|James Gandre, President of Manhattan School of Music, at Centennial Opening Day Celebration|
Last night we shared in the celebration of Manhattan School of Music's Centennial, an all day celebration of which we were able to attend only the evening concert at the spacious and acoustically magnificent Riverside Church. Participating were the MSM Symphony Orchestra which performed brilliantly under the baton of Roderick Cox, and the MSM Centennial Chorus, brought to equivalent brilliancy by Music Director Kent Tritle.
The evening began with a warm welcome by President Gandre who spoke briefly but engagingly about the history of the school. It became clear just how valuable the school is to the music community by the packed house and the applause after nearly every sentence.
The program was well chosen. John Corigliano, alumnus and former faculty member, composed the "curtain raiser"--"To Music" in 1994 for the centennial of the Cincinnati Symphony, an orchestral adaptation of his "Fanfares to Music", written for double brass quintet. After a quiet opening, the piece exploded with energy. The orchestra was augmented by brass fanfares emanating from either side of the audience, producing a "surround sound" effect.
At first we could barely recognize the melody of Schubert's 1818 lied "An die Musik" but then--there it was! Everything sounds different without the voice but we are sure we heard fragments of the same melody in the main event of the evening's program-- Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This is not so far fetched since at that point in time Beethoven was still working on what would be his final symphony.
The massive choral forces of the MSM Centennial Chorus were not heard until the final movement, a setting of Friedrich Schiller's "An die Freude" which Beethoven rearranged to suit his own purpose. The passion and complexity of this movement never fail to dazzle us; the intense involvement of the students "kicked it up a notch". This is a very international group with so many Asian and Latin American students joining young singers from all over the USA. And we spotted one from our neighbor to the north and one from Down Under!
Not to short change the initial three movements, but it was the finale that left us breathless. The finest moment for us was when renowned bass and faculty member James Morris (whose Wotan has never been equalled) introduced the vocal part of this movement. He intoned the words and we got goosebumps, ready to receive Schiller and Beethoven's message of joy.
A stellar lineup was on hand to sing the other parts; all are alumni of MSM and reminded us once more of MSM's value to the music community. The soprano parts were sung with bright ringing tone by Elaine Alvarez. Ronnita Miller's burnished mezzo-soprano and Bryan Register's tenor rounded out the foursome.
What a celebration! There are so many fine events on the MSM calendar too numerous to mention but there will be another celebration for the long awaited re-opening of the Neidorff-Karpati Hall in November.
(c) meche kroop