Mechanistic Music: In Memoriam Paul Zukofsky in Review

Mechanistic Music: In Memoriam Paul Zukofsky in Review

Mechanistic Music: In Memoriam Paul Zukofsky
Aaron Likness and Andrew Zhou, pianists
Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY
October 12, 2017

 

The Paul Zukofsky Memorial Concert, entitled “Mechanistic Music,” took place at Elebash Recital Hall at CUNY’s Graduate Center in Manhattan, and was pre-arranged between tonight’s artists and the late Paul Zukofsky in the months before his death. The first step for this program transpired when Mr. Zukofsky showed the score for Craig Pepples’ Monkeys at Play to his life-long friend, the pianist Ursula Oppens, who in turn passed the score on to the piano duo of Aaron Likness and Andrew Zhou. As a result, the work was given its world premiere this evening, and with the ‘mechanistic’, yet light-hearted sounds, one could see why Mr. Zukofsky, who was often known for his dry wit, wanted the work performed. There are almost as many pauses as notes—well not quite—and yet these silences felt ironic at a time when Mr. Zukofsky himself was silenced (although certainly not forgotten). Pianists Aaron Likness and Andrew Zhou performed this work with an artistry that kept the audience entertained—during the interplay as well as the moments of quietude. I enjoyed the work, and it stands out as a unique and riveting piece of music that illustrates the range of the piano in addition to utilizing rhythmical intricacies to specifically evoke the sound of monkeys typing on algorithmic keyboards. The concept combines primitive and futuristic elements in a way that’s enlightening. My only criticism is that it felt like the material was overstated by work’s end and that it could use a cut.

Stravinsky’s Sonata for Two Pianos is strikingly one of his more lyrical works—surprising since its keyboard instrumentation might lead one to believe that we would get thornier, more percussive music similar to the Symphony in Three Movements or Petroushka. The playing by Mr. Likness and Mr. Zhou was extraordinarily expressive, conjuring up the lush sounds of harps and strings. Stylistically and harmonically present were the Neo-Classical qualities of Pulcinella. The Ives work on this program, Impression of the St. Gaudens in Boston Common, the piano version of what became the first movement in the orchestral work Three Places in New England, is unique for its polytonality, lush harmonic palette (with an abundance of pedaling creating a wash of sound) and—oddly enough—a blues-like ostinato bass line during its solemn Civil War-march passages. Mr. Likness gave it a hauntingly beautiful solo performance.

During his last months, Paul Zukofsky suggested some other pieces for the program. According to composer Craig Pepples, Mr. Zukofsky hesitated before adding Satie’s “Cinema” from Relache to the program, with its outrageous insertion of Chopin’s funeral march, but after thinking about it, he finally pronounced it “wonderfully cheerful”. The piece (for one piano, four hands and arranged by Milhaud), with its extreme, predictable repetition, was originally a surrealist ballet with a cinematic interlude. The annoyingly repetitious strands, with its banal 8-bar phrases, seems exclusively suited to the cinema or ballet, but it may be this kind of drawn-out, simplistic humor that Mr. Zukofsky wanted to leave us with—a sort of eternal frolic. This Satie is opposite of Mr. Zukofsky’s taste in the complex, irregular modern scores he championed. Maybe he wanted the last laugh.


Requiem for My Mother by Stephen Edwards: DVD in Review

Requiem for My Mother by Stephen Edwards: DVD in Review

Requiem for My Mother by Stephen Edwards
Recording and DVD Documentary
The Continuo Arts Symphonic Chorus, The City of Prague Philharmonic; Candace Wicke, conductor
Orchestrations by Marcus Sjowall and Michael Pelavin
Directed by David Haugland and Stephen Edwards
Produced by Stephen Edwards, Julie Hartley, David Haugland

 

Stephen Edwards’ Requiem for My Mother is a beautiful and powerful work inspired by an original and poignant personal story. That is why the accompanying DVD about the inspiration for this recording is a true revelation, and one of the most moving and honest music documentaries you will see. I recommend owning both the recording and the documentary. The film is not only a lovely telling of the story behind a deeply personal work, but also the evolution of those feelings into the reality of the rehearsal and recording process. The Requiem is so emotionally overwhelming and deeply symbolic of the love a son has for the mother that inspired him, that it is difficult to put those thoughts into words. Mr. Edwards hints about that difficulty, and as a result turned to the purist and most ancient forms of Latin chant, ultimately culminating in the performance at a Rome cathedral. Rome is also where the great film composer and Mr. Edwards’ idol Ennio Morricone produced his many studio recordings, and the Continuo Arts Symphonic Chorus on this CD was recorded separately there. (The orchestra was recorded in Prague and the two recordings were mixed later).

