Review: Three joyous concerts


By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
October 12, 2011

There were additional options on a concert-laden Sunday, but this reviewer settled on three at the two-hour intervals of 4, 6 and 8 p.m. The pleasures were numerous.

An anniversary

Their 35th prompted violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson to celebrate with a concert in Auer Hall, one also featuring a number of their students. They titled the program “Strings, Glorious Strings,” and those strings did sound glorious.

Laredo opened with Vivaldi’s exuberant Concerto in B Minor for Violins and Strings, joined by seven violinists, two violists, two cellists and a bass. Their reading was vigorous and razor-sharp in alignment. Robinson then brought to the stage six student cellists and a bass to evoke plangent and orotund tones in an arrangement of Gabriel Faure’s Elegie for Eight Cellos.

The celebrating couple turned to a cherished 20th century piece, the Duo for Violin and Cello by Erwin Schulhoff, a victim of the Holocaust. Written in 1923, its plaintive mood seemed to foretell the composer’s tragic end. The music holds emotional power; Laredo and Robinson captured it with evident passion.

Four students (violinist Madalyn Parnas, violists Tim Kantor and Erin Rafferty, and cellist Cicely Parnas) joined them for an elegant and intimately warm performance of the melodies-rich, sunny B-Flat Major Sextet, Opus 18, of Brahms: a fitting conclusion to a happy event.

To God’s glory

Conductor William Jon Gray affectingly, substantively and stylistically sought to take IU’s Pro Arte Singers and their Auer Hall audience back to a European cathedral in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries with a beautifully-prepared package of liturgical music that back then was meant to inspire the Roman Catholic faithful in post-Reformation times.

Gray first employed his 30-or-so voices in the hypnotic “Miserere mei, Deus” (“Have mercy on me, O God”) of Gregorio Allegri, an awe-inspiring exercise in poly-choral singing, its powerful effect added to by the placement of four singers in the balcony for an antiphonal dimension. One of those singers, a soprano, provided a series of heaven-high notes to complete the music’s magical fabric.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s notable “Missa Papae Marcelli” followed, embellished with informed insertions: Claudio Monteverdi’s “Adoramus te, Christe” and Antonio Lotti’s “Crucifixus a 8,” each a challenging vocal augmentation for the Pro Arte. The Palestrina received an adroitly balanced performance of choirs positioned to fervently exclaim “Glory to God” in divided fashion. Gray, occasionally spelled by assistant conductor Juan Carlos Zamudio, brought fusion and compelling expressiveness to the loudly cheered performance.

Symphonic premiere

On Sunday evening in the Musical Arts Center, conductor David Effron and the IU Concert Orchestra gave a debut performance of “Collective Uncommon,” winner of the 2011 Dean’s Prize.

Reading composer Brian Ciach’s notes ahead of the hearing, one might have wondered and worried. The 16-minute work is subtitled “Seven Orchestral Studies on Medical Oddities” and was inspired, Ciach says, by exhibits in Philadelphia’s Muller Museum of the College of Physicians, including “The Progressive Ossification of Harry Eastlack,” “The Human Horn Growing on the Forehead of Madame Dimanche,” “The Screaming Soap Lady” and “Dance of the Siamese Twins: Chang and Eng Bunker.”

The program notes were enough to spook one out. Fortunately, Jacobs School alum Ciach’s music turned out to be far more acceptable. In fact, one could read all sorts of interpretations into what one actually heard. But just listening brought moments of sheer excitement from how imaginatively the composer used his skills in orchestration to suggest chaos and furor, mystery and alarm, sympathy and wonder. The score contains much to admire and deserves further hearing. Effron and the Concert Orchestra gave the piece a rousing sendoff.

Rousing, indeed, was an appropriate descriptive adjective for the rest of the program, its content and handling: first of that delightful Viennese bon bon, Franz von Suppe’s Overture to “Poet and Peasant,” and, finally, the Bela Bartok masterpiece, Concerto for Orchestra, in which a symphonic ensemble can show off its collective skill as would a soloist in the normal concerto. Maestro Effron made sure the Concert Orchestra did exactly that.

Copyright: 2011

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