My Mondays off afford me the opportunity to take in free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center from time to time. I gravitate toward the recitals sponsored by the Musicians Club of Women – they present “award winners in concert” and start at 12:15 (on the dot). Last Monday, November 26, the award winner was Venezuelan violinist Allison Lovera.
Lovera opened the concert with Bach’s famous Partita 2 in D Minor, the final Chaconne. The piece is dazzling for violinists and those who love the instrument. The chaconne is widely viewed as a pinnacle of musical achievement, profoundly difficult and emotionally full. Brahms, one of the 19th century’s foremost musical authorities, observed:
On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.
I did not know the piece was on the program prior to heading out into the snowy Monday, but when I heard Lovera play I was thrilled to have made the excursion. While I’ve watched many, many people perform the Chaconne on Youtube videos, I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing it live. Lovera’s technique was crisp and her instrument produces rich tones, which highlight the key’s primary mood. Those of us assembled under the Tiffany glass dome (an impressive crew for a snowy Monday!) listened and watched with a near-religious attentiveness.
The program was a feast for solo violin – after the Chaconne came an etude by Piazzolla, who Lovera explained is her mother’s favorite composer, and the great Belgian Eugene Ysaye’s Sonata No. 2. A lively Jazz piece by contemporary composer William Grant Still rounded out the program, for which Lovera was joined by pianist Mizi Li. But it’s hard to compete with the Chaconne – here’s a 1997 recording of Hilary Hahn, and Perlman’s Chaconne starts at about 13:30 of this 1978 recording of the whole Partita. Both are beyond brilliant.
Many thanks to Allison Lovera and the Musicians Club of Women for the opportunity to hear this magnificent work.
Thanks for reading.