Shattered Glass Ensemble at Carnegie Hall; photo credit: Brian Hatton
Shattered Glass, a sixteen member string orchestra sans conductor, is very much a product of the 21st century -marketing themselves with a professionally produced website and all the elements of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram). The players hail from all around the globe, but they all met and joined together while attending the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to having a wide mainstream repertoire, Shattered Glass has been active in crossover collaborations with pop and hip-hop artists. Mentored by the noted violinist, teacher, and composer Albert Markov, this group is poised to make its mark on the music world by reaching out to as wide an audience as possible.
Violinist Elizabeth Woo, artistic director of Shattered Glass and highly acclaimed artist in her own right, headlined a program featuring her as a soloist in works by Vivaldi, Sarasate, and Albert Markov. The program opened with the Concerto for Three Violins in F major, RV 551 of Vivaldi, with violin soloists Elizabeth Woo, Holly Jenkins, and Tina Bouey. The opening Allegro movement got off to a problematic start, with intermittent intonation issues and tentative playing. The question that arose was whether this was something borne of nerves or was it going to be an endemic problem throughout. The answer was forthcoming in the Andante, where the playing was solid, and the final Allegro, which proved that any jitters were gone. The playing was confident, with good ensemble balance and precise intonation. The second work, the Ricercar a 6 from The Musical Offering by J.S. Bach was composed on what amounted to a challenge by Frederick the Great. On May 7, 1747, Frederick gave Bach a theme with the task to improvise a three-part fugue on the spot. When Bach made short work of that, Frederick demanded a six-part fugue. Bach asked leave to write out the work and The Musical Offering was the end result. On the 266th anniversary of this meeting, Shattered Glass played the Ricercar a 6 in an arrangement by young composer Qin Dang for twelve players (six violins, three violas, two cellos, and a double-bass). Her arrangement uses as inspiration Anton Webern’s Klangfarbenmelodie approach to the same work (though the latter included winds, brass, and harp). As violist Michael Davis said in his comments before playing, “making connections is the biggest challenge,” in the work. That challenge was successfully met – the interplay between the twelve musicians was excellent; at no time was any single player dominating over the others in what was a perfect rendering of the Klangfarbenmelodie style. To end the first half, Shattered Glass offered the String Symphony No. 7 in D minor, MWV N 7, a remarkably mature work composed by Felix Mendelssohn at the age of thirteen (!). For the first time, all sixteen players took to the stage. Bass player Max Jacob provided a moment of levity when he abruptly hustled off the stage only to return a moment later with a huge grin and his missing bow, much to the amusement of the audience. Now that all players were properly equipped, they launched into a spirited reading. The precision of attack in the opening Allegro and superb dynamic control, especially the pianissimos in the Andante, were striking. The playful, almost sinister colors of the Menuetto and finally the energetic Allegro molto contributed to a winning performance.
Sinfonietta Per Archi ( Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings), composed in 1992 by Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933), opened the second half. This work alternates from the strident to the nostalgic throughout while making virtuosic demands in both solo and ensemble. Shattered Glass seems to possess a particular affinity for this work. The playing was exceptional from start to finish in what was the highlight of the concert to this listener. Special mention must be made of the soloists; violinist Elizabeth Woo, violist Celia Hatton, and cellist Grace Ho for their exceptional playing. After the thorny Penderecki, Pablo de Sarasate’s Spanish Dances - Playera, Zapateado, and Habanera, were a surefire way to lighten the mood. In an arrangement by Mr. Markov where the piano accompaniment was transcribed for strings, Elizabeth Woo took center stage in the soloist’s role. Ms. Woo has the requisite technique and gave these crowd-pleasing works a virtuosic performance. The large and enthusiastic audience roared its approval. As much as I detest histrionics and admire control, I found myself wishing for a bit less restraint from Ms. Woo. To close, Ms. Woo performed the world premiere of Rhapsody No. 6, “Korean”, written especially for her by her teacher Albert Markov (b.1933). Inspired by a visit to Gangwon Province in South Korea, this work uses traditional Korean folk melodies in an “East meets West” fashion. Ms. Woo was a shining star in this highly effective and charming work. The audience responded with a standing ovation for Ms. Woo, Mr. Markov, and the ensemble. This work will no doubt become a cornerstone in the music festival in Gangwon Province that the dynamic Ms. Woo founded and where Shattered Glass will also perform.
