Above: the composer Robert Schumann
Saturday June 22nd, 2013 - The Hudson Valley Singers presented a concert entitled HYMN OF LOVE at the Museo de el Barrio this evening. I walked across Central Park North under a beautiful summer sky and met my friend Monica there. The theatre space at the Museo is charming, with its fairy tale murals; it was a full house, or nearly so.
One doesn't expect to hear a piano concerto or an orchestral suite at a choral concert, and the program stretched to two and a quarter hours, what with all the rearranging of the stage to suit the configurations of musicians and singers for each piece. During the longish intermission, Monica and I caught up on ballet gossip.
Piano Concerto #1 by Carl Maria von Weber opened the evening. Weber has never been high on my list of opera composers: a performance of FREISCHUTZ that I attended decades ago at NYC Opera was a crashing bore, and despite the splendid "Ozean!" aria I have never been able to listen to the whole of OBERON. But beyond opera, his enchanting 'Invitation to the Dance' makes a perfect setting for the Fokine ballet SPECTRE DE LA ROSE. And so it was an interesting opportunity to hear the composer's piano concerto tonight. Eugene Sirotkine both played very well and conducted from the keyboard. The New York Metamorphoses Orchestra is a fine ensemble of young players, notably their flautist and oboist. The concerto might make a first-rate classical ballet, in the right choreographic hands.
The chorus, with vocal soloists, then took to the stage for two pieces by Roobert Schumann: Adventlied and Requiem fữr Mignon. These two works deal with aspects of parenthood, the first being in anticipation of the birth of a new baby and the second a sad reflecton on the death of a beloved child. The large chorus, a lovely generational mix, sang with fervent lyricism. The music for the trio of women in the Requiem (Eleni Colenos, Liana Brooke Guberman and Alexandra Lushtak) brought to mind the trio of nymphs in Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. Robert Garner was the baritone soloist in both Schumann works, joined in the Adventlied by Mlles. Brooke Guberman and Kushtak along with the appealing tenor sound of David Guzman.
In a delightful interlude, The Elm City Girls Choir brought us folksongs from America, Russia, Bulgaria and Africa. Their fresh young voices blended well in surprisingly confident harmonies as they swayed and clapped to the varying rhythms of each song.
Above: the composer Carl Nielsen
From Aladdin Suite by Carl Nielsen - a tuneful colorful compilation of vignetttes composed as incidental music for a play - we heard an Oriental March, a Dance of the Morning Clouds. a delicate Chinese Dance, and the concluding Blackamoor's Dance. The players of the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra, under Mr. Sirotkkine's baton, seized on the music's coloristic opportunities, each instrument having its expressive voice. Seated in the audience, the chorus took up some humming passages, adding to the sonic palette.
Hymnus Amoris (the title which inspired the programme) by Carl Nielsen, is a large-scale work which the composer crafted as a paean to love after taking his honeymoon. All of the evening's choral participants took part, along with soloists Ms. Calenos, Mssrs. Guzman and Garner, and bass Emmanuel Mendez-Chumaceiro. The music is celebratory and ecstatic, and voices and instruments joined in a fervent 'hymn of love' with Mr. Sirotkine at the helm.