 

Because of Edwards’ love for film and film music, he was able to beautifully co-direct a documentary that is as heartfelt and honest as his Requiem itself. The score is cinematic in nature, but also has solid concert music craft behind it, with interesting harmonies (the work ends on a surprising major second, perhaps symbolizing mother and son), some clever use of minimalism, and creative changing meters (3/4 to 4/4) in the Dies Irae. The high opening flute solo represents his mother, who was both a flutist and a choral director, which makes the use of chorus also appropriate for this dedication. The Dies Irae in the documentary is brilliantly and thoroughly examined with eye-popping video cuts of Leonard Bernstein conducting Mozart’s Requiem, plus short footages from Star Wars, The Exorcist and It’s a Wonderful Life as part of an insightful, well-explained effort to show how this ancient chant is employed in well-known films.

 

Huge kudos to the outstanding and deeply inspirational choral conductor Candace Wicke and the expert engineers and sound mixers for producing such a finely balanced, robust, rhythmically tight, and soulful recording. Ms. Wicke poured blood, sweat, and tears into the rehearsal preparation, and inspired the Continuo Arts Symphonic Chorus to rise to a level they probably didn’t know they were capable of achieving. The documentary DVD reveals many parallel stories, such as those of Ms. Wicke and her father (having recently lost a close family member), who feel as passionately about the Requiem as the composer himself. Don’t get me wrong, one can enjoy the recording of this composition on its own, but the documentary doubles that enjoyment. Having both is, in fact, important at a time when music streaming makes it all too easy to grab a sound-bite snippet here and there. The Requiem for My Mother, and the story behind it, combine to make for an inspiring time well-spent. This spiritually uplifting composition is like a great movie- you invest in it and want to learn the deeper meaning behind it. Just like a viewer of the film It’s a Wonderful Life, one is on a journey to find the reason for dying and for living on. And like the Angel in that classic film, both Stephen Edwards and his mother Rosalie have more than earned their wings.


Foresight Leadership Foundation presents Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition

Foresight Leadership Foundation presents Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition

Winners Showcase Festival in Review
Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition Winners Showcase Festival
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 11, 2016

The Magnum Opus Festival presented an appealing array of young actors at the Winners Showcase of their Shakespeare Extravaganza Competition. The actors showcased their talents in Shakespearean monologues and more modern works–plus acting or lecturing/public-speaking their own topics and creative material.

The evening opened with 17-year-old Hansen Ze Liang Zeng performing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and an excerpt from Act II, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet. His native accent was detectable, with some diction issues and rushing at the ends of words and phrases, but he maintained good projection throughout. 8-year-old David Zhang performed Mary O’Neill’s Wind Pictures. He projected clearly to those in the audience and had an excellent sense of movement, with variety–although his planned fall to the floor was unnecessary. Jasper Liu recited with a good sense of timing and pauses, plus a variety of pitch and good body language; only at the end did he swallow his words. Kevin Yiyang Li acted convincingly with good physical movement but had some diction issues, mumbling a couple of words here and there. He had the authentic British accent, but there were some pronunciation issues. Nina Eastveld, age 8, performed Robert Munsch’s Boo with good theatrics, but spoke too quickly and with too monotonous a tone–although all her “boo’s” were appropriately spaced and alarming. It was a well-chosen monologue for her age, and she should do it again next Halloween.

Angela Jiang, at age 12, wrote her own original and inspired material, called War, a Survival Game. She had good projection, interesting staging, solid projection, and varying, musical dynamics and voices in her speech. She was born in China, but her English diction was excellent. Crystal Lin recited T.S Elliot’s The Waste Land. Her voice had the appropriate wisdom when she said the words “I remember”. Her tone changes and diction were excellent. She had a good sense of timing and used the stage well, maintaining good eye-contact with the audience. Samuel Gan, in The Taming of the Shrew, had a detectable Chinese accent but pretty good diction nonetheless. There was a welcome variety in his speech patterns but his acting came across as a bit insincere or too externalized. Maria Lin, age 16, performed E.J. Pratt’s Silences, and although there weren’t enough silences between her words, and some proses sounded coached or unnatural, her diction was very good.

