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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Elad Kabilio and Larisa Martinez
We have been writing about Larisa Martinez and her gorgeous soprano for a couple of years now and have enjoyed her performances in opera, song, and zarzuela.  We have also been writing about Elad Kabilio and his unique MUSIC TALKS  for some time.  The pairing of these two talents is an exciting one.  Last night's recital at Interface (an unusually comfortable venue with great acoustics and couch seating) was an extension of one we heard a year ago.

Cellist/impresario/educator Elad Kabilio presented a captivating program exactly one year ago that demonstrated the influence of J.S.Bach on the Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. We confess to never having enjoyed or understood Bach's highly intellectual music until Mr. Kabilio, in his educator hat, demonstrated what a fugue was by utilizing his cohort of cellists.  But, just as Steven Blier has expanded our appreciation of song beyond those of the 19th c., so Mr. Kabilio has expanded our appreciation of instrumental music in similar fashion.

Bach wrote Die Kunst der Fuge just for fun; it was not commissioned.  He never specified which instruments should be employed.  In this case, the four voices were distributed among four cellos and each cellist was given different voices from time to time, so the adventure would not fall on only one pair of arms. The result is complex but accessible with voices layered upon voices.

The "Contrapunctus" XIV" in D minor was the last one he wrote and it was never finished. Performance tradition includes a chorale at the end which resolves into D major, leaving the listener satisfied.  Uncharacteristically, aside from the original theme, two new themes were included, the second of which spells out B-A-C-H (we are not sure what note H represents). Was Bach pulling our collective leg?

Piazzolla was a 20th c. composer and, having been introduced to the concept by Mr. Kabilio, it became clear how he was influenced by Bach. Mr. Kabilio and his three gifted colleagues (Grace Ho, Talya Buckbinder, and Caleb van der Swaagh) had a great time with the energetic and syncopated fugue which was followed by a slow section (Misterio).  When a short demonstration without the syncopation was played one could readily appreciate the Bach-ness of it all.

We enjoyed the traditional tango "Oblivion" which involved a lot of plucking and a compelling three note ascending motif.  But our favorite was "La vi llegar" which made us want to get up to dance the tango. The pizzicato playing was stirring to say the least.

The Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was next on the program, fulfilling the promise of the program Bach in Brazil II. The early 20th c. composition Bachianas Brasileras No. 5 is ineffably lovely and we were thrilled with the opportunity to hear Ms. Martinez perform it once more, so immersed is she in this music.

The beginning aria, the Cantilena, has Portuguese lyrics but our joy is maximized in the vocalise since no words are needed to convey such deep emotion as Ms. Martinez expressed. The spirited Dansa (Martelo) is followed by humming which seems very difficult to achieve in the upper register but Ms. Martinez demonstrated how she uses the "ng" position of the tongue.

The final work on the program sent us over the moon.  Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona wrote the one-act zarzuela Maria La O in 1930. The plot is a sad one in that the mulata Maria bears the child of an aristocrat who marries within his own social class. This zarzuela was popular in Puerto Rico, where Ms. Martinez was born and her performance showed both fine technique and depth of feeling. We enjoyed Ms. Buckbinder's tremolo accompaniment.

The audience for MUSIC TALKS is growing rapidly and all the couches were occupied. The audience seems delighted by the intimacy and informality, as well as the educational aspect. If you have end-of-year donations to make, this would be a great group to consider.  Their next event will be a world-famous harpist on January 24th. What a way to celebrate our birthday!

(c) meche kroop

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