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Belatedly, I wish to add a bit to the NYT review of this event--with which I essentially agree. In the Purcell songs, the duo did find and express something brand new. Still, the right period and regional diction remains an integral element of these songs. A couple of months before, I heard Dame Emma Kirkby perform similar material. So, going into the intermission I felt let down by the strange diction of this performance.

But during the second half, innovations, including vocalise and the strumming of piano strings, made it totally astonishing and compelling. Anything less than the faultless musicianship and teamwork of these artists would have fallen flat. This part was pure delight.

No doubt I was not the only audience member who laments the rarity of opportunity to hear Schäfer perform Lieder in concert. Thankfully, for an encore Schäfer did perform two Lieder I have since been unable to identify; I think they were Schubert. I fault her for not announcing what they were. I wish singers would drop the pretense of spontaneity and go ahead and include the texts of anticipated encores with the program notes.
Posted on 27 Feb 2010, 5:47 PM
A full house got to hear a truly gteat singer at the apex of her powers. What a combination of artistry AND showmanship! There were many in the audience who knew Ms. DiDonato from her days as a student at Academy of Vocal Arts.
Posted on 1 Mar 2011, 4:26 PM
This ensemble is rare if not unique, in that "chamber orchestra" is no misnomer. The musicians are peers. They play without a conductor, even when their number approaches forty. Arabella Steinbacher is a virtuosa soloist who grows and progresses artistically year by year. The performance I attended in Princeton, NJ was sheer, breathtaking perfection. (As the end of the tour at Carnegie Hall has not yet taken place at this writing, I hope to influence a few additional people to show up.)

The opening piece was winds only. That allowed the strings-only Hartmann piece, and Ms. Steinbacher's first entrance, to be a dramatic contrast. Even without program notes, I would have known that Hartmann's Concerto funèbre is a programmatic Holocaust piece, somewhat redolent of Shostakovich and many a Korngold movie score. I'm not sure the piece would hold up after many hearings. However, on first impression in that setting, and so excellently performed, it was moving and even stunning.

The two very familiar Mozart post-intermission pieces provided welcome comfort and cheer, after the gravity of the Hartmann piece. Only for the Haydn "London" Symphony was the entire Orpheus ensemble on stage. That was so well played as to satisfy, despite following Ms. Steinbacher.

The true chamber orchestra configuration produces what might be a tricky situation for the soloist. With no conductor, she was the absolute focal point of attention. Never have I seen a soloist make an entrance with more poise and elegance. She radiated delight and satisfaction. That seemingly trivial detail made an appreciable contribution to the whole.

These artists are "loaded for bear" as it were, for Carnegia Hall!
Posted on 29 Apr 2011, 2:05 AM
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