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, October 5, 2018


Shaina Martinez onstage at Riverside Church

The splendid soprano Shaina Martinez has been on our radar screen for quite some time. We have heard her in several languages, in opera and in art song, and always found her voice to be an exciting one. The most recent appearance was in a concert of Spanish song with Voces Unidas--a truly memorable experience. The review can be found through the search bar.

Having recently been awarded her Masters in Music at the Manhattan School of Music, she was the perfect choice to sing Joaquín Turina's cycle Poema en forma de canciones, the centerpiece of last night's MSM Philharmonia Orchestra's program at Riverside Church.

Our love for Spanish music knows no bounds and hearing these songs sung so expressively was a true treat. Following the instrumental "Dedicatoria", in which the MSM Philharmonia established the Andalusian background, we heard four songs of varying moods, each one a gem.

In "Nunca olvida", the poet (Ramó María de las Mercedes de Campoamor y Campoosorio) is on her deathbed and makes a private and unexpected confession to her lover. "Cantares" begins with a thrilling vocalise on the word "Ahi" that tells us more than the words which follow. The poet is haunted by regret for being so spellbound that he was not truly present; he listened without hearing and looked without seeing. This condition is a familiar one, verdad?

Fortunately, our lovely soprano was so present that she wore the songs as well as her gown. At several points we wondered how she could maintain such fine technique whilst seemingly immersed in the feelings.

"Los dos miedos" relates the dramatic change in a woman who was afraid to get close to her lover and then became afraid to be apart; this too is a situation that seems familiar. The ending of the song "sin ti" was exquisite.

The final song "Las locas por amor" has some raucous orchestral writing in the introduction and in the brief interlude between stanzas, emphasizing the humor involved when Venus tells her admirer that she prefers intensity to duration.

We have often heard this all-too-brief cycle of songs in its original 1917 version for voice and piano, but this is the first time we have heard the 1918 orchestral version. Under the baton of the lively Perry So, the MSM Philharmonia played magnificently and captured the Andalusian flavor.

Opening the program was A Rush of Wings by Robert Sirota who was President of MSM from 2005 until 2012. This 2008 work was premiered by the MSM Chamber Sinfonia in 2009. Although we did not hear the intended spiritual emphasis of the composer, we liked the originality of the sonorities. At times the work was insistent and, at other times, ethereal. We particularly enjoyed the heraldic role of the winds and the sound of the chimes.

The program concluded with the massive Symphony #7 by Anton Bruckner, who came to symphonic composing rather late in life and who was influenced by Richard Wagner, even employing the Wagner tuba in this work. It premiered in 1884 and, performed by the MSM Philharmonia, revealed its monumental nature and an impressive variety of colors in its orchestration.

It is a muscular work and makes significant demands on the instrumentalists and on the listener with endless variety in the thematic material. We especially enjoyed the Scherzo with its skipping rhythm and leaping fifths.

An interesting arrangement put seven brasses above and behind the orchestra. We felt swept away by a tidal wave of sound!

(c) meche kroop

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