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.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Colin Davin, Elad Kabilio, and Larisa Martinez

You may observe that in the photo above Mr. Kabilio is blurry whilst Mr. Davin and Ms. Martinez appear rather sharp. The reason is that we do not have a fast enough lens on our iPhone and Mr. Kabilio never stops moving! Indeed this young man is always on the move. Gifted not only as a cellist but as an educator and a producer, the kinetic Mr. K. started Music Talks about six years ago and we have watched his audience growing until they outgrew their venue. Their new home is Interface, a spacious loft-like space on W. 30th St. Nothing pleases us more than seeing a Sold Out sign in connection with classical music.

In case you hadn't noticed, there is a quiet revolution going on the classical music world, one in which young artists are starting their own companies and presenting music in unusual venues in order to attract new young audience members. People who are reluctant to buy costly tickets to concert halls or invest huge amounts of money in subscriptions can more readily be tempted to attend a more casual venue for a modest entrance fee.

An advantage of this sea change is that unusual and highly specialized programs can be presented.  We are indeed in an era of specialization of taste.

Mr. K. certainly has his finger on the pulse of his audience and plays them as adroitly as he plays his cello, and that's saying a lot. He did not play the cello last night at Interface but rather put on his educator's cap and shared his ebullient enthusiasm with the comfortably seated audience.  The 90 minutes flew by and if you didn't leave with your feelings fulfilled and your brain stimulated, there is something wrong with you.

The subject of the evening was "Guitar Stories: Spain" and Mr. K. brought together two amazing artists to give us an evening as tasty as tapas. Celebrated guitarist Colin Davin immersed himself in the sounds of Iberia which Mr. K. explained is really many countries in one, revealing multiple influences from its neighbors. If the tour was too brief, then we travelers can explore further on our own.

Isaac Albeniz composed at the end of the 19th c. and, although he composed his Op. 232 for the piano, most people recognize it from its guitar transcriptions, probably most successfully accomplished by Andres Segovia. The key has been transcribed from G minor to E minor. The introduction, originally intended as a Preludio to a suite entitled Chants d'Espagne, was retitled by the publisher as "Asturias". However, to our ears, it is most definitely Andalusian in spirit.  Indeed we recognize one of the rhythms as a buleria.

Mr. Davin began pianissimo and built to an exciting intensity that brought the vigorous foot stamping of flamenco to mind. The insistent thematic repetition made it impossible to forget, and as the theme ascended the scale the excitement grew, with a more tranquil middle section providing a respite.

The fifth section of the work is entitled "Cordoba" and was given a soulful introduction. We particularly liked the quiet chorale-like section.

Federico Mompou, a Catalonian, did write for guitar and we heard selections from Suite Compostelana, commissioned by Segovia himself. Santiago de Compostela, the capitol of Galicia, is the culmination of a famous Christian pilgrimage in Northwest Spain. The "Preludio" shows the influence of nearby France whereas "Muineira" with its duple meter shows the Celtic influence on the area. Yes, the guitar can sound like bagpipes and yes, we did feel like dancing!

Poor Antonio Jose, executed at 34 during the Spanish Civil War, produced some fine music before he died.  His Sonata for Guitar has its organizational foot in Neoclassicism but its emotional foot (or heart, as it were) in Impressionism. He paid tribute to his teacher Maurice Ravel in "Pavana Triste" which had a limping rhythm reminding one of sobs. Mr. Davin's fingerwork in the Finale was rapid fire.

The culmination of the evening was Manuel de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas, a piece that was written for soprano and piano. Although that is the way we are accustomed to hearing it, we loved the way it sounded on the guitar which was an equal partner to the lovely Larisa Martinez' luscious soprano. Her exquisite tone and clear diction conveyed the meaning of the text with Mr. Davin's guitar supplying the witty subtext. The songs are concise and pungent with ample opportunity to change mood by color and texture.

Our only quibble was that the seven songs were not performed as a unit, as they are meant to be. The cycle was interrupted twice for Mr. K. to explain the songs to the audience, which broke the mood. We believe this was a well-intentioned attempt to educate the audience and we do understand that people's attention spans are growing shorter by the megabyte, but the cycle begs to be heard in one piece!

(c) meche kroop

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