We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Rosie Gallagher and Julia Yang 

With vocal music at the top of our list, we rarely attend instrumental recitals but the three composers on last night's program at Juilliard are well known to us by way of their vocal compositions, so we were eager to see how we would react to their instrumental music. If we were to appreciate this music we would want to hear it well played and so we did. 

Celebrating its 10th anniversary during the 2016–2017 season, Ensemble Connect—formerly known as Ensemble ACJW—is a two-year fellowship program for the finest young professional classical musicians in the United States that prepares them for careers combining musical excellence with teaching, community engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership. It offers top-quality performance opportunities, intensive professional development, and the opportunity to partner throughout the fellowship with a New York City public school.

James Austin Smith, Remy Taghavi, Mika Sasaki, Nicolee Kuester
and Bixby Kennedy
The first ensemble of the evening comprised Rose Gallagher playing the flute and Julia Yang playing the cello. The work was by Heitor Villa-Lobos whose Bachianas Brazileiras has always delighted us especially when sung by Larisa Martinez! The work they chose, Assobio a Jato from 1950, was a bit more modern than our preferred period but we found it original and it held our interest.  Ms. Gallager tooted away while Ms. Yang produced a long legato line--but then the the flute picked up the lyricism and the cello went all pizzicato. We loved the sonorities of the Adagio movement but found the strange "jet-engine" ending a bit bizarre.
The second group to perform joined forces for Mozart's 1784 Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat Major, K. 452. This unusually scored piece reveals Mozart's inventiveness at its height. The melodies therein would find a home in any of Mozart's operas (and no doubt, some of them did, since they sounded deliciously familiar). The Larghetto was delightful and sweetly lyrical with a touching section in the minor key. Nicolee Kuester had a fine horn solo. The ensemble comprised four other grand musicians--James Austin Smith playing oboe, Bixby Kennedy playing clarinet, Remy Taghavi playing bassoon--and all knit together by Mika Sasaki playing the piano.
Lee Dionne, Marie Lee, Maren Rothfritz, and Madeline Fayette
The splendid evening ended with a Piano
Quartet in the same lovely key as the Mozart--Schumann's Piano Quartet, Op. 47 from 1842. The entire work evolved from a simple motif which recurred in various guises throughout the piece, lending a satisfying unity to the work. In the Scherzo, the shivering strings were ethereal and made us think of Mendelssohn's music for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, what we call "fairy music". The Andante cantabile was a beautiful and tender love song with a waltz section that painted a picture of sophisticated couples dancing the night away on the dance floor of an ocean liner's ballroom.  The Finale was a fugue that built in intensity.  We heard Lee Dionne at the piano, with Mari Lee on violin, Maren Rothfritz on viola, and Madeline Fayette on cello.

Our only quibble of the evening was that before each piece the audience was assaulted by overly amplified and distorted voices. We learned later that these were responses from children who had been exposed to classical music by Ensemble Connect. We are delighted that children can be brought to appreciate classical music but would have preferred to read their comments or to have them recited by someone intelligible. The audience was cringing and several audience members where heard to say "What?  What's that?  Who's talking?  What did they say?"  Kind of like subway announcements.

(c) meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment