Competition Report

Competition Report

Competition Report by Joan Champie

Chamber Music of Yellow Springs concluded its 2016-2017 season on Sunday, April 23rd, with the 32nd Annual Competition for Emerging Artists. Finalists of the Competition were Trio St. Bernard and the Vera String Quartet.

Formed in 2015, Trio St. Bernard features Sahan “Sam” Hong, piano; Brandon Garbot, violin; and Zachary Mowitz, cello. The Trio has earned acclaim for its creative and energizing performances in New York and several other states on the East coast.

The Vera Quartet was also formed in 2015. Its members are Pedro Rodriguez, violin; Patricia Quintero Garcia, violin; Ines Picado Molares, viola; and Justin Goldsmith, cello. The Quartet has performed in Germany, Canada and Korea.

Both groups displayed technical competence and musical sensitivities within the context of a well balanced ensemble.

A trio by its nature requires acute awareness of the balance between piano and strings, which represent a challenging range of tone qualities. Trio St. Bernard notably maintained an impressive balance. The piano was brilliant, delicate, or soaring, as required by the music, and the string instruments added color and dimension. Each member played with finesse and beauty.

The Trio chose an interesting but unusual selection of short works, with an Allegro from Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 70, No. 1, followed by “Se solen sjunker” by Berg, a tender and lyrical work which gracefully segued into a movement from Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 100, D929. Next, the fourth of Four Folk Songs for Piano Trio by Frank also was joined to Shostakovich’s brief Piano Trio No. 1, Op.8, the most modern work of their program. They concluded with a Gesange from Op.8 of Brahms, arranged specially by the Trio.

The Vera Quartet in contrast performed two major works, Bartok’s String Quartet No. 3 and String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3 by Beethoven. The stylistic demands of these two pieces amply demonstrated their musical versatility and provided a stimulating contrast for the audience. All movements of the Bartok were joined, with the four instruments having quite individual parts and the musicians playing dissonant, assertive chords with vigor and forceful energy. Reflective moments were rare. The Beethoven Quartet allowed moments for individual members to shine, and there were lovely, soaring melodies beautifully played by each instrument. The final movement was marked Allegro Molto, played with accuracy and breathtaking speed to end their performance.

The two ensembles displayed quite different approaches to their music, which was intensified by their selected pieces and individual styles. This was reflected by the firmly held and divergent opinions of the audience expressed during the interval between the concert and the judges’ decision.

Judges for the 2017 competition were Afa Sadeykhly Dworkin, James Tocco, and Jeffrey Zeigler. Following the evening’s performances, the judges announced the winner of the competition: the Vera Quartet.

The pre-concert lecture was presented by Dennis Loranger, Music Professor from Wright State University.

 

Parker Quartet Concert Report

Parker Quartet Concert Report

Review of the concert by Joan Champie

On Sunday, March 12, the Parker Quartet returned to Yellow Springs, presenting a varied and interesting program for the CMYS concert series.

Founded in 2002, the Quartet is renowned for its dynamic interpretations and polished, expressive colors. They are in demand worldwide and have appeared in the most important venues. During the summer of 2016 they played at festivals across North America, and in January 2017 they toured Europe. The Parker Quartet strongly supports new compositions and has premiered many works at Harvard University, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, and Lincoln Center in New York. They have recorded for Zig-Zag Territoires, Inova Records, and Naxos, including the world premiere recording of American composer Jeremy Gills’ Capriccio, written for the Quartet.

The program opened with Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 12, which began with a reflective and quiet melody for violin, soon interweaving with the other voices. Restrained and sensitive playing created an atmosphere of delicacy and charm, the essence of early 19th century music. The Canzonetta had moments reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and its exuberant playfulness. The Quartet maintained a superb balance among the instruments, performing with shared interpretation and grace. Sonorous tones began the Andante movement followed by assertive, vibrant energy in all the musicians. The first violin had passages showing brilliant technique and rich tonal quality that musically interpreted the phrases. The piece ended with a slow diminuendo into the gentle close.

In a total change of affect, the HELIX SPIRAL for string quartet by Augusta Read Thomas celebrates a DNA replication experiment. The Parker performed the first and third movements of the piece. The first movement, LOCI, portrays the location of a gene, a DNA sequence, or a position on a chromosome. Novel effects were produced by the use of pizzicato (plucked strings) and also using the wooden, reverse side of the bows. Lengthy passages of pizzicato for separate instruments or for ensemble work created a delightful and unique impression of precise, fleeting entities. The kaleidoscopic range of combinations produced a capricious and effervescent image of the LOCI. SPIRAL, the third movement, was lyrical and innovative with harmonies and melodies portraying the life force and the DNA molecule’s potential for the development of all living things. Beautifully played by the Quartet, this composition merits a large public awareness of its concepts.