Shattered Glass is a promising ensemble. With a core of such talented and enthusiastic young players, the future should be bright. With the growing popularity of such groups with similar missions, such as Brooklyn Rider and Alarm Will Sound, there is every reason to believe that Shattered Glass will enjoy commercial and artistic success. I look forward to hearing them again in the future.
-Jeffrey Williams for New York Concert Review, New York, NY
What an auspicious New York debut vocal recital, as two wonderful performers, mezzo soprano Misoon Ghim and pianist Amy Yang, presented songs from five stylistic periods, sung beautifully in five languages. I was most impressed by the high quality of the music they chose, and how these works allowed both performers to exhibit the many aspects of their fine technique and deep musicality.
And what better way to open a program than with the words “Music for a while/ Shall all your cares beguile,” the opening lines of Henry Purcell’s setting of John Dryden’s poem “Music for a while.” I was pleased that the performers chose an edition with a stylistically correct keyboard part, rather than one with the souped-up accompaniments so often used by singers who aren’t Baroque specialists. Ms. Ghim possesses a beautiful bright voice which is produced with great ease. (Darker vocal colors were to appear later in the concert.) Another Purcell work, “Dido’s Lament,” followed. Most moving was her heartfelt singing of the words “remember me” which showcased her thrilling upper register. I did wonder why Ms. Ghim chose to ornament repeated lines during “Dido’s Lament,” while failing to decorate the da capo of “Music for a while.”
Next we heard four songs by Brahms. During these works Ms. Ghim produced many vocal colors to express the meaning of the words. Most memorable was her performance of “Die Mainacht” where we first heard her moving dark sound. Pianist Amy Yang, very much an accompanist during the Purcell, was given her first chance to shine during these songs. Her rapid finger work imitating the sound of spinning wheels during “Mädchenlied” and her stormy accompaniment during “Mein Liebe ist grun” gave us a foretaste of many pleasures to come.
The first half ended with a superb performance of Mozart’s Concert Aria “Ch’io mi scordi di te?” As the accompaniment of this work was originally scored for orchestra with obbligato piano, one could think of this piece as a concerto for voice and piano. It was therefore exciting to hear both of these fine musicians vie for our attention. That Ms. Ghim has been a success on the opera stage was vividly shown by her expert performance of the expressive opening recitative, the lyrical first section of the aria and then its thrilling dramatic conclusion. This was wonderful singing. Equally wonderful as both accompanist and second soloist was pianist Amy Yang.
That the recital’s second half would maintain the high quality of the first half was made clear during the opening moments of the first of Mahler’s “Fünf Rückertlieder,” “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!” as Ms. Ghim spun out a most ravishing phrase. And at the climax of the intimate “Liebst du um Schönheit” she was very much the singing actress, as she lovingly caressed the words “o ja, mich liebe” (“oh yes, love me.”) “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” allowed Ms. Ghim to show off her dark lower register and Ms. Yang to offer a sensitive accompaniment featuring a beautifully played left hand. Both performers shone during the very slow and quiet “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.” But what sticks in my mind was Ms. Yang’s beautiful tone color and subtle phrasing, especially during the piano’s introduction, interludes and postlude. The last verse of “Um Mitternacht” brought the set to a goose-bump-producing- climax. For this listener, these Mahler songs were the highest point of a concert with many high points.
After a fine performance of Debussy’s “Fêtes galantes 1”, the program ended with “Cinco Cancione Negras” (“Five Black Songs”) by the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002.) Employing Spanish and West Indian rhythms and themes, these songs lightened the mood and showed us another side of Ms. Ghim’s artistry. She and Ms. Yang brought the concert to a jolly conclusion with a wild rendition of the last song, “Canto negro.”
Thanks to the Korean Music Foundation for bringing these wonderful artists before a very appreciative New York audience.
-Harry Saltzman for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
In a performance originally cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, West Chester University of Pennsylvania presented two of its faculty members in a shared recital at Steinway Hall. Vincent Craig is an assistant professor of piano and Stephen Ng is an assistant professor of voice.
