The Hope and Love Concert in New York City in Review

The Hope and Love Concert in New York City
Ji-Hae Park, violin
Ji-Eun Baek, accompanist
Sae-Nal Lea Kim, guest accompanist
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
October 10, 2011

Ji-Hae

In a concert entitled “The Hope and Love Concert in New York City,” which was produced by Double J Ent., violinist Ji-Hae Park dazzled and thoroughly entertained her audience in a most versatile program. Her stage persona is extremely charismatic and emotional, and she was able to bring out all the stylistic and dynamic contrasts of her varied composers. Her program ranged from Saint-Saens to Mozart and Rachmaninoff to Korean composer Je Myung Hyun and “Chim Chim Cheree” from the musical “Mary Poppins.”  

In this song from “Poppins,” Park brought out the music’s mystery and sweeping lyricism. The mood lighting also helped with just the right ambience. In Richard Strauss’s early Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 18, she combined a virtuoso technique with a luxurious Romanticism, and confirmed that this youthful yet masterful work is worthy of regular performances. Physically, as well as musically, she keeps the audience entranced with her body language—either swaying horizontally or sometimes swooping as low as possible to the stage. Her range is stunning; she sounds brilliant at the top of her register, and remarkably rich and dark on the low G-String.

Another highlight of the program was the fiendishly difficult, free-wheeling work: Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre.” Here, she offered a virtuoso technique plus great intensity to the melody’s chromaticism and swirling dance patterns. “Souvenir de Korea,” arranged with finesse by Park herself, is a beautiful work. Je Myung Hyun’s “To the Land of Hope:  Hui Mang Ui Na Ra Ro” is an appropriate choice for this program, which is designed to bring people together; her goal, as stated in her program notes, is to use the violin as an instrument to spread the gospel and love of God to as many people as possible. She also makes every effort to unite audiences by incorporating classical, pop music, traditional Korean folk tunes and gospel music, among other styles, on concerts as well as on her recordings. Some of the many accolades she has received include becoming the ambassador of The Korean Christian Art and Music Council, The Handong Global University, and The Africa Future Foundation.

Park was born in Germany in 1985. She plays on the Petrus Guarnerius 1735 Venedig, on loan to her from the German Foundation since 2003. She was the first prize winner of the National Music Competition of Germany Jugend Musiziert in 2001 (solo) and 2002 (chamber music), among many other prizes. She studied with Professor Ulf Hoelscher at the Karlsruhe Musikhochschule in Germany and Professor Jamie Laredo at Indiana University, where she received a full scholarship. Her accompanists Ji-Eun Baek and Sae-Nal Lea Kim gave her excellent support, and the audience on hand was enthusiastic throughout the concert.


Lori Sims, Pianist in Review

Lori Sims, Pianist in Review
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
May 7, 2011
 

Lori Sims

 

Pianist William Masselos (1920-1992) was honored in a most special way this past weekend, in a tribute piano recital by Lori Sims, presented by the organization Hausmusik. Widely recognized not only as a great pianist in diverse repertoire but as a particularly important champion of twentieth-century American piano music, Mr. Masselos is also fondly remembered by those of us who were at Juilliard during his tenure there as something of an unsung hero — despite his countless enviable achievements. One applauds Hausmusik for paying tribute and also for choosing Lori Sims, a pianist of prodigious abilities, to do so.

Each work on the program related in some way to William Masselos, at times in exact repertoire matches, notably Ben Weber’s Fantasia (Variations), and at other times through subtler connections, well-explained in the pianist’s thoughtful program notes. Rather than playing the “six degrees of separation” game, I prefer to focus on Ms. Sims, whose own personal connections to each work were evident from the first notes onward, and whose masterful readings obviated the need for any extraneous “raison d’etre.”

First off, Ms. Sims gave an extremely taut, precise, and intelligent performance of Copland’s Piano Variations. With an energy that suggested she was spring-loaded, she brought the work electricity and clarity. Nerves of steel are to be expected from a pianist who has won major competitions, including the Gina Bachauer 1998 Gold Medal, but hers are exceptional, unruffled even by the blaring of loud vocal music from some unknown source during her first entrance onstage. The intensity never let up, and Ben Weber’s Fantasia was another tour de force, this time exploiting the pianist’s gift for more romantic, lush sonorities.  What Ms. Sims likened to “Scriabin’s neurotic energy” seemed to abound, and one could only be astounded that after this Weber and the Copland, there were still three Griffes “Roman Sketches” and Barber’s monumental Piano Sonata yet to come (to complete an hour-long “first half”).