Continuing the exciting variance of the night’s program, Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 provided a third insight into the string quartet repertoire. As with most Shostakovich compositions, this work balances introspective, sombre sections with tongue-in-cheek, comic contrasts. At times the themes interlock and a definite impression of progression or development carries the listener. His music is never static but moves in unexpected, almost startling ways. The Allegretto movement was technically challenging and masterly performed. The Moderato showed especially brilliant violin playing, and all the instruments played with precision and great warmth. Extremely soft passages provided contrasts to the forceful energy. The Allegro began with harsh, dissonant chords played by all four and then the solo violin soared above this with a yearning melody. Repeated series of these abrasive chords contrasted with the lone melody, and the movement ended abruptly with a surprising finality. The fourth movement Adagio opened with two contrasting statements, a low funereal unison and a high, delicate grieving melody. The opening theme continues with a long melodic line eventually fading away. The final movement began with a lyrical theme beautifully played by the cello, a contrast to the force and anguish of the previous movements. Other themes emerged and then the music slowed to a dying ember as the violin quietly played eerie harmonics. Shostakovich masterfully combines unpredictable intervals, contrasting moods, unusual chords and creative rhythms to produce refreshing, memorable music worthy of many repeated listenings.

The Parker Quartet presented a satisfying program with the variety of selections, each one played with devotion to the composer’s intent. Particularly notable was the refined ensemble playing and excellent balance of the group throughout the evening.

Charles Larkowski gave the pre-concert lecture with examples of melody and rhythm demonstrated on a keyboard.

Calmus Ensemble Concert Report

Calmus Ensemble Concert Report

Review of the concert by Joan Champie

The Calmus Ensemble presented a memorable evening of vocal music on Sunday, January 22, for the third program in the Chamber Music of Yellow Springs 2016-2017 concert season. This program was a stimulating change from the predominately string ensemble offerings, and the large audience reflected this novelty.

Members of the Calmus group are graduates of the prestigious St. Thomas Church Choir School in Leipzig, Germany, and this background was evident in their unified interpretations of the music. The program was entitled “All the World’s a Stage.” To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the selected pieces were based on the plays of Shakespeare or, in the case of the Sonnets, quoted them verbatim. Composers ranged from Orlando Gibbons of the late 16th century and Henry Purcell of the late 17th century to contemporaries such as Ralph Vaughn Williams of the early 20th century. As a result, there was a range of styles and effects: traditional harmonies and melodies, or dissonances and more angular melodies. Of special interest were the four selections of “Full Fathom Five” from The Tempest, with composers across a 300 year span of musical compositions. Songs were inspired by the plays Twelfth Night, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cymbeline, the Tragedy of Othello, as well as by Sonnets 3, 18, 54 and 75.

The five members of the Calmus Ensemble sang as with one voice, always with exceptional balance and intonation. They approached each song with the appropriate spirit for the words. Songs from the Midsummer Night’s Dream were especially notable for their effervescent charm and whimsical effect, whereas the song “Come Away Death” from Twelfth Night was appropriately somber, dark and haunting. In solo passages, each singer demonstrated a rich, round tone quality, and together they maintained an elegant and pure sound. Using little to no vibrato, the vocal quality was evident. Many of the modern compositions had vocally challenging elements: close harmonies, dissonant chords to resolve (or not!), unusual intervals for singing. All were accomplished with musical skill and facility, seemingly effortlessly. The long soprano solo was beautifully sung with even a repeated large interval maintaining grace. The counter tenor’s unique vocal quality added special resonance to the quintet, and his solo was lyrical and lovely. Each member had moments to shine individually, but most memorable were the flawlessly warm, controlled, absolutely fine sounds of the group as a whole. Singing of this quality is a great and rare pleasure for the listener.The audience’s enthusiastic response to this excellent program prompted an encore, and the group responded by singing a five-part Bach Fugue. Each voice had a technically challenging and intricate line to unite in the Fugue, and the ensemble sang with breathtakingly wonderful skill and beauty. This ended the evening in a joyous, full-voiced romp.

The pre-concert lecture was given by James Johnston.