Opening with J.S. Bach’s English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808, Dr. Craig showed he has a strong affinity for this work. The playing was everything one hopes for in Bach- attention to detail, clear articulation, balanced voicing, and a steady rhythmic sense. It was excellent throughout, and the highlight of his performances to this listener. His Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G minor was solid, but reflected a somewhat undifferentiated interpretation. The 2005 work Actions and Resonances by composer Alex Miller (b. 1982) followed. The composer writes, “the title describes the texture of the piece, which frequently features crisp, percussive gestures followed by pauses in which the sound is left to resonate momentarily before moving on.” Dr. Craig gave this interesting work a reading that was mostly in line with Miller’s description. There were some moments when it was not entirely clear that all was according to plan, and there were some rather awkward page turns that could have been avoided by having a page turner. In the end, the composer, who was in attendance, signaled his approval with demonstrative applause. Ending with Liszt’s St. Francis of Paulus Walking on the Waves, Dr. Craig captured the dramatic sense of this work without falling into the trap of making it bombastic. If anything, it was a bit too understated for my liking, but I did admire Dr. Craig’s consistency of style. The virtuosic elements were dispatched with ease in a performance that brought the audience to their feet in excitement. Dr. Craig is a thoughtful, meticulous player who does not “showboat”. Clarity of lines and attention to inner voices were features of his playing throughout. His students are fortunate to have a teacher with the ability not only to verbalize, but to demonstrate clearly his ideas and approaches to the music.
Dr. Ng began his selections with “Sweeter Than Roses” from Henry Purcell, accompanied by Dan K. Kurland. The music’s demands were well met with Dr. Ng’s sure technique in a highly polished performance. It was an auspicious beginning. Benedetto sia’l giorno and Pace non tovo from Liszt’s Tre sonetti del Petrarca, S.158 were then offered. These highly effective songs tax the pianist and the vocalist to the utmost in Liszt’s characteristic virtuosic writing. Dr. Ng was up to the challenge, with a soaring voice in the extreme registers that could be simply described as amazing. Mr. Kurland was commendable in his own right, navigating the challenges with skill. Nine selections from Clairières dans le ciel (Clearings in the Sky), a thirteen-song cycle taken from poet Francis Jamme’s Tristesses by Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) followed. Given the astonishing maturity of this work from Boulanger at age twenty, one cannot help but lament what might have been if not for her tragically early death at age twenty-four. Dr. Ng fashioned a performance that was mesmerizing from Elle était descendue au bas de la prairie to the ending, Demain fera un an. It is regrettable that Dr. Ng did not do the entire set, as he did in recital February 11, 2013 at West Chester University. It is a set that highlights his talents to the maximum, and I would highly recommend that any music lover hear him perform this song cycle. To close the program was Lensky’s Aria, ????, ???? ?? ?????????, ????? ???? ?????? ??? (Where, where, have you gone, spring of my golden days?), from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. Dr. Ng’s performance of it closed with the same energy and commitment with which he began. He is a superb singer and one whom West Chester University can be proud to call their own. It was gratifying to see the support from the West Chester University community and administration for both of these fine musicians.
-Jeffrey Williams for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) is an organization that gives talented musicians and vocalists an opportunity to perform in world-class venues, often performing new works of both established composers and up-and-coming talents. Today’s concert was no exception; works from Mozart, Haydn, and John Rutter, with the New York premiere of Calling All Dawns, from new talent Christopher Tin, were on the program.
In what might have been called a pre-concert performance, Anonymous 4 opened with a set of six pieces done with the skill that has made then renowned. Possibly in keeping with the “anonymous” ideal, any information about these six pieces was withheld. It was a serious omission not to have the works named, in spite of the program noting “selections to be called from the stage”. In this day and age when everything should be done to enlighten audiences and enhance the concert experience, a golden opportunity to foster further interest was lost.
Mozart’s Regina Coeli K. 276 is a jubilant work that honors the Virgin Mary. The trumpets and timpani lend the otherwise largely string orchestration a festive quality that is in keeping with the celebration of Easter. There is a strong reminder of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, although it is not known whether Mozart had seen Handel’s score prior the composition. Guest conductor Eric A. Johnson led a solid performance that featured High School and University singers from Illinois, Oregon, and California. Next came the Te Deum for the Empress Marie Therese of Franz Joseph Haydn. Johnson styled this performance with skill, conveying the work’s regal air and showing considerable attention to detail. The transitions to C minor and back to C major were particularly sensitively done. It seemed that conductor, orchestra, and chorus gained in confidence as the performance progressed.