The Griffes pieces did provide some impressionistic relief from the musical tension, but only for the audience, as the pianistic demands simply shifted to a different kind of artistry. “The White Peacock” requires a special languid sensuality, and Ms. Sims brought it out to a tee. “The Fountain of Acqua Paola” needs streaming showers of delicacy, expertly colored, and it had just that. “Clouds” had no less mesmerizing an effect.

The Barber Sonata, showing not a trace of fatigue, was sure-fire. While it may not have been this listener’s all-time favorite performance of the work, it was an amazingly polished, assertive close to a first half of mammoth difficulty. Perhaps if one had to pinpoint a reservation about it, it would be that Ms. Sims has such a formidable technique that she made short work of some of its heroic climaxes. In the fourth movement Fugue especially, my favorite performances let loose with an almost ferocious abandon toward the close. Ms. Sims could perhaps be called “unostentatious” (as the honoree, Mr. Masselos, was described by Harold Schonberg), but one wanted to share in the sense of triumph and release that she had so richly earned.

The program’s second part was made up of Clara Schumann’s Romances, Op. 11, Nos. 1 and 3, and Robert Schumann’s Fantasy, Op. 17. These works showed great sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and fervor, and there were many moments of nearly transcendent beauty. Somehow, though, the truly indelible impression was made on this listener by the twentieth-century works. Ms. Sims showed that she has a rare gift for bringing audiences closer to these works, and it is a gift that should continue taking her to new musical heights.


Alexej Gorlatch, Pianist in Review

Alexej Gorlatch, Pianist in Review
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
April 14, 2011

Alexej Gorlatch; Photo Credit: Akira Muto

Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall, part of the Carnegie Hall complex, presented Alexej Gorlatch on April 14th as the First Prize winner of the AXA Dublin International Piano Competition. Gorlatch, who is 22 (born in Kiev, in 1988), was also the Silver Medalist at the 2009 Leeds International in the U.K., where his performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto elicited a glowing comment from the Guardian (Manchester): “…immaculate in its poetry and aggression.” Those two characteristics, when you think of them, are more apt than conflicting for that particular Beethoven masterpiece; certainly Gorlatch’s technically superb pianism at the Zankel recital was impressive for its “poetry” but, let’s face it: any hopeful who could enter–and triumph–at so many daunting marathons would, ipso facto, be an “aggressive” and determined, self-assured contender!

Mr. Gorlatch’s burgeoning career has been adorned by a succession of prizes and honors since he was eleven-years-old. To name some: the German National Jugend Musiziert Competition (several times); the Steinway Competitions of Berlin and Hamburg; the Grotien Steinweg in Braunachweig; and the Robert Schumann Competition for Young Pianists in Zwickau, where he was awarded the Yehudi Menuhin Prize for best participant. He garnered prizes at the Vladimir Horowitz International Competition in Kiev and at the Chopin International in Warsaw.

In fact, this writer covered the then 18-year-old artist’s April 4, 2007 recital at Weill Hall when he came to us as the winner of the 2006 Hamamatsu International Competition (reviewed in Volume 14, No. 3 of this magazine.) His program at the time included the Beethoven Sonata, Op. 101, Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces, Op. 12, and all twelve Chopin Etudes, Op. 10. I praised his Beethoven as “structurally clear, tautly organized and sensibly clarified…a young man’s approach…Though additional areas of experience and insight may undoubtedly reveal spiritual mysteries, Gorlatch’s way was certainly on the right track.” The Schumann tone poems were “thoroughly idiomatic: clearly and simply phrased and free from affetuoso point-making… His playing represented the best of the best of the admirable Teutonic tradition (Gorlatch has been living and studying in Germany), with warm, robust down-to-the-bottom-of-the-keys sonority, yet with sufficient glow and color and ardent rhythmic vitality.” At that time, I was not quite so contented with Gorlatch’s performances of the Chopin Etudes: “Having praised his purposefulness, it seems churlish to remark that I wish he would loosen up a bit. Playing a concert also has a side potential for entertainment, and although I certainly don’t want ‘cuteness’ and pandering to an audience, I daresay that there is room for a bit of drama and communication…Mr. Gorlatch is obviously a great talent, but as he develops, he will realize that a performer can also be communicative and be fun to listen to…’’ That was when he was 18.