Calmus Ensemble program and program notes

Calmus Ensemble program and program notes

ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE

SHAKESPEARE A CAPPELLA

Prologue

What Is Our Life? Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

poem: Sir Walter Raleigh

(after Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”)

 

Twelfth Night

Come Away, Death Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (b.1963)

from: Four Shakespeare Songs, 1984

If Music Be The Food Of Love Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

Arr. Sebastian Krause

O Mistress Mine Nancy Wertsch (b. 1943)

from: A Shakespeare Suite

 

Sonnet

Look In Thy Glass (No. 3) John Tavener (1944-2013)

from: Three Shakespeare Sonnets

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lullabye Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

from: Four Shakespeare Songs, 1984

 

Over Hill, Over Dale Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

from: Three Shakespeare Songs, 1951

You Spotted Snakes Jussi Chydenius (b. 1972)

 

Sonnet

O, How Much More (No. 54) Paul Crabtree (b. 1960)

from: Three Rose Madrigals

 

Cymbeline

Fear No More John Tavener

from: Three Shakespeare Sonnets

 

Hark, Hark! The Lark Matthew Harris (b. 1956)

from: Shakespeare Songs, Book I

 

Fear No More Jussi Chydenius

 

— INTERMISSION —

CALMUS: All the World’s A Stage Program

Page 2 of 2

 

The Tragedy Of Othello

O Willo, Willo, Willo! Anonymus (from a manuscript of the British Museum)

Arr.  Ludwig Böhme

A Poor Soul Sat Sighing Pelham Humfrey (1647-1674)

Arr. Ludwig Böhme

 

Sonnet

So Are You (No. 75) Juhani Komulainen (b. 1953)

from: Three Sonnets Of Shakespeare, 1993

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Next Winter Henry Purcell

Hush No More (fromThe Fairy Queen”) arr: Calmus Ensemble

If Love’s A Sweet Passion Libretto: anonymus (attributed to Thomas Betterton)

 

Sonnet

Sweet Love, Renew Thy Force Robert Applebaum (b. 1941)

(No. 56)

 

The Tempest

Full Fathom Five Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

from: Four Shakespeare Songs, 1984

 

Full Fathom Five John Banister (1630-1679)

Arr. Sebastian Krause

 

Full Fathom Five Matthew Harris

from: Shakespeare Songs, Book I

Full Fathom Five Charles Wood (1866-1926)

 

Sonnet

Shall I Compare Thee to a Nils Lindberg (b. 1933)

Summer’s Day (No. 18)

Program subject to change

CALMUS Program Notes:  All The World’s a Stage

William Shakespeare, one of the most shining – and miraculous – figures in the history of all literature, died in 1616.  To commemorate the 400th anniversary of his passing, we have created a special concert program inspired by the immortal “Bard of Avon.”

Despite Shakespeare’s universal appeal, there still remains some debate even today about the authenticity of his huge output. Due to the lack of reliable sources that exist to give clear evidence about his life, there is still a small group of conspiracy theorists who doubt that Shakespeare—who had grown up in the small village of Stratford-upon-Avon and likely had a modest education—could really be the one and only author of these texts.  It is an imposing body of work, including comedies and tragedies as well as sonnets and long form poetry.  The language he employs spans a variety of styles, ranging from the lowest forms of slang to the highest aristocratic vocabulary heard at the royal court.

When Shakespeare (who was also said to be a gifted businessman) started his career in London, the poet Robert Green verbally attacked him 1592: “There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.”  How wrong he was!

Since so many of Shakespeare’s texts have been set to music over the years, for us singers it is inspiring and fascinating to have all these mysteries!  The question marks and subjective interpretations of the words written by this “foggy” figure who lived 400-years-ago only adds to the allure as we try to bring meaning to his poetry through song.

Our approach with this program was to find music that is connected with Shakespeare. Quite honestly, as easy as the idea of a whole Shakespeare program may sound, it was actually fairly difficult to make it work!  There is no way for a quintet to specialize on just one topic, or for us to try to sing a complete play a cappella. So we decided shine the spotlight on excerpts of some of the great works which we framed with settings of some of his beautiful sonnets.

It is not surprising that we found a natural connection with English music of the 16th and 17th centuries.  In particular, Henry Purcell has written some of the most moving settings, and since Purcell was long considered to be England’s greatest composer, what better “partner” to have than England’s greatest poet?!?

But we have also been very excited to discover the wealth of contemporary music based on Shakespeare, which is colorful and rich, and actually quite natural considering the four or five centuries that have passed between when the texts and the music were composed.

Some composers in this program might be unknown to you and the selection might seem a bit “cutting edge.” But— in keeping with Shakespeare’s art in his use of language—the music also shows this variety: a polyphonic madrigal-prologue by Orlando Gibbons; baroque music by Henry Purcell; and romantic choral sonorities by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Wood.  Then from the music of our time, we hear many different contemporary effects and styles: John Tavener’s slow and meditative music; Jaakko Mätyjärvis harmonic surprises; the groovy arrangements of Jussi Chydenius; and the wonderful jazzy settings of Nancy Wertsch and Nils Lindberg.  And when we sing four unique versions of the poem Full Fathom Five, it will be clear to you, how individually inspiring Shakespeare’s words can be!

 

 

 

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