John Rutter (b. 1945) describes his Gloria as a three-movement symphony that is “exalted, devotional, and jubilant by turns”. Guest Conductor Geoffrey Paul Boers took the podium and wielded his baton with the demeanor of a wizard preparing to hurl thunderbolts. From the arresting opening bars, one was put on notice that the Distinguished Concerts orchestra was pulling out all the stops, from the stunning brilliance of the brass playing to the electric energy in the percussion. It was especially enjoyable for this listener to hear these players shine so brightly, as I have almost always found them to be the equals of any I have heard anywhere. The exuberant orchestra overshadowed the chorus in the outer movements, where the latter simply did not project enough volume. Interestingly enough, the singers’ than full sound turned out to be a blessing in the 2nd movement, where the chorus was actually quite radiant. In spite of these issues, it was an exciting, dynamic, and passionate performance that ended the half with a splash.
It must be a unique occurrence for a large-scale work to have its genesis from a theme written for a video game, but this is the case for Calling All Dawns, which was the only work on the second half. In conversation with Jonathan Griffith, composer Christopher Tin (b. 1976) told the story of how Calling All Dawns came to be. The opening movement, Baba Yetu, was composed as the theme for the computer game Civilizations IV. It was so popular in the gaming world that the music went “viral”, with countless requests for more pieces from the composer. Tin was inspired to write a large work that he described as a “four-year labor of love”. Calling All Dawns is a forty-five minute, twelve-movement work, with each movement in a different language (Swahili, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, French, Latin, Irish, Polish, Hebrew, Farsi, Sanskrit, and Maori). The idea of a multi-cultural world where we are more similar than different was Mr. Tin’s stated goal. Mr. Tin has a gift for writing music that is immediately accessible in its tonal consonance, rhythmically vital, and appealing to the emotions. It is easy to understand why his music is so popular. One can detect similarities to other composers’ work (e.g. Karl Jenkins, Henryk Górecki in his Third Symphony, and Mike Oldfield, especially his Music of the Spheres), which might cause some to suggest the music is derivative, but I prefer the idea of a composer finding his voice. All these caveats aside, the pairing of Tin and DCINY is an ideal partnership, and it will be interesting to hear Mr. Tin’s next work, which DCINY will be premiering in 2014.
Conductor Jonathan Griffith was the master of the situation, as is the norm for this consummate leader and musician. Any composer should be thrilled to have him at the helm when his works are played. The orchestra had already been excellent this afternoon, but they saved the best for the last in a performance that was done with style and grace. The supporting chorus, with singers from Australia, the United Kingdom, Vermont, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York, was vibrant throughout with a strong performance that was not wanting in volume or passion. It was a joy to see the constantly changing soloists, from Anonymous 4, to others including members of the chorus who came forward and offered passionate performances. They were all stars today. When two Maori in tribal dress entered the stage in the final movement and not only chanted the Maori lyrics, but did a ritual dance, it was that special DCINY “touch” that I have come to expect from this fine organization. The audience reacted after the final notes with the loudest and longest standing ovation I have ever heard at any concert. Mr. Tin was called to the stage and the ovation became deafening. It must have been one of the proudest moments in his life and it was wonderful to see. It’s an image I will not soon forget. Congratulations to DCINY for another winning performance.
In sponsoring this superb concert by The Catalyst String Quartet in the Conference Center of The American Bible Society’s New York headquarters, Musica da Camara continued its policy of presenting performances in non-traditional concert venues. Even though the room was fairly large, the fact that there was no stage and both audience and performers were on the same level made for a more intimate chamber music experience. All the members of the quartet are top Laureates and alumni of the Sphinx Competition, an annual competition for young black and Latino string players. That the Sphinx Organization thinks highly of these players is shown by the fact that their quartet is called “A Sphinx Ensemble.”
First we heard “Sturm,” a work by one of the quartet’s violinists, Jesse Montgomery. Written in 2006 for string quintet, it was arranged for quartet in 2008 and again revised for The Catalyst String Quartet in 2012. Very well constructed, this was a great opener. The beginning melody, especially its first three notes, served as the basis for much of the work’s melodic material. And I loved the strumming pizzicati which permeated the piece. The performers’ rhythmic energy, their polyphonic clarity and tight ensemble–playing were to continue throughout the evening.