I am particularly pleased to report that at this concert–four years later–he showed just the type of growth I would hope for (and expect) from an already promising artist. His performances of Beethoven’s Op. 110, Bartok’s “Out of Doors”, Four Debussy Preludes and a Chopin group had far more nuance, flexibility, color, and humor. The Beethoven sonata was notable for its almost operatic cantabile, and the pianist brought out innumerable, cherishable passing felicities. I am a bit surprised, however, that he chose to divide the runs in the first movement between the hands (as Beethoven himself calls for in the E major recapitulation later on), but this is a miniscule quibble.

The Bartok had great sensitivity and a feeling of detached understatement. The accuracy and precision were indeed awesome, although the requisite calm and repose of “The Night’s Music”’s insect noises were judiciously recreated against an unusual backdrop of anxious momentum. The opening “With Drums and Pipes” and the culminating “The Chase” were unusually subtle, but a bit too refined. Gorlatch’s way with the Bartok reminded me of Perahia’s sensitive interpretation.

One could say the same thing about the Debussy which–high praise indeed–were in the Gieseking tradition. He elicited a beguiling fragrance in “Les Sons et Parfumes Tournent dans du Soir” (from Book II) and an almost troubadour like declamation of “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin” that made it seem it was being improvised on the spot. For once, “Feux d’Artifice” (Book ll) sounded decorative and entertaining (not the usual bombastic firecrackers that burn your hands!). “Ce qu a vu le vent d’Quest” (Book l) similarly may have been more notable for its delicacy than its Katrina-like ferocity; but its sophistication ultimately won me over.

In the concluding Chopin group, the “Barcarolle”–a bit laid-back at first–did summon a modicum of drama; the ending run was terrific. Four Mazurkas from Op. 67 and 68 were undulant and dance-like; (the A minor, Op. 68, with its trills, was played “Lento”– a slow dance, not “Lento” as a dirge); I liked its curvaceousness. The A-flat Polonaise, Op. 53, a mite small-scaled for my taste, was almost too easy for him; the famous octaves went by astonishingly and fleetly well. (But Rubinstein’s sui generis interpretation will always stubbornly retain my loyal affection).

And I am delighted to observe: Mr. Gorlatch’s new stage presence has livened up gratifying well. He gave us two encores: the c-sharp minor Etude, Op. 10, No. 4 was almost Richter-like in its brilliance and headlong tempo; and the E-flat Waltz, Op. 1 came forth with intoxicating dazzle.

A wonderful concert!


Camerata Ireland in Review

Camerata Ireland in Review
Barry Douglas, music director and piano
Celine Byrne, soprano
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
March 5, 2011
 

Camerata Ireland

Every now and then, amid the hectic New York concert season, there is an evening that reminds me how much I love my reviewing job; the chamber orchestra Camerata Ireland, on a US tour through March, provided just such an occasion last weekend in a perfectly magical concert that coupled Irish music with works by Mozart (a surprisingly winning combination). At the center of it all was pianist, arranger, and conductor, Barry Douglas, a musical titan whose energy is transmitted in life-affirming performances.

In a rather unassuming opening, Mr. Douglas and the orchestra played his own arrangements of two Nocturnes of John Field (1782-1837), Nos. 1 and 5, originally for solo piano. The orchestrations were tasteful and spare. Though my preference is still for the more intimate originals, it was a natural to give the orchestra some music of Field, as he was one of the first important composers from Ireland, welcomed in Russia for decades with perhaps the same fervor as was Barry Douglas himself as victor in the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. It would be interesting to hear Mr. Douglas with the Camerata Ireland in one of Field’s Piano Concerti (or even just a movement, say, the Larghetto of the Sixth Concerto).

