On September 7, 2016, Violinist Kate Carter and Pianist Louise Chan performed an especially playful program of music by Ravel and Bolcom.
Simulcast on WFMT, the near capacity audience in Preston Bradley Hall had the added treat of peeking in on the duo’s growing friendship.
Although Kate Carter, in an interview before their performance, had given a heads up on the jazzy surprises in their program, the actual concert still gave this reviewer a pleasant startle.
The opening high piano notes of Ravel’s “Violin Sonata No. 2” took us to a dreamscape, continuing on to evoke sounds of a gentle harp. What might have assured as so Ravel like, then abruptly vanished into a nightmare scold.
The second movement “Blues” gave us Frenchman Ravel’s idea of our most American sounds. Carter’s violin sailed from pizzicato to sliding blue notes sounding downright sultry. Then, Chan would chime in on piano with “da dah” punctuation. At times, the violin almost sounded like a horn.
It’s hard to imagine that if everyone in the audience for some odd reason wasn’t already perked up, then the third movement “Perpetuum mobile – Allegro” would certainly do the job. The program notes suggested that this may have been Ravel’s homage to wind-up toys. Many would also be reminded of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee”.
Fun it was, but perhaps just a tease of the all-out jazz celebration to follow in William Bolcom’s “Second Sonata for Violin and Piano”.
Carter and Chan Talk About Their Program
Kate explains, “We chose to perform these pieces because they are two of our favorites. We also know them very well and they go together well…
“…One of the most fun parts of playing the Ravel piece is that it is a French composer’s take on an American art form. It’s so fun to play. The pizzicato imitates a banjo or guitar, then there are some lines like a lounge singer for the violin, and at the same time Louise needs to rock out on the piano..
“With the Bolcom, the first and last movements are infused with jazz elements, especially the fourth,which is tilted “In memory of Joe Venuti”, the great swing jazz violinist. It imitates his style, particularly in the use of slides and pizzicati..Venuti was known for being a prankster and you find lots of his sense of humor in the score. It’s very witty. Sometimes it sounds like rhythmic mistake but it’s not. Bolcom wrote this into the score..”
Pranks and Play
Perhaps Bolcom’s tempo jokes are what so irk Louise’s cat Gus to run out of the room every time Kate threatens to play. Who knows, perhaps Gus, or more formally Gustav Mahler (pronounced Mewler), was a music critic in one of his former 9 lives. Or, as Kate suggests mischievously, “..it could be that he heard violin strings are made of cat gut..”
You get the sense that if rehearsal time wasn’t dear, this kindred spirit duo might make Gus do his scamper again and again to feed their giggles.
Talking to Kate and Louise, you sense that Bolcum’s musical pranks, Gus’ scoot out the door when the violin case is opened, and anything and everything else that makes playing playful goes right to what they like most about performing. This is a relatively new musical partnership, but clearly one based on having a lot of fun.
Kate and Louise had traveled similar paths for quite some time before they began performing together. Both of them attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, followed by graduate studies at Northwestern University. They had passed each other in the halls without a hello at Eastman. When they got to Evanston, they struck up a casual friendship. They did one concert together while still in school. It was a few years later when they performed again together that they realized they really click both on and off the stage.
Louise summarizes, “..We have a lot of fun working together..”
Louise Chan and Kate Carter—Kindred Spirits
Their friendship has blossomed as a byproduct of their collaborations. They like to go out to eat—both avid fans of Chicagoland restaurants. They usually enjoy that after long rehearsal.
Both self-described introverts, they began discovering that their similar personality often means that they agree musically and can readily make a shared bucket list of repertoire they would both enjoy. Kate says, “.. and now that we’ve played with each other for a while, we are more intuitive with each other and can communicate non-verbally because we understand how the other works…”
In the three years of their blossoming friendship and musical partnership they found that their personality overlaps went deeper still. Louise likes to make cartoons, and Kate, a one-time cartoonist for her high school newspaper, had a similar devotion to drawing when she was younger.
Kate comments, “Neither of us is especially outgoing. We like to express ourselves emotionally through writing, drawing, and music…As introverts,we tend to look inward and mull things over, which is conducive to music making."
Louise concurs, “Yes, you have to look inside to express yourself musically. Then when you play everything is revealed. You have to show this to everyone, in all its layers..”
Kate in fact has built a corollary career coaching fellow musicians on how to achieve their full potential as performers. Having peak performances and fearless ones, according to Kate, is predicated on not allowing your nerves to inhibit you.
Keep your eyes on these Picture This Post pages for more news from this duo—Kate Carter and Louise Chan.
Kate and Louise hope to record their first CD this year.
And, the duo definitely will be adding more music by American composers to their repertoire very soon.
Slider Photos of Dame Myra Hess concert Performance: Peter Kachergis
All other photos courtesy of Kate Carter and Louise Chan, in sequence:
-First performance together at Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park, November 2009
-March, 2016 Lake Forest faculty recital
-Video of Louise's cat Gustav Meowler
-Rehearsal 2016 with Gustav Meowler
-Carnegie Deli, near Carnegie Hall, where he performed
-Louise Chan cartoon samples: the main characters are Lulu (a slightly updated version of a stick-figure character Louise created in high school) and Gus (modeled after Louise’s cat)
-November, 2015 performing John Adams’ Road Movies with accompanying video by Chicago-based videographer Ryan Kolegas. At Gottlieb Hall in the Merit School of Music
-February, 2014 performance at Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York