With spoken comments, Ms. Montgomery then introduced Osvaldo Golijov’s “Tenebrae.” She demonstrated the sound of sul ponticello (bowing close to the violin’s bridge which creates a glassy sound and emphasizes the higher harmonics) and told us that the score instructs her to tune the violin’s G-string down a third. The use of sul ponticello added to otherworldly character of this work, and the lowered G-string darkened the sound of the quartet–tenebrae is the Latin word for shadow. The quartet gave us a beautifully wrought, lucid and committed performance of this most moving composition. Each player shone, both as collaborators in a like-thinking ensemble and as lyric “soloists.” Both violinists, Karla Donehew Perez and Jesse Montgomery, spun out luscious melodies on their violin’s lowest string; violist Christopher Jenkins played what sounded like Hebraic chants with soulful mournfulness; and cellist Karlos Rodriguez sailed around the cello’s high register with ease. (He would attain stratospheric heights in the concert’s second half.)
The last work on the first half was one that few in the audience have heard in its entirety, Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, Opus 11. But most people are familiar with the arrangement for string orchestra of the quartet’s second movement, the “Adagio for Strings.” Surrounding this beloved lyrical movement are two much more dissonant and rhythmically complex pieces which the quartet played with as much assurance and ease as they did the lyrical adagio. I was very impressed by the many string colors that the quartet created. (Most memorable were the passages in the first and second movements played with little or no vibrato.) In fact I was very impressed by every aspect of the quartet’s playing on the first half of this concert.
But I was awed by their performance of Alberto Ginastera’s fiendishly difficult String Quartet No.2, Opus 26! This work makes incredible technical demands, and the Catalyst players were up to all of them. One marveled at their perfect sense of ensemble during the unison passages and complex rhythms of the first movement. During the second movement, one luxuriated in the luscious tone of violist Christopher Jenkins. The mysterious sounds of the third movement, marked Presto magico, were flawlessly produced by using string techniques such as glissandi, harmonics, col legno (touching the strings with the wooden part of the bow) and the aforementioned sul ponticello. During the fourth movement cellist Karlos Rodriguez essayed his instrument’s highest notes with abandon. The concert was brought to a thrilling conclusion by the wild final movement, aptly marked furioso.
We were then treated to a delightful encore, the quartet’s arrangement of a children’s song from Puerto Rico, “El Coqui.” The audience left smiling.
-Harry Saltzman for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
Founded by violinist Julianne Klopotic, Light and Sound bills itself as a “full-spectrum music performance series.” From the experimental to the classic, with jazz/rock and world music in between, Light and Sound is in residence at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn for the 2013 season. The Old Stone House is a very intimate venue. The feeling is very much like the 19th century salon, with seating for a small audience in immediate proximity to the performers. The acoustics are remarkably good for a stone building constructed in the 17th century. The small but enthusiastic audience was treated to a performance of Franz Schubert’s Piano Trios by the Klopotic-Pierce-Zoering Trio.
These three performers each have extensive and impressive resumes as soloists. What always remains to be seen is the end result of joining such strong personalities as an ensemble. Sometimes it does occur that the whole is less than the sum of the parts, but I am pleased that this was not the case for this trio.
The first half was the Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 99 (D. 898). This work was started in 1827 and finished in 1828, the last year of Schubert’s life. From the opening notes of the Allegro Moderato, the trio took an assertive and confident direction with its strong, full-bodied sound. For a small venue, this was especially bold, declarative playing, led ably by the energetic pianist Pierce. It was highly satisfying. Klopotic has a very rich, singing tone that captured the optimistic essence of this movement. Zoering’s solo in the Andante poco mosso was played with artistry. There were some rough edges at the end of this movement, but it did not spoil the overall effect. The Rondo finale was played with gusto to the last.
The performers are to be commended on their level of concentration considering the less-than-exemplary behavior on the part of some listeners. Several of the audience members were recording the performance with their mobile phones held in the air facing the performers, while one very enthusiastic listener “conducted” by waving her arms a la Leonard Bernstein throughout the entire work, at a distance of maybe three or four feet from Klopotic. Perhaps one should be grateful for the fact that she actually kept an accurate beat!
