Bowing Rogue debuts as a duo with a flair for the dramatic
Violinists Margot Schwartz and Ilana Setapen inaugurate their Bowing Rogue partnership.
Ilana Setapen and Margot Schwartz debuted as Bowing Rogue Tuesday night at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Determined to select a concert program with “no hierarchy,” they choose works that required an intimate pairing of the two. They performed with a flourish before a near capacity crowd that included many of their Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra colleagues.
The concert opened with Jean-Marie LeClair’s bright, energetic Sonata for 2 Violins. It’s comparable to Vivaldi’s bold concerti. Themes darted quickly from one to the other, but the pacing ebbed and flowed as the music evolved toward passages where the two violins harmonized. A less interesting slow movement emphasized the harmonic blend. The closing movement returned to the energy of the opening, but with Setapen scampering through highly decorated virtuoso phrases. All in all, a bold platform to launch the new partnership.
Schwartz switched to viola for Bohuslav Martinu’s Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola. This challenging work introduced Czech dance melodies in a contemporary palette. The players alternated as lead and accompaniment. Murmuring strings and rapid scale progressions colored the work.
Four young MSO violinists (Dylana Leung, Lindsay Erickson, Peter Vickery and Zhan Shu) joined the duo in Multiplicity, a 2012 work by Lawrence Dillon. Each of the six violins takes an independent role. A three-note motive scampers from one player to another in near perpetual motion. Players enter or leave repetitive sequences that intensify through harmonic progressions. Occasionally, Setapen played a melodic riff over the top. But the Milwaukee artists took the work at a slower pace than did the original performers. What seemed like a “wave” passing around the players last night was more of a “whip” in the 2012 premiere.
The concert closed with a Pablo de Sarasate’s Navarra, with Jacob in support. Sarasate introduced a dramatic series of transparently obvious Spanish themes, then developed them with increasing complexity to show off the virtuoso violins. This schmaltzy work recalled a high class restaurant serenade.
The three played Paul Nero’s Hot Canary as an encore. This cartoon-inspired piece for virtuoso violin was expanded into a Marx brothers inspired “shtick” for three, with Stephanie switching to duck call as Schwartz perfectly voiced a canary on her violin.
The concert was richly entertaining and a showcase for virtuoso playing with a dramatic flair.
In a review last year, Tom Strini declared Illana and Margot “combustible soul sisters.” Committed to live up to that approbation, Bowing Rouge plans future concerts, introducing unusual works and adding guest artists to expand their repertory. With this strong core, they will fill an important niche in a lively chamber music scene.