Rising star Celine Byrne joined the orchestra to sing “Porgi Amor” from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.”  Composed when John Field would have been around four years old, it enjoyed a fresh hearing from this listener, because of both the fascinating program sequence and Ms. Byrne’s excellent performance. Her full, pure sound and lovely presence will make her one to follow.

Mr. Douglas moved from the role of operatic conductor to that of piano soloist (conducting from the bench) in Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488 (also composed in 1786). One of the best pianists I’ve seen in this dual role, Douglas drew perfect responsiveness from his orchestra. One marveled in the first movement at how clearly he projected his conception physically and musically so that there were no seams in the ensemble; one marveled perhaps more, though, at how he could create (while multi-tasking) a realm of utter introspection in the breathtaking Adagio. The final movement had just the right edge-of-the seat energy to leave the audience clamoring for more.

After intermission came two traditional Irish folk songs (again arranged by Mr. Douglas), “I Wish I Was in Carrickfergus” and “Last Rose of Summer” sung by soprano Celine Byrne (who had changed from a black dress into a brilliant emerald green). These were skillfully arranged and expressively sung, but the best Douglas arrangements of the evening were “Druid Dances” by Edward Bunting (1773-1843). Perhaps not having to incorporate piano filigree or to accommodate a vocal part was liberating, but whatever the case, Douglas arranged this set with unfettered orchestral imagination, alternating sentimental song with freewheeling fun.

Returning to Mozart (who shared a good 18 years on this earth with Bunting) the orchestra then gave a knockout performance of the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor to close the evening. Starting the work more briskly than one usually hears it (with Douglas barely arriving onstage before the opening upbeat), they gave a performance that was nonetheless well articulated, cohesive, and commanding all the way through to the exciting end. Audience members jumped to their feet in passionate ovation. Some of this reaction may have been to the conductor’s “rock star” charisma, and some of it may have been gratitude for a great performance, but either way, everyone won.

Douglas and the orchestra gave an encore of Phil Coulter’s touching “Home Away from Home,” which I heard last when I reviewed them in March, 2008 (NY Concert Review Volume 15, No. 2). This time was even more beautiful. Can they possibly outdo themselves next time? I for one won’t miss finding out.


Sahan Arzruni, Pianist in Review

Sahan Arzruni, Pianist in Review
With Cihat Askin, violinist
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
October 7, 2010

Sahan Arzruni - Photo Credit: 2010 FrontRowPhotos.

In a most unusual presentation of music from the Middle East—specifically that of Turkey and Armenia—pianist Sahan Arzruni performed admirably for a full-house crowd at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. The concert was presented by the Turkish Consulate General in New York. Despite the hall’s somewhat dry acoustics, Arzruni’s playing was riveting from start to finish. He has complete command of the instrument and exudes a quality that lets his audience know that he is a deeply probing musician. Also insightful was his programming, which ties together rarely heard music by Turkish and Armenian composers. Much of the traditional music by Turks and Armenians are rooted in their respective regional dialects, and this concert music reflected the different ways the dialects are spoken—with their varying accents and stresses of phrase.

Some of the composers were familiar names, such as Aram Khachaturian, who was born in Tbilisi. His Poem and Toccata are lovely, as is Komitas’ nicely contrasting Piano Dances. H. Ferid Alnar’s Piano Pieces are evocative, with titles such as “On the Hillside” and “East Winds at the Seashore”, and naturally concludes with a tuneful Folk Dance. Arzruni captured both the traditional and forward-looking qualities in the music.

Sahan Arzruni, pianist and Cihat Askin, violinist - Photo Credit: 2010 FrontRowPhotos.

Guest violinist Cihat Askin made a good impression as well. He performed a work called “Crane” by Aslamazyan, music based on the music of Komitas, which made good programming sense, since we heard a work by Komitas earlier in the evening. Askin played with elegant phrasing and an enthralling spirit. In “Salacak Sarkisi” by Askin himself, he beguiled the audience with his superb technique. He returned with a more familiar composer in Khachaturian’s “Chant-Poeme” and Saygun’s more virtuosic “Demet Suite”. Both artists had great chemistry and consistently impressed the audience with committed, engaging performances. I only wish Askin’s sound resonated in the hall more. Arzruni was masterful and insightful with his performances of Hovhaness’ “Achtamar” and “Lake of Van” Sonata, in addition to his excellent playing in Koptagel’s “Tamzara” and Toccata.