Philip Xia presented his own excellent, original work, a speech entitled A Different Approach to North Korea. It was a persuasive point of view. Although he paused nicely between arguments, he tended to rush and have some trouble with his pronunciation. Aaron Sun’s engaging portrayal of A Midsummer Night’s Dream included excellent use of the hands and a variety of physical movement. He rushed but he had a good, lusty laugh. Emily Liu, age 8 and from Vancouver, recited Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing with a good sense of timing. Her hands were still the whole time, so she needed more physical movement, and she had a slight memory slip. Then Jean-Marc Bedaux acted a selection from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor with good character-acting, good tempo and pronunciation and an authentic British accent. Occasionally, there was too much random movement, but he exhibited excellent, meaningful facial expressions. 13-year-old Victor Tong’s original work entitled Children at War was a convincing speech/lecture that presented different sides of the equation. He spoke with an excellent diction and sound-level, with good tempo-variety. He did have a few stumbles; when he was emphatic about a point, he would suddenly lose his train of thought. But overall, I found him to be very sincere and passionate.

A Much Ado About Nothing excerpt was read with too much American accent by 17-year-old Michael Lau. There was not enough variety– with often too much shouting–but he did speak with a good, clear diction throughout. Phoebe Pang, age 14, presented with space and clarity. Although the pronunciation was a bit off–with a Chinese accent interfering–and although she swallowed the ends of phrases, there was some well-timed pausing between the strands and a good spiritual uplift in the last verse of Campbell’s How One Winter Came in the Lake Region. Andrew Chen Kai Huang, age 16, rushed his opening, and his overall diction was somewhat unclear, but he took his time with later proses and varied his tempo at the end. In another selection from Midsummer Night, 13-year-old William Liang projected well and presented–with variety–a natural emotion for the piece. He also used the stage and his chair-prop well. Only on occasion was his delivery a little fast and garbled. John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning, was recited with honest, sincere acting by Daniel Yan. It didn’t always have enough variety and he had an accent, but the diction was clear.

Mary Agnes’ Death Comes to Us All was always in character, and delivered by the utmost sincerity and reflection by Cindy Xin Yi Xu. The acting was genuine and heartfelt throughout. The timing was wonderful and it was well-paced, with a crescendo to the climax. Cindy is a talent to watch; she is graced with pure talent and she gave the most memorable performance of the evening. Darren Sayson’s performance ended the evening with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55 and a solid rendering of the famous monologue from Hamlet. It wasn’t always clearly enunciated, and I missed the authenticity of the British accent. His line “To be or not to be” felt contrived–although after Cindy’s presentation, anyone would have paled by comparison. I kept thinking about the life that Cindy breathed into Death Comes to Us All.


The Italian Institute of Culture in New York presents Luisa Sello and Bruno Canino in Review

The Italian Institute of Culture in New York presents Luisa Sello and Bruno Canino in Review

Luisa Sello, flute
Bruno Canino, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
April 18, 2016

Many ensembles who perform the Romantic repertoire–and this program was permeated with it, including a Neo-Romantic work–can often play with such emotion, that precision is overlooked. But this Italian duo plays with both flair and polish. Luisa Sello plays her flute elegantly, with a sonorous low range and a sweet high, without ever being abrasive (unless she’s playing the music of Augusta Read Thomas, but more of that later). She and her pianist, Bruno Canino, chose a varied program that contained some beautiful showpieces on the second half and two serious staples on the first half: the music of Bach and the Neo-Romantic Carl Reinecke. The Bach Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1030 was played with excellent attention to ornaments and the detailed counterpoint at hand. One general quibble: in listening to this performance and other works on the program, I often wished for more defined phrasing of the longer musical line and less emphatic pronouncements of individual notes. Following the Bach was Reinecke’s Undine Sonata, Op. 167, a wonderful work that will always be a favorite of the flute repertoire, despite sounding like Prokofiev at times. The duo’s virtuosity was ever-present and sparkling with energy; there was a lovely mix of extroverted passion and genuine tenderness.

