Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents Triptych: A World Without End in Review
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents Triptych: A World Without End
Distinguished Concert Singers International; Fullerton Chamber Orchestra
Alicia W. Walker, Robert Istad, DCINY Debut Conductors; Kimo Furumoto, director; Tarik O’Regan, DCINY Composer-in-Residence
Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 15, 2015
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) is an organization that has made it a mission to bring to the public music of the immortal masters together with works by talented contemporary composers. In a concert entitled Triptych: A World Without End, works by Mozart, Haydn, Stravinsky, and Bartók were paired with those of Daniel Elder and Tarik O’Regan. Featuring singers from California, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and others from throughout the United States, in addition to the Fullerton Chamber Orchestra of Fullerton, California, it was to prove to be yet another DCINY success.
Before the concert, an announcement was made in which audience was asked to observe a moment of silent reflection in response to the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on the evening of November 13th. A quotation from Leonard Bernstein was apt: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
DCINY Debut Conductor Alicia W. Walker took the podium and led a fine performance of Mozart’s Missa Brevis, K. 192. The playing was crisp and bright, and the chorus was well-balanced, singing with precise diction. Special mention goes to soprano Tina Stallard, mezzo-soprano Janet Hopkins, tenor Walter Cuttino, and bass Jacob Will, for their admirable work both as soloists and in ensemble with each other. It was an auspicious start to the afternoon.
A World Without End by Daniel Elder (b.1986) in its World Premiere for Chamber Orchestra followed the Mozart. Employing the English translation of the Te Deum from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer for its text, it is scored for chorus and brass sextet (2 trumpets, 2 trombones, horn, tuba), with organ and percussion, a compelling instrumentation. It is a work that mixes the old with the new, the old being, according to the composer, the more “taut” and “principled” writing for the brass, while the new is the freely composed, harmonically and rhythmically modern vocal writing. Kudos go to the brass players, who, by some regrettable omission, were not credited in the program. Their playing was incisive and often arresting. This reviewer (and brass player) enjoyed it immensely. The large chorus was well prepared and their ensemble was strong throughout. Dr. Walker is to be congratulated for the skill in which she led this piece; it was a persuasive performance of a remarkable work.
After intermission, Kimo Furumoto bounded on the stage to lead the Fullerton Chamber Orchestra. An animated conductor, Mr. Furumoto radiated his energy to the ensemble, which responded in kind in delightful performances of works by Haydn (the Overture from Armida), Stravinsky (Eight Instrumental Miniatures, arrangements of “five-finger” piano pieces Stravinsky wrote for budding pianists), and Bartók (Román népi táncok – Romanian Folk Dances). The wind players shone particularly in the Stravinsky, with nimble playing in the demanding passagework, tossed off with ease. After the last note of the Bartók, the string players all held their bows in the air as if suspended in time, until Mr. Furumoto lowered his baton, much to the delight of the audience.
After a short pause, Robert Istad took the podium to conduct the final two works of the afternoon by Tarik O’Regan (b. 1978), The Ecstasies Above, and Triptych. The Ecstasies Above uses text from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Israfel, about an angel briefly mentioned in the Qur’an, a four-winged master musician whose stance reaches from the earth to the pillars of the heavens. It is highly complex work, scored for two vocal quartets representing, according to the composer, the songs of the angel, a string quartet representing Israfel’s heart constructed of lute strings, and a chorus representing the song of the stars. It is not an easy work to grasp on a single hearing, but nonetheless packs a powerful emotional punch. To quote an audience member seated directly in front of me, “It makes me want to cry, it’s just so beautiful.” This simple statement means more than any complicated musical analysis, and one with which I am in complete agreement. Dr. Istad was an able leader in conveying the power of Mr. O’Regan’s work.
Triptych was originally two separate works (the first consisting of one movement) commissioned for two separate choirs a year apart from each other. The works were joined together in 2005 to become Triptych. The three movements, Threnody, As We Remember Them, and From Heaven Distilled a Clemency, focus on the ways we perceive death. Mr. O’Regan has chosen eclectic texts for his work, William Penn, Muhammad Rajab Al-Bayoumi, William Blake, and Psalm 133 from the 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible for the Threnody, Roland Gittlesohn for As We Remember Them (with a short epilogue from John Milton), and Rumi, William Wordsworth, 9th century Indian Bundahisin, and Thomas Hardy for the From Heaven Distilled a Clemency.
Threnody opens with the chorus alone, but launches into highly charged and pulsating writing, with the text presented in what the composer calls “collage style.” As We Remember Them is heartbreakingly poignant, especially the “call and answer” between the soprano soloist, Kathryn Lillich, and the chorus. From Heaven Distilled a Clemency is full of energy and drive, culminating in the declaration of the closing text from Rumi “Why then should I be afraid? I shall die once again as an angel blast.” These words end the work in triumph. The audience was visibly moved, and many had tears in the eyes as they rose in a standing ovation. It was a powerful end to an outstanding concert. Mr. O’Regan came to the stage and had to be prodded by Dr. Istad to take a bow, appearing to be somewhat embarrassed by the acclaim.
Congratulations to all the performers. In a world of madness, even if for only a few hours, music triumphed. Lenny would have been proud.