Sahan Arzruni presented a program that can be perceived as an effort to bring the people of Turkey and Armenia closer together artistically. There are many common traits…and unique differences as well.


Fourtissimo: Soyeon Lee, Ran Dank, Roman Rabinovich, and Vassilis Varvaresos in Review

Fourtissimo:  Soyeon Lee, Ran Dank, Roman Rabinovich, and Vassilis Varvaresos, pianos
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall: New York, NY
October 8, 2010
 

Fourtissimo – Photo Credit: Lisa Mazzucco

Rarely has the literature for multiple pianos attracted four such exceptionally fine piano soloists as have come together in the dynamic new group Fourtissimo.  Having noted the “immense talent” of Young Concert Artists International Auditions Winner, Ran Dank, in 2009 (New York Concert Review, Vol. 16, No. 1), I was excited enough to read that he would be teaming up with rising star, Roman Rabinovich, about whom I wrote glowingly when he performed at the Salle Cortot in Paris in 2007 (Vol 14, No. 3); it thus seems a surfeit of riches to add the superb pianist (and 2010 Naumburg winner) Soyeon Lee and the outstanding Vassilis Varvaresos (also a winner of YCA, among other distinctions). Would the whole be greater than the sum of these parts? The answer is yes, thanks to the festive spirit, camaraderie, and constant variety in their program.

The music itself, including solos, duos, and works for two pianos and eight hands, was full of thrills, and the world premiere of “The Quadruple Carmen Fantasy and Fugue” by young composer Noam Sivan was chief among them.  Its witty and brilliant treatment of the Carmen themes exploited all four pianists’ skills extensively, with none of the dead wood or excessive doubling that plague the two-piano repertoire. Jazz and popular elements reinvigorated the well-known themes (as did the addition of tambourine at one point).

Four selections from Ligeti Etudes (for solo piano) alternated with the ensemble works, offering a much-needed textural relief, a sonic “palate cleanser,” and a solo virtuoso showcase for each pianist. It was a joy to hear these fascinating Etudes singly, rather than in rapid succession. Mr. Varvaresos first offered No. 9, “Vertige,” in a rendition so dizzying that one needed to clutch one’s seat.

Liszt’s two-piano transcription of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (first movement) followed, played by Ran Dank and Soyeon Lee. In keeping with the ensemble’s professed inspiration, the “boldness and creativity of the Golden Age “ of pianism, it was a refreshing choice, played with precision and energy. Ligeti’s Etude No. 4 (“Fanfares”) was then given marvelous vibrancy by Mr. Rabinovich, who was joined afterwards by Mr. Varvaresos to close the first half with Ravel’s La Valse. La Valse was given a muscular, if somewhat overly goal-oriented, performance. The surges and swoons seemed too often only hastily suggested (as well as some of the coruscating passage-work), but what may have been lacking in sensual thrills was found in athletic vigor, with Mr. Varvaresos taking an extroverted lead.

All four pianists joined forces again for the New York premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s Daydream and Nightmare (2005). A short but fascinating piece, it showed Mr. Liebermann’s characteristic artistry from its slow meditative opening to its tumultuous close.

The Ligeti Etude series continued with No. 6 (“Autumn in Warsaw”) sensitively played by Ms. Lee, followed by Mendelssohn’s own arrangement for piano of the final movement (Presto) of his Octet Op. 20, played with fleet-fingered control by Mr. Dank and Mr. Varvaresos. Mr. Dank remained onstage for Ligeti’s Etude No. 1 (“Desordre”), expertly handled (even if I would have preferred even more pronounced accentuation of its jagged rhythms). Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, a surefire two-piano standard, was then winningly played by Ms. Lee and Mr. Rabinovich. Even more sense of diabolical play will put it “over the top,” but each successive performance will undoubtedly encourage that. Grainger’s “Fantasy on Porgy and Bess”  (after Gershwin), another two-piano favorite, closed with the “Fourtissimo” treatment, with four hands alternating tag-team-style for much of it, but ending with a souped up eight–hand finale. It was an apt finale to an evening full of fun.