Alfredo Casella’s Barcarola e Scherzo is a charmer–a real delight, and it was played beautifully and with an engaging intensity throughout. Augusta Read Thomas’ Karumi, performed in its world premiere of a new version for solo alto flute, is not a particularly enjoyable piece for an audience at first hearing. It is the type of thorny modernist fare that can grow on you over time, although it is easy to imagine that flutists will have fun playing it because it explores the instrument so fully. Edgy attacks and silences abound, producing staggered musical lines; to some, this produces an emotional disconnect, but to others, raw emotion. In any case, Ms. Sello managed all challenges of this work admirably. Ezio Monti’s Rugiada for alto flute and piano in its American premiere is a solid piece that deserves multiple performances, as it is also thoroughly engrossing and memorable. The sole unfortunate aspect of this Monti performance that I’m sure the performers would agree with is that the alto flute’s pitch was occasionally sharp to the piano.

Returning to the flute, Ms. Sello played a brilliant technical rendering of the Ponchielli Fantasy on the opera La Gioconda (elaborated for flute and piano by Luigi Hugues). There was excellent breath control and an abundance of charm in her scale and arpeggio runs. Dynamic shading within the phrases was limited in Mr. Canino’s piano part, which sounded too pedantic and deliberate at times; this could have been his approach to the comical wit of the piece, but I was hoping for a more directional approach to phrasing. The pair saved the best for last in a colorful, blazing account of Bizet’s Carmen Fantasy (elaborated for flute and piano by Francis Borne). The drama of the opera truly came across (not an easy task with just flute and piano), as the light and darkness of the score’s dynamics and harmonies–the chiaroscuro, if you will–made for a gripping performance.

 


Ian Hobson, Pianist in Review

Ian Hobson, Pianist in Review

Ian Hobson, piano
Merkin Concert Hall, Kaufman Center, New York, NY
April 13, 2016

 

Ian Hobson has unusual stamina. He plays with an uncanny virtuosity. His interpretations are nuanced and fresh. Of those elements, the stamina aspect cannot be overstated here. He opened with Fauré’s Theme and Variations, Op. 73, then proceeded with Chopin’s Etudes, Op. 10, followed by Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13, and then concluded with none other than Rachmaninoff’s Preludes, Op. 32. There was exceptional pacing within each work, and he never tired technically or emotionally.

Mr. Hobson’s interpretation of the Fauré had the usual simplicity and delicacy of the French master, but also the extroverted tenderness of a young Brahms. There was beauteous and varied tone here, exquisite balance of the hands–featuring supremely delicate high notes, and the phrasing was also unique, with a favorability for stretching musical lines into very long phrases. The Chopin had a fleet-fingered leggiero (lightness of touch) when called upon, as in the opening Allegros, but also a profoundly warmer tone quality as needed–like No. 3, the E major Lento. No. 5, the G-flat major Vivace, had expert timing, with the subtlest of rubato. Even more endearing tempo fluctuations were evident in No. 8, the F major Allegro. No. 4 was facile and precise, especially in the left hand. It was only in No. 11, that a few phrases were glossed over.

The Schumann Etudes, really a Theme and Variations, which Brahms would also master, is symphonic in ways that Schumann’s symphonies tried to be but couldn’t. Brahms achieved in his symphonies what Schumann lacked: varied colors and depth in the orchestration. Mr. Hobson performed this Schumann evoking an orchestra, seemingly turning left hand dotted rhythms into cellos and basses, sometimes a low brass section. In the fourth etude, the punctuated chords were pungent in a way that a woodwind section can pierce through a tonal fabric, and the lyrical right hand was reminiscent of violas, clarinets, and silky smooth violins on top. Emotionally speaking, there was a wonderful mix of relaxed moods and stormy agitato befitting Schumann’s inner torment. The memorable finale was fiery and propulsive–emotionally obsessive at times–with a welcome, exaggerated attention to harmonic detail, like when the chord pattern climactically changes to the major key–as in the end of Bolero, when it surprisingly shifts to E major. Hobson’s Rachmaninoff contained both soul and a soul-searching quality. The peaks were timed beautifully; during grandiose moments, the bass was powerful but never distorted or over-pedaled, as sometimes is the case. His encore was Rachmaninoff’s last work–from 1941, an arrangement of a Tchaikovsky Lullaby: the A-flat “Cradle Song” from Six Romances, Op. 16.


