FROM THE VERY START, when Emil Khudyev entered the room already blowing a high note on his clarinet, I knew it would be a highly energetic concert. Featuring three members from the deeply musical Khudyev family, Emil Khudyev’s recital lasted only about an hour and fifteen minutes, but the impact it left was great.
The first piece on the program was a 1984 composition by Serban Nichifor called Carnyx. A carnyx, Khudyev explained, is an instrument used by the Iron Age Celts, famous for its incredibly loud and booming sound, which gave it the ability to quickly gather people in once place. With this in mind, Khudyev’s entrance at the beginning of the concert while playing this piece was a way of bringing that experience to the audience. It was as if the audience was ‘called’ to the town square, or the Hidden Valley concert hall as it would be in this case. Of all the pieces on the program, this one had the most integral use of clarinet extended techniques. I am not an expert in clarinet, but I was able to recognize a particularly interesting example of extended technique. At several points during Carnyx the clarinet produced loud and harsh multiphonics in the lower register, which hearkened to the sound of the traditional carnyx.
After his impactful entrance, the concert did not lose momentum. Khudyev was joined by his wife, pianist Nozomi Khudyev. Together, they performed an arrangement of three preludes by George Gershwin. Originally for solo piano, these pieces and their distinct jazz flavor worked very well on clarinet.
For the third piece on the program, another performer was added to the duo. Violinist Farkhad Khudyev, brother of Emil and also conductor of Youth Music Monterey, joined them to perform a piece that he had written titled Fleeting Miniatures. Composed in just one day, Fleeting Miniatures shifts between moods constantly and goes in unexpected directions, yet maintains an underlying sense of familiarity throughout. The other piece that the trio performed was the witty third movement of American composer Peter Schickele’s Serenade for Three. Moving at a lightning pace, it came to my attention just how tuned into each other the three musicians were. The piece had a folk music feel to it, accentuated with dramatic double stops from the violin.
The final three pieces were once again the combination of clarinet and piano. Performed were an arrangement of Wie Melodien zieht es mir, a lied by Johannes Brahms, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla, and Shalom Aleichem, rov Feidman by Béla Kovács. The Brahms and Kovács were personally meaningful because Khudyev, as he explained, performed each at the weddings of two of his close friends. Shalom Aleichem (which means “peace be upon you” in Hebrew, and is also the name of a Jewish Sabbath prayer) was especially well played by the duo. Starting out somberly, it gradually gets livelier until it becomes a full-fledged dance. Oblivion by Piazzolla was less energetic, but shared the element of dance. Piazzolla was an Argentine composer who was very influenced by the musical tradition of the tango. Darkly romantic, this was a subtle, but fine addition to the program. The single encore, after a standing ovation, was the Roma-inspired Csárdás by Vittorio Monti.
I love a concert program with variety, and this recital certainly had it. With music from Brahms to Gershwin to composers still living, this was an evening well spent. The next concert in the Hidden Valley Masters series will be Mark Kosower, principal cello of the Cleveland Orchestra. It will also be the final concert of the 2018 Masters Festival.