L to R: Ashley Rego, violin; Ingrid-Anne Nazareth, piano; Antonio Mascarenhas, violin; Oliver Mascarenhas, cello
Mascarenhas father-son cello duo
António Mascarenhas, cello, violin
Oliver Mascarenhas, cello
Ingrid-Anne Nazareth, piano
Ashley Rego, violin
Black Box, Kala Academy, Panjim 7 January 2011
A minor chord repeated six times at the piano by Ingrid-Anne’s right hand, and voilà! The cello makes its entry, dolce, and the Goan public hears António Mascarenhas play after a gap of over four decades. Gabriel Fauré’s Après un Rêve (After a Dream) is a love song, and as António warms to the seductive mélodie with half-closed eyes, is he thinking of the lyrics, and is Goa the lover he is addressing, l’ardent mirage?
The mélodie, taken at a Goldilocks tempo (neither too fast nor too slow), set the tone for the rest of the evening at the packed Black Box, Kala Academy.
Next on offer was a delightful little Gavotte for cello and piano by Fauré’s contemporary, the Bohemian virtuoso cellist and composer David Popper. It is a charming piece, demanding dexterity in the left hand, and considerable bow control. A slightly more strategic positioning on stage might have aided eye contact, and therefore co-ordination, between the players.
Now we had a duo for father and son, Niso Ticciati’s variations on Mozart’s Voi che sapete aria from the Marriage of Figaro. Ticciati was a cello pedagogue, and this work of his is an indication of it, elaborate passages alternating between the two parts, all across the register. The Mascarenhases obviously play often as a duo, as they have a practised rapport between them. Once a teacher-pupil relationship, they now sit comfortably as equals.
Next came the highlight of the evening, for me at any rate: Dvořák’s Five Bagatelles Op.47, for two violins, (Ashley Rego, António Mascarenhas), cello (Oliver), and piano (Ingrid-Anne Nazareth). Although bagatelle quite literally means “trifle”, these works are anything but; they are miniature masterpieces in the Czech music repertoire. It was originally written for harmonium, a reed-type organ popular at the time of composition, rather than the piano. It is believed that the work does not have a viola part (Dvořák’s instrument) as he himself played the harmonium part instead.
It must be said here that our home-grown musicians Ashley and Ingrid-Anne were able to muster an impressive collaboration together with their German-Goan counterparts, given the fairly short notice, and the scarce rehearsal time. Overall, the work didn’t sparkle consistently, but whenever it did, it shone, gladdening our hearts, like sunshine peeping through clouds. The last bagatelle was a shimmering gem, redolent of the youthful vigour of Dvořák’s famous Slavonic Dances. It seemed quite the logical choice for the encore at the end.
It is an uncanny coincidence that we should hear Beethoven’s variations on Handel’s “See the Conqu’ring Hero comes” from Judas Maccabeus, twice, in almost as many days, first arranged for cello and piano, now for cello duo. After the annunciation of the rousing theme by Oliver, there followed five variations on it, with the melody alternating between the duo almost as often as they switched instruments; sometimes turning into minor mode, sometimes an embellished development while the other wove a web of arpeggios around it.
Jacques Offenbach now followed, with a Musette Op. 24 for cello and piano, with Mascarenhas senior back in the spotlight. Offenbach was an accomplished cellist, and the central gossamer passage in harmonics, flawlessly executed here, was not the only device to reflect this fact.
On to Boccherini’s Rondo for cello and piano, again featuring António. It was originally written for string quintet, but transcribes very well for this combination as well. It can often be taken at a thigh-slapping pace, but the nuances can get lost in the frenzy, so this saner tempo was a good choice, with nevertheless ample scope for virtuosity to be showcased. However, better rapport would have made for even more enjoyment. It sounded a tad cautious, and such works need to throw caution to the wind, really.
All good things come to an end, and father and son returned one last time to play with spirit (if you will pardon the pun) Giacomo Rossini’s cello duet in D major. Originally scored for cello and double bass, the two-cello arrangement showed off both players to equal effect, with many an operatic trick in Rossini’s bag brought to bear.
Aufwiedersehen! Here’s to many more such return trips to your roots. We hope this is the beginning of a long-lasting musical connection and collaboration.
It would be remiss of me not to pat on the back, yet again, our home-grown musicians as well, both Ingrid-Anne and Ashley. Young Ashley in particular has matured so much in such a short time, and through his playing we were able to hear, not only what good effect his foray into the wider world of music beyond Goa has provided, but tantalisingly, what further heights he could yet attain if he continues to get world-class training and exposure. Not just he, but all of us in Goa, both music students and audiences, stand to gain immeasurably if this is helped to happen.