Lloyd Arriola, Pianist in Review

Lloyd Arriola, Pianist in Review

Lloyd Arriola, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
April 3, 2016

 

The pianist Lloyd Arriola picked an intriguing program at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall: two world premieres, his own composition in homage to Arthur Rubinstein, and works by Liszt and (as many historians agree) his piano-virtuoso successor, Ferruccio Busoni. The Liszt and Busoni pieces were two massive concert works on the first half of this recital: Liszt’s Grosses Konzertsolo in its alternative version (1849-1850), and Busoni’s Grosse Fuge (1909-1910). Both of them tend to–as Mr. Arriola puts it in program notes–“go on for a bit”, and that proved to be an understatement, especially when the works are sometimes performed with a lack of contrasting dynamics and direction/flow in the phrasing, as was in the case here. The Liszt is more of a technical showpiece, with left-hand arpeggios galore, but lacking inspired melodic lines and thematic development. The Busoni work is very cerebral, with music that is always developing its idea. Indeed, when Mr. Arriola talks to the audience, he comes across as an academic himself–discussing the history of the compositions. When he was playing the Busoni, it came from that standpoint; he seemed to be studying and admiring the pages intensely, but forgetting to insert contrasting dynamics and shade subsidiary counterpoint. In Mr. Arriola’s notes, he said that it is very unlikely that this early version has ever been performed in New York, and that Busoni apparently allowed G. Schirmer to make only 100 copies of the work, adding that he is not clear why. I have an inkling. The sparse audience seemed perplexed by this work, and after intermission, Mr. Arriola half-apologized for its length and even its character. But Mr. Arriola redeemed himself with a second half that was much more appealing in content.

Opening the second half was a world premiere composed in 2015; Michael Sayers’ charming tone-poem entitled A Buried Dream of the Heart that had the exact tonality and grandiosity of a Liszt piano work, but thankfully not the longevity. Mr. Arriola played it well. In the following work, a meditation on death called Thanatopsis (also a world premiere), composer Charles Hulin IV employs more 20th century sonorities and intervals (many 4ths and 5ths). It was brief but complete in structure, although the end felt abrupt–which was the point. Mr. Arriola gave it a subtle rendering with lovely contrasts of dynamics and phrasing. Mr. Arriola’s own composition, his Concert Piece in E-flat Minor (1986, revised 2010) is another look back to the virtuosity of Liszt, Chopin and even Beethoven, but in this case, I don’t mind it as an original composition because it’s an homage to the incomparable Arthur Rubinstein, who performed the works quoted here. Other than a repetitive left hand with never-ending arpeggios, I think it works and could have some staying power–especially when it comes to Rubinstein tributes. With regards to future programs, Mr. Arriola might consider performing this work alongside full renditions of works that Rubinstein adored.

 


MidAmerica Productions presents Pavel Šporcl with New England Symphonic Ensemble in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents Pavel Šporcl with New England Symphonic Ensemble in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents Pavel Šporcl with New England Symphonic Ensemble
Pavel Šporcl, Violin
New England Symphonic Ensemble; Maple Mountain High School Choirs
Giuseppe Lanzetta, David R. Thye, and Cory Mendenhall, conductors
Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
February 13, 2016

On what was a marathon of a concert sponsored by MidAmerica Productions, the New England Symphonic Ensemble performed a brisk and polished account (aside from a few horn/wind entrances) of Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and later gave grand presentations of Vivaldi’s choral work Gloria and John Rutter’s Magnificat. One also witnessed the unique violinist Pavel Šporcl performing two different styles of music.

Pavel Šporcl is a virtuoso of the first order. If you want to hear a violinist facing the utmost challenges of Paganini, he is the one. Mr. Šporcl has tremendous flair and an unbelievably impressive technique. These attributes are ideal for late-Romantic and modern works, along with more contemporary popular styles. According to his biography, he likes to go beyond classical music and work with non-classical artists. His gypsy band projects “Gypsy Way” and “Gypsy Fire” have been seen in many countries in nearly 300 concerts. Mr. Šporcl plays on a blue violin built at his request by Jan Spidlen in 2005.