An improvisatory encore including themes from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” and “Mrs. Robinson” (among others) brought the house down.


Orrett Rhoden, Piano

Orrett Rhoden, piano
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
October 15, 2009

Sometimes an encore can leave a more marked impression on an audience than the program itself, and such was the case with Jamaican pianist Orrett Rhoden’s transcription of the Bob Marley song, “One Love.” A reggae-meets-Liszt fusion of his homeland’s music with his own Romantic pianism, it exemplified Mr. Rhoden’s charismatic and communicative gifts. Indeed, these gifts were present throughout the recital, but there were some issues that detracted.

While some of the liberties Mr. Rhoden took may be chalked up to interpretive license, many of them were too much for this listener. Especially in the Sonata, Op. 53 of Beethoven (“Waldstein”) and Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques, Op. 13, there were myriad grand ritardandi, puzzling tempo changes, dramatic bursts (where more measured dynamics were called for), and changed or added notes that did not enhance the score. While these “personal touches” may be preferable to having no reactions to the score whatsoever (an all too common occurrence), too many of them can distort the music. As just a few examples, in Schumann’s Etude II, grace notes were added in the wrong places and a gratuitous final C-sharp spoiled its character; moreover, the first and second endings of Variation XI had a different bass line than what is written (accentuated, to boot). One could be impressed at times that Mr. Rhoden simply follows his own drummer, as in Etude X, where his added left hand octaves hearkened back to some Romantic piano greats; unfortunately, though, some of these “liberties” must be considered errors, such as in the Finale where the last sixteenths of many measures were changed to eighths, completely changing the rhythmic energy.

The balance of the program included two Scarlatti Sonatas in A Major (L. 483 and 345),

Granados “Allegro de Concierto,” and Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor. While in the Granados, one missed the serene mastery of the recently departed Alicia de Larrocha, Rhoden’s characteristic freedom and cantabile phrasing brought some great moments to the Chopin. An encore, the Allemande from Bach’s French Suite in G Major, was followed by the Marley, which brought the house down.


Cornerstone Chorale and Brass

Cornerstone Chorale and Brass
“The Courage to Care”
Created by Bruce Vantine
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
October 11, 2009

I’ve never encountered anything quite like “The Courage to Care,” the program presented by Bruce Vantine’s Cornerstone Chorale and Brass.  Part church service, part passion play, part concert, this program assumes a unique form in which Mr. Vantine attempts to carry out his stated mission “to use our time, talents and resources to minister to our brothers and sisters in need.” 

On hand were a brass quintet, a pianist, a percussionist, two narrators, a chorus of twenty one and the conductor-composer-creator, Dr. Bruce Vantine.  The performance ran without intermission and the audience was instructed to withhold applause until the end. The program was divided into five large sections entitled “By your will created,” “Called to serve all people,” “The courage to care,” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” and “Be not afraid.” We were provided with an eleven page program which contained the words of the narrators and of the choral selections, and I am happy to report that the lights in the audience were sufficiently bright that one could read the program with ease. This was especially helpful during the two hymns, which were audience sing-alongs.  At other times it was hardly necessary, as the diction of the narrators and singers was exemplary.

Their fine diction was not the only way in which the Chorale excelled.  Throughout the program they sang with beautiful sound, excellent intonation, and sincerity of intention. The several solos performed by chorus members were all well executed.  Standing front and center, attractively clad in red, black and white, and singing everything by memory, they were the stars of the show.  Equally skilled, however, was the brass quintet. During one of the most poignant moments of the “God so loved, etc.” section we were treated to a performance of one of music’s most beautiful pieces; the Adagio from Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 (“Pathetique.”)  Here Mr. Vantine’s message seemed to be that during times of greatest emotion, when words fail, music speaks.

This listener would have enjoyed the program more had there been fewer Christological exhortations throughout. To those of us who are not of the Christian faith, a program such as this can seem presumptuous and even distasteful.  However, I was probably the only non-believer in the hall, and I can report that the rest of the audience loved it, as they demonstrated with a standing ovation at the end.