The second half was dedicated to the nearly hour long Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 100 (D. 929). This work, completed in November 1827, was one of the few late works that Schubert actually heard played in his lifetime. The second movement theme is well known for its prominent use in the movie Barry Lyndon; so much so that the association is as strong as the use of Mozart’s Andante movement of K. 467 is to the movie Elvira Madigan. The thematic material in this trio is extensively developed and requires tremendous attention to detail. The trio mostly met the challenge, continuing their bold approach in the opening Allegro. It was extroverted playing from completely involved players. The sublime Andante con moto was met with nodding heads and smiles from the audience, who no doubt felt the pleasure in recognition of the theme. The Scherzando was played with care but also some small issues of ensemble- -fleeting in the grand scheme of things. The Allegro Moderato finale proved the players indefatigable, with a tremendous drive that built in intensity, to the delight of the same audience members so moved by the finale of the B-flat trio. After the final E-flat chord sounded, there was a moment of silence, after which the bemused Pierce called out, “That’s it!” The audience responded with a loud, prolonged standing ovation that surely was gratifying to the trio. It was a fitting end to an excellent concert. They encored this program on April 6, 2013 at the same venue.
The Klopotic-Pierce-Zoering trio is a fine ensemble. I do hope to have the opportunity to hear them again in the future.
Violinist Hristo Popov and pianist Per Enflo have an extensive performance history as a duo, including many recordings and recent performances of all ten Beethoven violin sonatas. Eastern Europe was the focal point of their recent concert, with music from Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.
The first half of the program consisted of two works by the Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978). Vladigerov was one of the founding fathers of modern Bulgarian music and many believe him to be the most influential Bulgarian composer ever. Chant, from the Bulgarian Suite, Op. 21, No. 2 opened the concert. This work, by a 28-year-old Vladigerov, is a good example of the composer’s evolution towards a national musical idiom based on folk material. The violin part has an improvisatory quality throughout. Mr. Popov played with sensitivity and his singing tone in the high register was unfailingly exceptional. Mr. Enflo was an attentive partner throughout. The rippling piano passagework over the pianissimo trill of the violin and gradual fade to final silence were striking. It was an auspicious start.
The earlier Violin Sonata in D Major (Op.1) is unabashedly romantic in its tonal language and form. It is a work that owes much to the Russian tradition, especially to Tchaikovsky. Mr. Popov navigated the rapid changes in moods in the opening Agitato movement with confidence. The second movement’s long piano introduction and extended solo in mid-movement allowed Mr. Enflo a starring role. The jaunty final movement was played by the duo with energy and panache in a stylish ending.
The second half opened with the Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op.25, by Georges Enesco (1881-1955). Subtitled “Dans le caractère populaire roumain”, this is an expressive, melancholic work presenting challenges that are not immediately perceived by the average listener. Pianist and violinist are both “treated” to fiendish difficulties in what could be called “high-risk/low reward”- not an enticing prospect. Mr. Popov conveyed the lament of the first movement, the haunted dreams and poltergeist-like sounds of the second movement, and the grotesque, mocking march of the finale with intelligence and consummate skill. It would be so easy for a lesser player to lapse into over emotive despondence and turn this work into a mishmash of cheap effects better suited for a silent film soundtrack. This was a performance that separated the men from the boys, so to speak. It was the highlight of the concert, and it was especially gratifying to see the audience react with such enthusiasm.
Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Sz. 87, from Béla Bartók ended the program. Dedicated to the legendary Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti, the Rhapsody uses the slow–fast (lassú—friss) paired movements of the popular Hungarian dance verbunkos. The Lassú is folk music given Bartók’s characteristic treatment and was played by Mr. Popov with charm. The Friss movement continues the folk element, with one tune having a passing resemblance to “Simple Gifts”- a la Bartók, of course. The duo built momentum to a frenzied pitch. A temporary respite in the form of bell-like tones on the piano set the stage for a winding up of the momentum once again. Mr. Popov played with fire, and the final cadenza-like passage had true demonic flair. It was an outstanding performance from start to finish.
Hristo Popov is a musician’s musician. Eschewing any empty showmanship, he invests his considerable skills in giving performances that place substance over effect. It might not always be exciting to watch, but whatever “excitement” the eyes have been denied, the ears have not. He has a worthy collaborator in Mr. Enflo and it would be a pleasure to hear this fine duo in the future.
Patrick Gallois, flutist and Maria Prinz, pianist
The Baroque period is rich in solo flute music. The two greats, Bach and Handel, each wrote several sonatas, and many of the lesser geniuses contributed as well. In the Romantic period, Schubert favored the instrument with a set of virtuoso variations and the French wrote reams of tuneful and often showy pieces. In the twentieth century many of the most prominent composers, among them Prokofiev, Bartok, Poulenc, Hindemith, Piston, and Ibert wrote solo flute music. And today’s composers love the flute.
