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MONSTERS AND TITANS

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"I don’t even think of him as a composer," says violinist Mark Peskanov.

The Bargemusic artistic director is referring to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose sublime Divertimento for String Trio is the centerpiece of the first of two programs he’ll play - with violist Lev Zhurbin and cellist Jakub Omsky - on the barge anchored at Fulton Ferry Landing Oct. 2-5.

"I feel there are many great composers like Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn, but for me, Mozart is pure music," Peskanov continues. "His music is so organic and so natural and, at the same time, so mind boggling when you hear it. I’ll hear something by Brahms and say, ’Great work, great composer,’ but I hear Mozart and I’ll think, ’That’s music itself, that’s the definition of music.’"

Mozart’s Divertimento, one of the very last chamber works he composed, was written in 1788, three years before his untimely death at age 35, and the same year as his last three magnificent symphonies and the premiere of his greatest opera, "Don Giovanni."

Peskanov calls the 45-minute work "such an incredible, beautiful monster. It is one of the most amazing pieces in general, let alone for string trio." The Divertimento takes up the second half of the first concert program (Oct. 2-3); the first half includes lesser-known string trios by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and the criminally undervalued French composer Jean Francaix (1912-1997).

Peskanov especially admires Francaix’s 10-minute work.

"It’s crafted beautifully; its four movements flow very naturally," he explains. "It’s one-of-a-kind and has an interesting texture for all three instruments, especially the unusually high writing for the viola, which comes off really well."

One slight disagreement is over the pronunciation of Francaix’s name, especially when a reporter tells Peskanov that Francaix supposedly said he wanted his last name pronounced "Fran-SEX," not "Fran-SAY."

"I would think it’s ’Fran-SAY,’ but if he wanted to say it that way, that was up to him," Peskanov says, laughing. "He was a wonderful composer with a great sense of humor, so maybe that’s why he wanted it pronounced that way. It would be interesting to play more of his music in the future, because I think he’s a superb craftsman."

After Francaix’s C Major trio comes Schubert’s B-flat Major trio, which, as Peskanov notes, is "a very serious four-movement work, but also very charming. It’s unmistakably Schubert from the first note and is very virtuosic [sic] in its writing for all the instruments."

Peskanov wanted to program the Francaix and Schubert trios with Mozart’s Divertimento for a very specific reason. "Those two works are so different from the Mozart that it’s a great effect to hear them before we play the Divertimento, which is something else entirely."

The second program (Oct. 4-5) finds the musicians grappling with another titan: Beethoven. His last three string trios - written in 1798 - are considered such perfect specimens that they may be the reason why Beethoven never returned to that particular genre: he had said everything he wanted to say.

Peskanov says simply, "These are unbelievable trios. The maturity of the writing is amazing. He would feel really good about [his ideas] and just go for it, so to speak. But other times - which you can see from looking at the manuscripts - he would be ready to destroy his work there are scratches, then notes written out. He was an incredible self-critic. But Beethoven always brings such drama and drive to his music, so there’s an enormous range to it."


Young guns

Peskanov is always looking for young musicians to perform at the venerable barge docked at Fulton Ferry Landing, and with his partners for these concerts, he’s found that - and more.

"Both Lev and Jakub have one thing in common: they are both quite accomplished composers," he explains.

"I met Lev years ago when I programmed his Duo for Violin and Viola for Bargemusic - it was a serious attempt by a teenager!" he exclaims about Zhurbin, now in his early 20s. "I got excited by his playing and composing."

As for Omsky - also in his early 20s - Peskanov has similar sentiments.

"I listened to him play some of his compositions for unaccompanied cello for me, and they were very imaginative," he says. "Later, when I asked Lev about a cellist to perform with, he mentioned Jakub, so I thought I’d invite both of them to perform together."

Bargemusic founder Olga Bloom praises Peskanov’s casting choices.

"Mark has instituted a whole patch of new policies including pairing young people with seasoned people and from every country in the world, too - Finland, Germany and other countries," says Bloom, 84. "It’s so wonderful because we perform right by the Statue of Liberty."

Peskanov, 45, welcomes the prospect of the impending concerts to show that he can keep up with these young guns.

"For us three to get together and play those marvelous compositions will be wonderful," he says. "Maybe they’ll present me with new inspirations for these pieces.

"I am absolutely looking forward to the challenge."

 

Mark Peskanov, Lev Zhurbin and Jakub Omsky perform Francaix, Schubert and Mozart, Oct. 2-3; and Beethoven, Oct. 4-5 at Bargemusic. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 4 pm. Bargemusic is located on Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Heights. Tickets are $35, $20 for full-time students and $25 for seniors (Thursday performances only). For more information, call (718) 624-2083 or visit www.bargemusic.org.

Updated 3:35 pm, December 26, 2013
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