making great music, were evident on stage once Eggert settled into his stride. In fact, there was a hint of disappointment from the crowd when he commented on his father’s advice to never speak for longer than it took to play the piece he was introducing. That might have presented a challenge, even for him, with his last piece which ran 35 minutes.
“See you at the end,” he smiled, as he settled himself, sans pianist and music, to interpret the sombre tones of Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello.
And the audience rose to the occasion, including the young cello students and their teachers from the Vernon Community Music School, who filled the front rows at the Performing Arts Centre and who entertained royally in the foyer before the show. In contrast to Kodaly’s sonata, the graceful encore, Saint-Saens’s The Swan from Carnival of the Animals, felt like the dessert promised as a child at dinner time.
Some may have found parts of the program inaccessible, but that didn’t detract from Eggert’s prowess as a musician nor his presence as a relaxed raconteur, nor, of course, for his mother’s cause to be proud.
The North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s final concert this season, Buzz Brass on April 26, is geared to the whole family, with tickets at special rates for young students.
–– Christine Pilgrim is a local actress and writer who review the North Okanagan Community Concert Associations series for The Morning Star.