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.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Elad Kabilio, Grace Ho, Luke Krafka, and Caleb van der Swaagh

One speaks of a herd of cattle or a pride of lions, but what does one call a group of cellos? For want of a better collective noun, we have decided upon a "chorus of cellos" since they sing in different voices.  If one of our readers can come up with a better collective term, please address the issue in the comment section.

The voices we heard last night at Elad Kabilio's "Music Talks" were magnificent. At the upper end of the register we are reminded of "head voice" in a soprano and at the lower end of the register we feel the resonance in our body that we feel when a bass is singing.

In the works we heard that were arranged for this unusual grouping of instrumentalists (not unusual for Mr. Kabilio however) voices were distributed among the four players-- but not consistently. Each player had opportunities to play the upper, middle, and lower voices.

Although the entire evening revealed a stunning array of Latin American music, the part of the program that left us bedazzled was soprano Larisa Martinez' heartfelt performance of Manuel de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas. We have lost track of the number of times we have written about this cycle of songs but last night's performance was like hearing it for the first time.

Ms. Martinez' warm timbre and commitment to the text brought the emotions straight to the heart--and emotions there were aplenty! She brought out the irony of "El pano moruno", the lighthearted attempt of  "Seguidilla Murciana" to hide a broken heart, the sorrow of "Asturiana" (our personal favorite", the rapture of young love in "Jota", the peacefulness of the lullaby "Nana", and the pain of loss in "Cancion" and "Polo". The songs are brief but the feelings intense.

What was particularly remarkable about this hearing of something familiar was not only Ms. Martinez' memorable performance but that the work, composed for voice and piano, was arranged for voice and four cellos by composer Dina Pruzhansky, who also changed the key. This brought an entirely new texture to the work. It was like returning home after a vacation and finding that a designer had come in your absence and done a marvelous renovation.

Ms. Martinez closed the program with a selection from Maria la O, a zarzuela composed by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona.  What a gorgeous aria and so magnificently performed! All we can say is if we don't get to see a zarzuela presented soon in toto, we will have to do it ourself! 

Ms. Martinez went to Cuba last year as part of an artistic delegation from Turn Around Arts, which was established by Michelle Obama. (And what is the present FLOTUS accomplishing???). We are sure she dazzled the Cubans the same way she dazzled us.

Our first love is always vocal music but the instrumental part of the program was the source of great pleasure for us and for our guest who was unfamiliar with classical music but is now a convert. There is something about four cellos that will do that every time!

What is unique about Music Talks is the enthusiastic manner in which Mr. Kabilio presents the works on the program, instructing audience members in a non-academic fashion on what to listen for--i.e. the five beat measure of the folk-inflected Zortzico of Catalunyan composer Isaac Albeniz, the layered melodies of Argentinian Astor Piazzola, and the intricate manner in which Brazilian composer Heitor Villa Lobos melded Bachian structure with the color of his native folk music.

What a satisfying evening! If you have never attended a Music Talks event, you might consider their upcoming recital in which Metropolitan Opera tenor Aaron Blake (of whose voice we are very fond) will join the string quartet for some exciting music making. Put October 26th on your calendar! And we will also mention that the atmosphere is informal -- up close and personal--just the way we like it!

(c) meche kroop

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