Austrian Chamber Music Duo Performs at AUB
|The Austrian Duo Nota Bene
On May 22, for the fourth time in Beirut, and the second time at AUB,
audiences in Lebanon were treated to a marvelous performance of chamber
music by the Austrian Duo Nota Bene. Dressed in the typical attire of
classical musicians (all black for women and tuxedo for men), the two
players, violinist Eva Steinschaden and pianist Alexander Vavtar, looked
impressively elegant on the stage of Assembly Hall, completely in tune
with the musical program being presented.
"Assembly Hall has nice acoustics," said Vavtar who, like Steinschaden,
is a professor of music at the Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg. "I
think it's good from every position, wherever people are sitting."
Indeed, with the piano fully open and Steinschaden's resonant strings,
the music filled every corner of the hall, from the pews to the vaulted
The duo presented an eclectic program: a Mozart sonata, a series of short
arabesques by the Czech composer Martin, a fantasy written by Bresgen
of Austria when he was just 16, and a sonata by Mozart's little-known
son, Franz Xaver. More than 230 years separate Mozart's date of birth
from Bresgen's date of death, marking centuries that span the classical,
romantic, and modern periods in classical music. "To play a Mozart
sonata is a must," said Steinschaden, "but modern music is always
an important part of our program."
Even in the more modern pieces, there was considerable variation in style.
In the Martin, for example, the composer made melodic reference to the
Fifth Symphony of his Czech compatriot, Antonín Dvoák. There
was also a clear reference to Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, as well
to American jazz, with its characteristic "swinging eighths."
Asked if they often play jazz, Vavtar conceded that, "It's not so
easy to play." Although the duo specializes in Viennese classical
music, it was apparent from the program that they take an equal interest
in contemporary music.
In addition to the Middle East, the Austrian duo has performed on stage
in Europe, North Africa, the United States, Japan, and Central America.
They have also released several CDs, the most recent in 2004, devoted
entirely to modern music.