On this particular occasion, Mr. Šporcl’s main presentation was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64. Most memorable here was the remarkable technique and brilliance he exhibited in the last movement. It seems to me with an orchestra of this chamber size and the possibly little rehearsal time allotted, the well-known Mendelssohn was the practical choice. However, I very much look forward to hearing Mr. Šporcl play virtuosic, cutting-edge concertos by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich, and with Mr. Šporcl’s Czech heritage in mind, I’m sure he would give an exquisite interpretation of Dvořák’s melancholy and ethnically zesty concerto. His gypsy and pop selections will interest audiences greatly. Mr. Šporcl’s blue violin is indeed a visceral stand-out. It does not possess the warmth of other violins I’ve heard in this hall–and this is a main reason Mendelssohn wouldn’t be my first choice for this artist. In the first two movements, some of his notes lacked a classically pure expression or vibrato, and had a raw sound one associates with 20th century or pop/rock repertoire. When tempos pushed, conductor Giuseppe Lanzetta didn’t always anticipate Mr. Šporcl’s thinking, and the orchestra was behind at times. In the third movement, however, Maestro Lanzetta was prepared for the rapidity of speed, and both soloist and orchestra were unified. The last movement had as fast a tempo as you’ll ever hear, but it was performed with precision nonetheless.

Mendelssohn’s blazing finale perfectly segued to Mr. Šporcl’s encore, the Paganini Caprice No. 5. In addition to the audience, many orchestra members were studying Mr. Šporcl’s performance with awe. Thanks to a few persistent concert-goers, we actually got to hear this Paganini showpiece, as the bulk of the audience–not knowing the traditions of classical concerts–ceased clapping before Mr. Šporcl’s return to the stage. It was with the Paganini that Mr. Šporcl’s strengths worked the best: excellent intonation, a brilliant technique and bow-arm, a colorful sound with wide-ranging variety, and a flashy, tireless energy. It was already recording-ready (hopefully it was recorded–microphones were present). He is a unique artist that should get a lot more visibility on New York’s contemporary arts scene.

 


The Franchomme Project in Review

The Franchomme Project in Review

The Franchomme Project

Louise Dubin, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, Katherine Cherbas, and Julia Bruskin, cellists; Hélène Jeanney, pianist

John Street Church, New York, NY

September 19th, 2015

 

The compositions of Auguste Franchomme are undergoing a huge revival, thanks to the cellist Louise Dubin. The first concert in New York which celebrated the Franchomme Project CD release was on September 19th. The second will be Sunday, September 27th at 2pm.

Auguste Franchomme (1808-1884) was the most renowned French cellist of his time. He studied both cello and composition in Lille, and he became an important musical figure in Paris, where he befriended Chopin. The two remained very close, and Chopin’s late work, the Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 65, was dedicated to Franchomme. Until recently, most of Franchomme’s compositions were out-of-print and have never been recorded. Cellist Louise Dubin’s doctoral thesis on this 19th century cellist-composer has inspired several projects, including performances in France and the U.S., and music lectures at NYU and other universities. A volume of Franchomme’s compositions introduced by Ms. Dubin is to be published by Dover in November, 2015. The Franchomme Project CD—the Delos/Naxos album being celebrated this month— features many premiere recordings of his works. The album was chosen by San Francisco’s classical music station KDFC-FM as “CD of the week” in the week of its release (officially released on September 11, 2015). St. Paul’s Chapel, which housed and aided many of the injured on 9/11, is the location for the next Franchomme concert on September 27th.

Ms. Dubin has done remarkably well with this project, shedding light on this important, influential musician. She is as fine a performer as she is a scholar. She plays with a robust, lush sound, yet blends impeccably with her co-artists, the excellent cellists Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, Katherine Cherbas, Julia Bruskin, and the marvelous pianist Hélène Jeanney. They all gave stellar performances on September 19th at John Street Church; the intonation, balance, vibrato, voicing and interpretation were all unified. Although the entire program was enlightening and immensely enjoyable, the Chopin/Franchomme pieces for cello quartet—transcribed by Ms. Dubin from manuscripts—were special highlights of the evening. In these cello quartet arrangements, the full, glorious range of the cello is conveyed. Lucid details and ornaments are loyal to the originals. The Marche funèbre from the second piano sonata was haunting and ominous as one usually hears in the piano original, but with four cellos, it was rugged, rich and lyrically soulful in a way that might persuade an individual to want to choose this sonority over the sound of the piano. The Ballade No. 2, Op.38 was given an elegant, lilting and sweet performance; it was repeated as an encore. The last harmonic, which Ms. Dubin slightly missed and could have been perceived as a grace note in the first rendering, was now perfect and recording-ready—in case the concert’s live recording was one of the intentions for the repeat encore. The obvious reason for the Ballade as an encore was that the audience loved it the first time. The tempo was more flowing when they repeated it, and I enjoyed it more the second time.

