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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Hyesang Park, Monica Huggett
We came to Alice Tully Hall last night to hear the lovely Hyesang Park sing Mozart's 1787 concert aria "Bella mia fiamma...Resta, o cara" K.528; the lovely soprano, resplendent in a gold sequined gown, used her fine voice and intense dramatic skills to illuminate Michele Scarcone's text in which the mortal Titano, who has fallen in love with the goddess Proserpina, must be sacrificed so that she can wed Pluto.  This has been arranged by Proserpina's mother Ceres;  just lookin' out for her daughter's future!  Ms. Park managed to invest each repetition of the phrase "Quest'affanno, questo passo รจ terribile per me" with a new variation of anguish.  This fine artist is a graduate student at the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts and we will look forward to hearing her again soon.

But one aria does not a concert make so let us touch briefly on the rest of the program hoping our readers will forgive any and all ignorance of early music.  Juilliard 415 was founded four years ago and is Juilliard's principal period-instrument ensemble.  We enjoyed hearing them recently at the Radamisto but know less about these interesting instruments than we do about the voice.  We were particularly interested in the winds; it appears that the horns and trumpets have no keys.  We hope to learn how the sounds are made, wondering if they are more difficult to play. The orchestra sounds quite different from an orchestra of modern instruments and the balance among the sections is different.

The accepted pitch of the "A" is 415, hence the name of the ensemble.  Hearing Mozart's Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro was like hearing it for the first time.  Was this how Mozart heard it?  In Beethoven's 1800 Symphony No. l in C major, Op. 21 we heard echoes of Mozart and Hayden that we hadn't heard before.  Beethoven was feeling his way in the symphonic genre and trying out some new things--standing on the shoulders of giants made him VERY tall.  We especially enjoyed the second movement with its repetition of a particularly lovely melody that reminded us of a folk song as it bounced around from one section of the orchestra to another.

Johannes Matthias Sperger's Concerto for Double Bass in C minor was performed by Pippa Macmillan.  We had always thought of the bass as a section that anchored the orchestra with its low rumble but had never considered it as a solo instrument.  Herr Sperger was a distinguished bass player as well as a composer and clearly he wrote this concerto to showcase his instrument.  The program notes told us that open Viennese tuning was used, meaning that the instrument was tuned in C.  Much of the passagework took place on the upper strings and often quite close to the bridge.  What would have been called fleet fingering on a violin might be called fleet "arming" since the notes seemed to be rather far apart; Ms. Macmillan's agility was impressive.  The ensemble is conducted with great skill and energy by the highly esteemed Monica Huggett of the Juilliard Historical Performance faculty; she serves also as first violin.

© meche kroop

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