When it comes to pushing the edge of the musical envelope, Jacaranda's right out there in front, either going where no artist has gone before, or where no artist particularly wants to go. The musicians of Jacaranda are the most intrepid of explorers -- in fact, some might even call them daredevils -- for whom no technical feat is too daunting, and this week they're presenting a program of "extreme performance" not intended for the faint of voice and finger. First off is a piano four-hands version of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring -- enough to scare off most pianists, but apparently not at all intimidating to duo pianists Danny Holt and Steven Vanhauwaert. A violent, sensuous ballet about pagan fertility rites and self-sacrifice that was given its notoriously controversial premiere in Paris by the Ballets Russes in 1913, Le Sacre du Printemps was greeted with boos and catcalls so deafening that the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky, who choreographed the work, had to yell instructions to the dancers while standing on a chair; the great Camille Saint-Saens walked out in a huff; and Stravinsky fled the theater in tears. The Rite of Spring still stands as one of the boldest and most difficult works ever composed; of its complexities, Leonard Bernstein said, "It's got the best dissonances anyone ever thought up, and the best asymmetries and polytonalities and polyrhythms and whatever else you care to name." Then there's Olivier Messiaen's Harawi, a "song of love and death" inspired by the rite of spring and the legend of Tristan and Isolde that mishes and moshes the absurd French of the surrealist poets with the Quechua Peruvian dialect and a wild onomatopoetic language to create a work so fiendishly difficult that it's hardly ever performed. As Jacaranda observes, Harawi should only be attempted by "the bravest soprano and most indefatigable pianist," and soprano Elissa Johnston and pianist Vicki Ray are presumably up to that challenge.
Sat., April 4, 8 p.m., 2009