Duo turns concert into an evolution of sound

Jazzing it up

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2007

Who, what, where and when ...

  Patricia Hoy and Eric Wilson Photo provided by Marc Berezin

Hoy and Wilson will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer. Tickets for the Soldotna performance are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and available at Already Read Books and Charlotte’s in Kenai, and Northcountry Fair, Sweeney’s and River City Books in Soldotna. In Homer, tickets are $25 for general admission and $23 for Bunnell Street Gallery members and available at the gallery.


Patricia Hoy and Eric Wilson

Photo provided by Marc Berezin

Canadian chamber musicians Patricia Hoy and Eric Wilson are preparing to jazz things up in their performances this weekend in Soldotna and Homer.

Hoy, a pianist, and Wilson, a cellist, both from Vancouver, B.C., will perform several works that showcase their instruments in their more typical classical music roles, and some that might sound more at home in the smoke-filled speakeasies of the 1920s.

Enter Nikolai Kapustin, 20th-century Russian composer, pianist and jazzophile.

Hoy and Wilson can relate.

“It’s something that we both really enjoy as musicians. We both get off on listening to jazz,” Wilson said.

Hoy came across Kapustin’s work and was intrigued, especially since he created jazz compositions that suited piano and cello duos.

“He not only displays tremendous amounts of virtuosity in both instruments, but his music sounds like a cross between classical and jazz,” Hoy said.

Wilson was hooked, as well.

“They’re really pretty amazing pieces,” he said. “You don’t usually hear this combination doing anything jazzlike. A lot of things performed are transcriptions, things like that. These are things written for the instruments themselves.”

Hoy and Wilson won’t spring their jazz leanings on concertgoers right out of the gate, however. Their program evolves more like a classical piece, with a slower, melodious introduction leading to an uproarious crescendo.

Their first piece is a sad song, written shortly after the composer’s daughter died of typhoid, Wilson said.

“But it’s such a wonderful piece,” he said. “It’s very unusual. It’s quite short and it’s got a very kind of stormy and brooding feel. It starts off with just cello playing alone as if coming out of the atmosphere.”

The duet soon returns to earth with Spanish songs arranged for piano and cello, and pieces by well-known composers Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms.

The Strauss piece is “Opus No. 6,” written early in the composer’s career before establishing his reputation for elaborate, large-scale orchestra works, yet this piece is a foreshadowing of Strauss’ embellishment to come.

“It’s like a microcosm of all his later writing,” Wilson said. “It’s incredibly energetic.”

By contrast, the Brahms offering, “Opus No. 99,” was written late in his career, and is a mature piece with a rich sound, Wilson said.

And then there’s the jazz.

“We like to end with something upbeat,” Wilson said. They looked to Kapustin to provide that high note.

He does, with “Burlesque,” featuring a jazz piano solo with cello playing a jazz baseline underneath, “which is very cool,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s affinity for the piece may harken back to what first inspired him to play the cello. He remembers being a kid watching Guy Lombardo on TV and seeing a guy playing a stand-up bass. He then looked to the cello sitting in the corner of the room.

“(I) thought that looked pretty cool and I thought I’d take the cello and see if I could do that,” he said.

The cello was put there by his musical parents, who wanted him to take up the instrument to round out the family piano trio in the making, since his older brother played the violin and his sister the piano.

Wilson left home in central Canada at 16 to study at

Juilliard in New York City. He remained in the Big Apple

for several years and was the cellist in the Emerson String Quartet before moving to Vancouver.

Hoy is a lifelong musician, as well, taking up piano at a young age. She also went through many years of musical education and performance. Hoy is originally from Vancouver, and now teaches at the University of British Columbia there.

The two have been playing together for about 15 years.

“As musicians we match each other wonderfully,” Hoy said. “We interpret things in a partnership sort of way, where we do find that our ideas compliment one another. When you’re working with someone it’s a very personal type of partnership, and I believe that we’ve gotten to know each other quite well and in a way can almost anticipate what the other person is thinking.”

That rapport is key, Wilson said.

“The really important thing is communicating something, hopefully some very important meaning that you feel the music has that you want to communicate to the audience,” he said.

The story of how Hoy and Wilson began their partnership is a simple one -- a mutual friend introduced them.

The story of how they got booked for their first Alaska performances is not.

Freddie Billingslea of the Performing Arts Society, which is producing the concerts, is the local connection.

“It happens that my family knows her family, but we hadn’t really connected until a couple years ago, but it goes back to before the second World War,” Hoy said.

It gets a little vague at that point.

“How to say this -- here we go: My mother’s first boyfriend was Freddie’s dautgher-in-law’s father ... .”

Suffice it to say, it’s a long love story. The result is Billingslea heard Hoy and Wilson’s CD, liked what she heard and, upon meeting Hoy, asked them to come to the Kenai.

Hoy happily agreed.

“We’re very much looking forward to it,” Hoy said. “I’m sure we will be very inspired, because it does make a difference where we play, and being where it’s not a very rural setting, the scenery is different and life is different will definitely bring an added dimension to how we play.”

Jenny Neyman can be reached at jennifer.neyman@peninsulaclarion.com.

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