by Mike Telin
If you are familiar with William Cowper’s 1785 poem The Task, then you know the famous line “Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.” On Sunday, June 25 at Harkness Chapel, ChamberFest Cleveland presented a program that was steeped in musical variety and spices for the ear.
Written in 1977, Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art (after the fragment K. 416d) is based on the first violin part from Mozart’s unpublished pantomime, with dollops of the opening theme of his 40th Symphony stirred into the mix. The quirky five-minute work for two violins asks the players to throw caution to the winds as they seemingly compete to see who can turn a classical line into something absurd faster than the other.
The performance by Itamar Zorman and Diana Cohen was bust-your-gut funny. Bowed notes turned into plucked ones, then scratchings, in tune became out of tune, and slow tempos became fast enough to break the sound barrier. Hilarity ensued when the players swapped out their instruments, Zorman grabbing a very tiny violin while Cohen opted for a viola. After reclaiming their rightful fiddles, the players mischievously walked away whistling.