Offering Riddles & Enigmas

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By 2017-04-02

By Ranga Chandrarathne

'Notes and Words,' a Chamber Music Society of Colombo (CMSC) concert held in March combining the music of J.S. Bach and the writing of James Joyce. Sponsored by the CMSC's premier sponsor, Fairway Holdings and in association with the Goethe-Institute, Colombo.

Participating musicians and reciters, Lakshman Joseph de Saram, violin I. Sulara Nanayakkara, violin II. Avanti Perera, viola. Saranga Cooray, cello. Sureka Amerasinghe, flute. Johann Peiris, keyboard. Ohan Hominis and Michael Ketigian, reciters.
Johann Sebastian Bach has been called 'the supreme arbiter and law-giver of music.' He is to western music what Leonardo da Vinci is to art and Shakespeare is to literature, one of the supreme creative geniuses of history. His 'Musical Offering' (Das Musikalische Opfer), BWV 1079 is a fundamental theorem of the Canon and Fugue, an exceptionally cerebral yet dazzling demonstration of the composers peerless knowledge of counterpoint.

The seasoned musicians of the CMSC, led by the artistic director, Lakshman Joseph de Saram, phrased the enigmatic music sensitively and articulately. The choice of tempos, more or less, were faster than most available recordings, but what was lost in contrapuntal clarity, was gained by a certain visceral quality.

A few strained moments aside, the playing was quite agile and eloquent, with many satisfying details, such as Sureka Amerasinghe's mellifluous tones on her flute. After almost an hour of rigorous counterpoint, all six musicians rose to the challenge of the crowning six part Ricercar, delving into the score's almost transcendental voyage into the ether of fugal introspection.

James Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' (1916), is perhaps the authors most accessible work, some of the more virtuosic passages were recited as stand alone monologues in between Bach's canons and fugues. Ohan Hominis and Michael Ketigian, both from NYC and of 'Stageless Arts' were engaging, quietly dramatic whose voices complimented each other well. Although the pairing of the two mediums were intriguing and largely engrossing, the rationale behind the initial choice was not easily understood.

As always, the concert was sold out and filled with the city's intelligentsia. Kudos go to the CMSC for continuing to offer the most progressive, enlightening and challenging programming there is in serious music today, all ably supported by Fairway Holdings and the Goethe-Institute. We eagerly await the next concert.

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