The Classical period is a different story. Unless the flutist has an orchestra at her (or his) disposal to play a Mozart concerto, she will find almost nothing. Enter Patrick Gallois. Mr. Gallois, a prominent French flutist and conductor, has skillfully transcribed four Mozart violin sonatas, K.376, K.377, K. 378, and K. 570, for the flute. At the age of eight, Mozart wrote sonatas that could be played by either flute or violin, as was common practice in the Baroque era. This is the precedent for Mr. Gallois’ adaptations.
The lovely Sonata K.570 has a different history from the other three works. In 1789, Mozart entered this work into his list of compositions as a solo piano sonata. In 1796 It was published posthumously by Artaria as a sonata for piano with violin accompaniment. Subsequent scholarship has concluded that this was not Mozart’s intent, although the arranger is not known.
For the most part, the flute is well suited to these genial, accessible compositions. A few changes have to be made. As the violin’s range goes a third or a fourth below that of the flute (depending on the flute,) there are some octave transpositions. The flute is more powerful in its high register than when playing lower notes. The notes in the first octave are just not very loud. This is not the case with the violin, and for this reason it often behooves the flute to play in a higher octave in order to balance the piano. Where the violin plays double stops, the flute plays arpeggios. These changes do not impinge on the musical effectiveness of the pieces.
Unlike most flute sonatas these pieces do not give both instruments equal importance; the piano is the more important member of the duo. Indeed, the sonatas are referred to in some editions as piano sonatas with violin accompaniment. Maria Prinz is a fine pianist who plays with style and verve, always vital but never overpowering her partner. Mr. Gallois has a lovely sound, beguiling phrasing and especially clean articulation. No doubt many flutists and fans of flute music will find great pleasure in this new addition to the repertoire.
–Barrett Cobb for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
Each year in Vermont’s historic quarry village of Adamant, pianists of all stripes converge for practicing, lessons, master classes, and relaxation at the Adamant Music School. For 72 years the school has demonstrated the strength of their local granite in continuing its summer program, as well as its tradition of annual New York recitals, not an easy feat in this difficult economy. This season Adamant presented eight pianists in Weill Recital Hall, including faculty and student participants. There was music of Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Howard Bashaw (b.1957), and Marc-André Hamelin (the Etude No. 5), but I was there only for the last two works of Prokofiev and Chopin. Pianists Joni Chan and Tadeusz Domanowski represented their school well in what was a proud occasion for all involved.
Joni Chan performed the first movement (Allegro moderato) from Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82. She gave a measured and well-considered performance, which showed her to be a player of intelligence and integrity. Ms. Chan earned her BM, MM, and DMA at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and is currently teaching at Vincennes University in Indiana. As her biography states, she was recipient of a performer’s certificate for “outstanding graduate performance” from the piano faculty of the IU in 2006 and first prize in IU’s Mozart Concerto Competition in 2004, among other distinctions. She has performed widely throughout the US, Canada, and Hong Kong as soloist and collaborator. At the risk of overdoing the references to granite, Ms. Chan struck one as an extremely solid performer, one who has left no stone unturned in her study of the score (not to be confused with the violinists who famously leave “no tone un-Sterned”). All punning aside, nary a tone was even smudged, and one could probably take dictation from her scrupulously honest reading. Ms. Chan also showed plenty of strength in the fuller percussive dynamics, though my favorite performances of this work (the first of the three War Sonatas) have still greater projection of its dark irony. I also prefer to hear the Sonata in its totality, though one understands the time constraints in a group recital. Perhaps a stand-alone ten-minute work might fare better program-wise next time, but in any event Ms. Chan did a commendable job. Her thoroughness will be an asset to her students, and her steely reliability in performance bodes well for busy concert life.
