The first installment of the Harker Concert Series of 2011, held in early March, featured the MarcOlivio Duo, composed of violinists Marc Ramirez and Olivia Hajioff, playing a blend of crushing, heartbreaking and even carnivalesque Eastern European folks songs, art music, and a parody of Mozart’s work.
The MarcOlivia Duo has performed around the world, appearing on radio and television in North America, Europe and Asia, winning Fulbright fellowships, and enjoying a residency at the Tokyo College of Music. On March 9, however, they came to Nichols Auditorium and the audience, feted with sushi and wine, was treated to tunes adapted for two violins.
The concert began with a number of compositions by Béla Bartók, a 20th-century Hungarian composer who traveled through Eastern Europe, listening to and transcribing the folk songs of village communities before they disappeared and melted into a homogeneous global culture. Most of these numbers were short and sudden – thirty seconds of powerful, tragic, arresting, halting, despairing, jagged strikes, followed by ten second fearsomely frenetic and jubilant conclusions. Some were songs of Romanian bagpipes transliterated for violins; others mixed bittersweet reaching and trudging marches with maddeningly twisting, spiraling slashes.
After the most powerful numbers, the audience was paralyzed in frozen silence for several seconds before applauding, digesting the works. The concert finished, however, on somewhat of a lighter note: a blend of a parody and an ode to Mozart’s music, as the two performers wove through a number of his pieces, even using voice and whistling to mimic other instruments.
The Harker Concert Series continues with the Taylor Eigsti Trio March 25 and Areon Flutes, a Bay Area-based flute quartet, at Nichols Auditorium on May 27.