Go to the September 27th performance and get the recording. Justice has been served to both Franchomme and Chopin.

For more information about this upcoming concert, as well as Franchomme and the recording, visit www.louise-dubin.com

 


Tempo Trapezio CD in Review

Tempo Trapezio CD in Review

Tempo Trapezio CD
Misha Quint, cello
Svetlana Gorokhovich, piano
Blue Griffin Recordings BGR323 (also available on iTunes)

 

Misha Quint has recorded a wonderfully diverse array of works on his new CD, Tempo Trapezio. His pianist, Svetlana Gorokhovich, provides much more than accompaniment, as she interweaves her intermittent solo passages with subtlety and—when called for—real virtuosity. Together, they make an impressive pair; the notes are all there, and they play with a solid unity throughout. Yet, more than just excellent ensemble-work, they seem to identify with each composer on this disc in a personal way.

Thomas Fortmann’s Sonata for Quintcello, premiered at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2014, is a funny play on words, with the cellist’s name obviously inserted, but also indicating the work’s prevalent usage of the perfect fifth interval. What would the title be if arranged for string quintet? No matter; the work is terrific writing in its own right. Clever and comical, the work’s eclecticism includes hints from the rock era—a simulation of guitar open fifths—plus music that points to Schoenberg and the twelve-tone school in the slow movement. Mr. Quint handles all the technical demands with ease.

Krzysztof Penderecki’s Per Slava—a Rostropovich dedication (for those who are unaware of the legend’s nickname) is also a demanding piece which deserves more performances and is well-interpreted here. The first notes depict Bach’s name: B—A—C—H (Bb-A-C-B♮), and this permeates the six minutes of music. One might therefore expect some Bach to be included on this disc, but one will have to wait for Mr. Quint’s next album. And it would be interesting to hear the Penderecki paired next to a Bach Suite in recital (no doubt, Mr. Quint has already done that or thought of the idea.)

Also included on this uniquely-selected program is Richard Strauss’s early Cello Sonata in F major, Op. 6 (1880-1883). Like Brahms’ Op. 99 (1886), F major has proven to be a winning key for a cello sonata. Brahms must have been impressed with this early cello sonata—to the point of writing one in the same key three years later? Brahms and Strauss still engaged artistically during this period, and Brahms was somewhat of a mentor before Strauss became a deep-seeded Wagnerite and anti-Brahmsian. What a wonderful work this Strauss is- this is not by any means a student work. It makes great demands on the cellist and pianist. One can hear the charm and devilish nature of his future Til Eulenspiegel in its strands, but more importantly, it is easy to notice that this work shows the hand of a young master. Both Mr. Quint and Ms. Gorokhovich play with passion and elegance here. The tempos and transitions are paced and timed admirably—the phrasing always engaging; not a note goes by without meaning or an arrival-point in mind.

Schubert’s Impromptu is recorded well and is exquisitely shaped. Works by Stravinsky: the Pas de Deux from Divertimento and the Chanson Russe are stellar additions to this disc. They are presented with a vast range of dynamics and color; at times humorous and graceful—at other times, wild and bombastic. If purchasing on iTunes, I would have to recommend getting the album and not just the individual selections—since the Sonata for Quintcello is only available with an album-only purchase. If purchasing individually, I would recommend the Strauss and Stravinsky works as absolute must-haves on your playlist. You will want to enjoy listening back and forth, again and again.

 


Spectrum Symphony

Spectrum Symphony

Go see the Spectrum Symphony! They recently presented an outstanding concert with David A. Grunberg, artistic director and conductor, and Susan Heerema as their marvelous concertmaster and violin soloist. Heerema is truly mesmerizing with her graceful, spirited, elegant phrasing, and her extraordinary beauty of tone. Gerard Reuter provided stellar and energetic playing in Mozart’s famous oboe concerto.

The Next concert is on Wednesday, March 25th,  7:30 pm at 371 6th Ave at the Church of St. Joseph. The Program is Anthony Iannaccone:From Time to Time, Fantasias on Two Appalachian Folksongs (2000); Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor with Victoria Mushkatkol, Piano Soloist, and Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 3 in C major, Opus 52 (1907)

Not to be missed!

For More information, visit their website: spectrumsymphony.org