To conclude the Adamant program, Tadeusz Domanowski played Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor (Op. 31). His was a fluent and confident reading that concluded the program with sweep and polish. Mr. Domanowski hails from Gliwice, Poland and is a graduate of the Frédéric Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw. His performances as soloist with orchestra, chamber musician, and recitalist, have taken him to an impressive array of festivals in France, China, Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Sweden, as well as the US, where he currently continues his studies at NYU. He has excellent technical facility at his disposal, combined with a good stylistic sense and strong stage presence. Brilliant and refined, Mr. Domanowski’s interpretation of the Chopin could also be described as suave. There was, in fact such a pervasive sense of ease that at times some passagework seemed almost too silken for this listener, leaving one wanting more of a sense of traction; this is a highly personal preference, however, as were some differences of opinion on rhythm and rubato in the more meditative A Major sections. I would have loved more sense of exploration at times, including the quiet end of the spectrum in leggiero passagework. A secure player such as Mr. Domanowski has all the groundwork in place for such musical journeys. Though it is hard to add to the performance history of a piece like this, with Rubinstein, Argerich, and countless other greats (followed by Kissin, Yundi Li, and more), Mr Domanowski undoubtedly has the potential to add his own special stamp. I look forward to hearing him again and heartily congratulate the Adamant Music School on both fine performers.
-Rorianne Schrade for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
Los Angeles Youth Orchestra
The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra arrived at Carnegie Hall and performed with great passion and dedication. They not only arrived at Carnegie, but as an organization and youth orchestra, they have truly “arrived’. The obvious reason for this event was to give these young players a remarkable opportunity to perform in New York, in one of the great halls of the world. But the other purpose was to show that this organization will be a permanent mainstay in their own community. Clearly, they will be just that.
The students’ training, which involves mentoring with members of major orchestras and rehearsing with professional musicians on a weekly basis, is paying off. The orchestra includes between 80 and 90 students ranging in age from 8-18, from both public and private schools. Although a good percentage of its students do not pursue music as a profession, all of the students’ lives are greatly enhanced through the classics and new music, and they learn life lessons through the program—including giving to and feeling a sense of community, the benefits of teamwork, plus knowledge of history and the arts. Some of their alumni, like violinist Niv Ashkenazi and flutist Elizabeth Erenberg, have decided to enter the music profession, and they joined current members for this Carnegie performance. Ashkenazi joined the orchestra originally as a teenager with the dream of becoming a concert violinist and studying at Juilliard with Itzhak Perlman, and he has fulfilled both those goals. Erenberg is now a successful flutist who recently received her master’s degree from The New England Conservatory, studying with Paula Robison.
The program was dedicated to the memory of the orchestra’s late program director and viola coach, Eve Cohen. In addition, one of the premieres, “EveStar”, by Russell Steinberg, was composed in her honor. Cohen worked with Steinberg to help develop the future of the organization and also to convince violinists to make the relatively seamless switch to the richer, more velvety sound of the viola. The music appropriately concludes with the viola section sustaining a low G string note while violins shimmer and sparkle above–as if to say she has said goodbye but will always remain with the orchestra in spirit. The work is structured so that its sprightly middle section provides a welcome energetic contrast (kids like upbeat tempos)—as if to bask in the many happy memories Cohen provided. This section gives the work real variety, and therefore provides conductors with the opportunity to program a contrasting work that’s both dreamy and animated. No doubt, it is the kind of inspired, catchy piece that deserves many performances. The same can be said for Steinberg’s “Carnegie Overture”, which is naturally celebratory–containing freshly lyrical passages that invite warm feelings–but also pulsating with edgy syncopations and dissonance. The percussion section helps drive the work, which has a real sense of continuity and organic growth from beginning to end. The orchestra played both works with a sense of nostalgia and purpose, with focus and infectious energy. They were well-prepared, performing with rhythmical precision and tonal refinement.
Also on the program was music from Beethoven’s challenging eighth symphony and a welcome, playable William Ryden/ Stephen L. Rosenhaus arrangement of De Falla’s music: a combination of the Miller’s Dance from “The Three Cornered Hat” and the Ritual Fire Dance from “El Amor Brujo”. Steinberg exudes much joy in his conducting, and the players respond with affection and exuberance in return. His interpretations of the Beethoven and De Falla were first rate. I cannot mention everyone here, but the horn and percussion sections were particularly excellent throughout the program, with special kudos to the solo clarinet and solo bassoon players.
Carnegie Hall was packed with a nearly full house, and there was excitement in the air. The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra staff, board and generous supporters are making this orchestra a vital part of the Los Angeles community, and it was wonderful for them and the New York audience that they made such an auspicious Carnegie Hall debut. Russell Steinberg has greatly helped with building this orchestra into an invaluable treasure; a shining and everlasting star.
-Anthony Aibel for New York Concert Review; New York, NY
"I am very happy with the ease and versatility with which I can share my content with my audience, clients and business partners alike."