Lipman Duo Concert
September 24, 2011
The Silicon Valley and Bay Area Chapters of the AHS
jointly presented the wonderful Australian harp duo of
Sebastien and Sayo Lipman
Pictures and review by Bob Glaser
The Concert was a joint presentation of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley Chapters of the American Harp Society. It was given at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in San Jose. After brief introductions by Linda Wood Rollo, Rev. Lynn Bailey, and Dominique Piana the couple came out and introduced each work succinctly. The performance began with the Largo from Partita No. 3 and the Bourée from Partita No. 1 by J.S. Bach. It was an elegant and sonorous performance where the rubato and dynamics were effective without being harsh. The subtle interplay of polyphonic lines were nuanced. If you closed your eyes, it seemed as if only one person were playing.
effortlessly presented that the virtuosity, required by these and several of the subsequent works, became invisible.
The second half opened with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Probably one of the most famous organ works written and most frequently performed as such. This was really something to behold. To hear two people play as one. The performance was one done in the romantic style that was popular in the first half of the twentieth century. Powerful dynamic sweeps and rubato phrasing was used judiciously throughout. The most amazing balancing act was in that there was never a moment where it became, or even approached, schmaltz. The other wonder of this performance was as melodic lines shifted from Sebastian to Sayo and back and then there would be moments of unison or octave doubling between them, it sounded like one player. Perfectly timed music never losing a millisecond of registration through any change of tempo no matter how slow or quickly they came.
The next two works from the French school, though only 4 years apart when completed, were stylistically from two eras. Debussy’s Rêverie, composed in 1890, is a beautiful example of French impressionism. Its atmospheric and programmatic harmonies when performed with such musicality as the Lipman Duo possesses, allows one’s mind to fill with such lovely imagery. Saint-Saëns “The Swan” from the “Carnival of the Animals” was composed only 4 years prior to the Rêverie and yet it is a product of a classical style so dear to Saint-Saëns. Quiet and serene, it allowed the listener to continue in the same emotional mood. This is a piece that I know well and their playing, again, was so seamless that it allowed me to simply bask in the musical ripples in the water as a swan solemnly floats by.
As a delightful encore for an already enthralled audience, was Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song”; served and accepted like an extra helping of dessert after the finest of meals. It is interesting to hear a duo that is so in sync with each other that you almost wished you could stand between them and hear the lines of melody shift from one performer to the next. While at other times their performance made your mind believe the sound was coming from one harp, only to be betrayed by the sight of two people playing. Any duet where the pair are playing the same instruments are often the least forgiving; for the slightest inconsistency of timing, rhythm or dynamics can appear as a glaring error. Nothing of the kind was evident here. Here was harp playing at its finest.