Jourdan Urbach, Violinist in Review

Jourdan Urbach, Violinist in Review
Karen Beluso, Piano
Le Poisson Rouge; New York, NY
April 1, 2011


April 1st was host to a Children Helping Children benefit concert held at Le Poisson Rouge, a popular music venue and bar in downtown Greenwich Village. CHC’s young, exuberant founder and director, Jourdan Urbach, delivered a vibrant, virtuosic violin performance with the help of his much-appreciated pianist Karen Beluso. (Joining the dynamic duo later in the program was mezzo-soprano Gabrielle Lowell.) The evening featured arrangements of jazz-age golden oldies, as well as a number of Urbach’s original compositions.

Urbach started out the night strong with a lighthearted rendition of George Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”, arranged by “3 nice, Jewish boys” (Gershwin, Heifetz, and Urbach), as comically noted in the program. Evident the moment he picked up his bow, the 19-year-old’s playing was superlative in every way. Urbach exhibited both impeccable technique and exquisite artistry in each piece that graced the room, reveling in the jazz and country undertones that flowed throughout the concert. Glimmers of a smile could be seen on the Yale student’s face whenever he executed a graceful portamento or flawless up-bow spiccato. In his difficult arrangements and compositions, Urbach is a violinist that dares to challenge himself and thrives. Beluso followed him perfectly, although the level of some of the compositions and arrangements would have been raised that extra notch had she been more featured.

The casual nature of the evening continued despite a few short interludes, concluding with the New York premiere of “Hope”, an operatic song cycle by Urbach. Gabrielle Lowell’s delivery of Emily Dickinson poems in English, Spanish, and Yiddish was appealing, but the work was not particularly memorable. Understandably, Urbach’s strength was manifested in the beginning and middle portions of the program, during which he made use of his classical education and signature blues style. The public should keep an eye on this up-and-coming philanthropist-musician. He is apt to go far on his own ambition, delighting audiences every step of the way.

Chelsea Blakeburn for New York Concert Review; New York, NY

Opus Two in Review

Opus Two in Review
Leonard Bernstein: From Concert Hall to Broadway
William Terwilliger, violin
Andrew Cooperstock, piano
Le Poisson Rouge; New York, NY
November 23, 2010

Opus Two


Leonard Bernstein, who passed away 20 years ago, would have been pleased with this program, as it exhibits some of his less familiar, serious music alongside his more well-known. Three quarters of the program were arrangements, with his 1939 violin sonata serving as the only original composition. That violin sonata—oddly enough—came across as the least successful of the four works on this program; not that you can blame Bernstein for being somewhat artistically immature at 21—his age when he completed it. The music isn’t always idiomatic for the violin; William Terwilliger had some difficulties with intonation at the top of the violin’s register in awkwardly-written passages.

Terwilliger’s arrangement of Bernstein’s clarinet sonata is ironically more idiomatic for the violin than Bernstein’s own violin sonata. Because the violin sonata isn’t one of Bernstein’s best works in the violin repertory (his 1954 Serenade for Violin and Orchestra remains one of his most acclaimed pieces), it is valuable to have this clarinet sonata in a transcription for violin; the tunes are buoyant, inspired and fun. Although the 1940s big-band sound and style comes through more clearly on the clarinet (think Benny Goodman), violinists deserve to have this excellent arrangement at their disposal.

Two ‘House’ Songs, Bernstein vocal selections cleverly assorted by Eric Stern, were sung by Stern’s daughter Madeline, and they were a lovely addition to the program. “My House”, from Bernstein’s obscure “Peter Pan” (1950), is a charming little gem, and “Take Care of this House” from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” is a delightful extraction from an otherwise forgettable show. The two songs were performed beautifully by the young Madeline Stern, who only recently began her conservatory training; a fruitful musical future awaits her, no doubt.

Four Moments from Bernstein’s “Candide” (1956) were arranged by Eric Stern to include some of the musical’s most memorable and contrasting selections: “I Am Easily Assimilated”, “You were Dead, You Know”, “Glitter and Be Gay”, and “Make Our Garden Grow”. They were arranged in a way that preserves the enchantment of the original, but also shows off the violin and piano admirably. Terwilliger and Cooperstock form a terrific duo with Opus 2; their program was equally engaging.