The Ida Riegels Triathlon Concerts: Live at CAS
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
While some question whether this famous uttering really originated with Samuel Clemens, no one can dispute the chill induced by the fog machine that sits well entrenched on the Bay Area Coast by every August. I nearly froze to death watching my daughter’s CSU Humboldt Volleyball team upset the CSU San Francisco Dons in their unheated Gym last autumn.
It was in this climate that renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma intrepidly ventured to the outdoor UC Berkeley Greek Theater on the evening of August 12 for a solo concert consisting solely of JS Bach Cello Suites. The cellist has had some back issues over the years which probably explains his exaggerated lean back position on the Greek stage. The posture perhaps not coincidentally coincided with a laid back, deliberately slow and nuanced rendition of the Suites. The evening grew noticeably colder as the fog rolled in prompting the tongue in cheek Ma to offer to warm the crowd by “playing faster.”
Fog and frostbite notwithstanding, Yo-Yo Ma was his usual brilliant self and drew raves from the wall to wall packed in throngs. Interesting mix of a crowd too. The bejeweled elderly usually on display at the SF Symphony was overwhelmed by the unique multicultural mix that is the Bay Area, with far greater young person representation than I have ever seen outside of a summer youth music festival.
Another virtuoso albeit decidedly less famous cellist, the beautiful and humorous Ida Riegels (pronounced eeda reals) of Denmark, visited the Bay Area from her native Copenhagen for a marathon three days of, count ‘em, twelve concerts at the audiophile California Audio Show the very next weekend of August 15-17. Besides CAS Ida also gave recital concerts at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Mount Madonna Center on the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and at Resurrection Church in Aptos.
While marathon is a fitting description for Ida’s CAS schedule at the SFO Westin Hotel venue, TriathlonConcerts is what she actually calls her solo gigs as she performs works on three completely separate instrument classes; piano and recorder as well as the cello. For CAS Ida prepared and executed four separate nonoverlapping half hour programs which she performed on the hour each day from 1-4 pm. A grueling schedule by any measure, and yet Ida appeared well prepared for the long days and managed to thrill the 4pm audiences as much as the earlier showings.
The recorder was Ida’s very first instrument; she started playing it seriously at the tender age of eight. Her prowess here is truly world class in the recent Danish tradition of her good friend Bolette Roed, one time teacher Michala Petri, and the incomparable Dan Laurin whose revolutionary work substituting recorder for solo violin on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a legend SACD recording (BIS 1605).
Ida included longer recorder pieces by Telemann and Corelli, but the crowds were wowed by her remarkable speed and precision on the 56 second Fantasia in G-minor by Jean Daniel Braun and even more so the four Variations on Minuetto L’inconnu of Johan Joachim Quantz. The pieces are two of the most challenging in the entire recorder repertoire and require an amazing degree of breath control. Riegels is absolutely masterful on both. Unfortunately Ida played no baroque recorder at CAS; however rumour has it that she has been secretly rehearsing duets with master Lute maker Ken Brodkey with an eye towards future joint performances. Stay tuned.
Ida’s concerts were held in the confines of the third floor San Francisco Suite an intimate venue holding a maximum of ~ 24 people. A packed house was the rule for the first two days of CAS but while attendee numbers were considerably thinner on Sunday, they appeared no less appreciative of Riegels talents.
The SFO Westin was unable to accommodate a move upstairs for their mini-Grand Steinways so Riegels made do on an electric Nord generously loaned to her by Santa Cruz piano legend Jason Shantam Galuten. Piano is truly her third instrument and Ida makes her living primarily on the cello, but even her work here was outstanding. Most impressive was Ida’s rendition of the very tricky Scarlatti K.1 Keyboard Sonata in D-minor and a delicate adaptation she has written of Joan Baez’s Fennario.
But cello is what the crowds really came for and Riegels did not disappoint. Danish classical guitarist Jacob Olsen and pianist Amalie Kaad appeared as virtual accompanists. Olsen played on a delicateSwan by Saint-Saens, the enchanting Bachinas Brasileiras # 5 of Villa-Lobos, and Burgmueller’s sweet Nocturnefor Guitar and Cello, while Kaad accompanied a broodingly dark and delicious Elegie by Faure.
Riegels signature piece is the beautiful and haunting four movement Variation she has written of Japanese composer Rentaro Taki’s Moon over Ruined Castle. Sony emptied their own High Resolution Audio suite to attend and record one of Ida’s concerts on the new PCM-D100 portable DSD recorder. The unit’s designer, Takaai Hashimoto, personally provided the engineering hands on. The recording was no less amazing than the effect her rendition of Moon had over the Sonyites, especially when they learned of Ida’s summiting of Mt Fuji last summer during a trip to Japan.
Riegels is the real(s) deal, no doubt about it, and her impact will surely be felt again here in California at next years CAS, if not before. Hats off to CAS organizer and Dagogo publisher Constantine Soo for having the vision to realize the value of adding intimate venue high quality acoustic classical music to his audiophile gathering.