Tuesday May 3rd, 2015 - A beautifully-constructed and superbly-played program at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center this evening, where the renowned horn virtuoso Radovan Vlatković (above) was joined by an outstanding sextet of colleagues for an evening of music-making par excellence.
The Society's extension of the contracts of co-Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han thru 2022 was recently announced, and that is good news indeed, for their winning formula of presenting outstanding musicians in appealing, thoughtfully-arranged programs has made CMS essential to music lovers both here in Gotham and on their frequent tours.
Music for piano four-hands opened the evening as Gloria Chien (in a very pretty pale green gown) and Juho Pohjonen sat side by side at the Steinway and played four of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, from opus 72. These pieces cover a vast rhythmic territory, with music that is lyrical, folkish, and virtuosic by turns. They are great fun to hear, especially when played with such perfect poise and clarity as we experienced this evening.
Ms. Chein returned immediately, with tenor Nicholas Phan and Mr. Vlatković, for Schubert's Auf dem Strom. Composed in 1828, to a poem by Ludwig Rellstab, Auf dem Strom feels more like a concert aria than a song. The poem tells of a young man's rejection by his beloved; he sets sail on a river, after their parting, singing of his despair. The forlorn desperation of the words indicate that he may be bidding farewell to life itself.
Nicholas Phan's pliant and clear-toned lyric tenor offered beautifully-inflected singing as the poem moves from wistful recollection to anguished hopelessness; the singer's intensity of expression underscored the inherent drama of the words. Ms. Chien's poetic playing - and the simply gorgeous sound of Mr. Vlatković's horn wending its way thru the music and wrapping itself around the poet's melancholy phrases - created a mood of eloquent despondency.
An unusual configuration of instruments - horn, two cellos, and two pianos - is assembled for Robert Schumann's Andante and Variations, composed in 1843. Having second thoughts about the viability of the piece with such an unusual set of players, Schumann re-worked it for just two pianos (Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn - no less - gave the first public performance); but Johannes Brahms supported the original quintet setting, and that is what we had the good fortune to hear this evening.
Ms. Chien and Mr. Pohjonen each had their own Steinway, set at angles so they could communicate with one another. Seated in front were Mr. Vlatković and two of the Society's most accomplished young cellists: Nicholas Canellakis and Mihai Marica.
The work, an ongoing set of variations, seems at first to be thoroughly dominated by the pianos; the celli and horn tend to comment rather than sing out. The two pianists were so melodically engrossing that one began to wonder if Schumann was right to leave the work as a piano duo. But a passage for the two cellos pricks up our ears; a florid theme for the two pianos responds. And then Mr. Vlatković's resplendent sound blossoms forth with a pealing summons, and we realize that Brahms knew best: the music sails onward, now an ear-alluring blend of timbres. The gently jogging pianos and plucked cellos frame the mellow sound of the horn. The piece seems headed for an energetic finale when suddenly a rich and beauteous song looms up, leading to a lovely and poignant ending.
More music for piano four-hands after the interval: Ms. Chein and Mr. Pohjonen were back at the Steinway for Schubert's Allegro in A minor. Subtitled Lebensstürme ('Storms of Life') by the music's publisher, the work opens with a dramatic statement and progresses thru passages of lively - and sometimes turbulent - music, with shifts from major to minor along the way. What captivates, though, is a misterioso interlude played with an eloquent hush by our two elegant pianists; this recurs later, and the effect is truly striking.
A trio of exceptional musicians provided a splendid finale for today's concert: Mssrs. Vlatković and Pohjonen were joined by violinist Paul Huang for Brahms' Trio in E-flat major, opus 40. The three players overcame the distraction of someone yelling from the mezzanine in the early moments of the trio, and of a prolonged cellphone tune just as they were about to commence the second movement. Undeterred, they summoned up music-making of an unbelievably high level.
Mr. Huang's playing seems magically to exude the subtly perfumed, romantic eloquence that we hear on recordings of the old European violin masters of a bygone era; his tone has a roseate glow that is most cordial. Mr. Vlatković's velvety richness of sound - the envy of a frustrated ex-horn player like myself - is likewise redolent of that same lost world of nobility and grace. And Mr. Pohjonen, possessed of a personal mystique that is unique in this day and age, summons up from the keyboard imaginings of what it must have been like to hear such charismatic pianists as Chopin and Liszt. As the three played, one could close one's eyes and be transported to the salons of Paris or Vienna amid gowned, bejeweled women and elegant gentlemen.
But keeping the eyes closed would have deprived us of the visual aspects of today's performance, for the players seemed to commune with one another in a swaying choreography that became quite animated. This, added to their spectacular playing, made the performance completely engrossing.
From the start, the flow of melodies and the vari-coloured sounds each player produced made constant assaults on the emotions. Bursts of passion alternated with gentle, finely-gauged harmonies between horn and violin. The delicate, somber piano theme which opens the Adagio was offered up by Mr. Pohjonen with a poetic sense of quietude; the horn and violin join in a wistful passage before Mr. Vlatković introduces a new melody which becomes a trio of lament. A rise in intensity develops, only to subside: the horn intones notes from the depths. Mr. Huang's supreme control in a quiet passage - which draws us deeper and deeper into the music - is taken up by the pianist with great sensitivity. The harmonies pour forth in a sumptuous development.
The jaunty Allegro that ends the piece draws us out of the pensive state induced by the Adagio. Mr. Vlatković's robust horn calls summon us to hopeful high spirits. There's a lull, and then a re-bounding: Mr. Pohjonen piano ripples sweetly before setting into a pacing rhythm; the Vlatković horn peals forth, and Mr. Huang's bow is blazing away when everything suddenly quietens. And then...ZAP!...the end.
Collectively leaping to their feet, the audience, who had bounced along with the irresistible rhythms of the finale, celebrated Brahms and our three awe-inspiring players with an extended ovation and vigorous shouts of approval.
The Participating Artists:
May 04, 2016 | Permalink
"Here, where the roses bloom, and the ivy embraces the laurel, Where the turtledove murmurs, and the cricket sings - What grave is this, that the gods Have so kindly graced with vines and flowers?
It is Anacreon's resting-place. Spring, Summer, and Autumn did that poet enjoy; And now from Winter, at last, this mound protects him."
May 03, 2016 | Permalink
Sunday May 1st, 2016 matinee - Winners of the 2016 Gerda Lissner Foundation competition in a May Day afternoon concert at Zankel Hall. Over the years, hundreds of singers have entered the Lissner competition, and many of them have gone on to busy careers.
Today's event, hosted by Bran Kellow, included the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Deborah Voigt. She looked great, and spoke briefly, and then came down and sat in the audience to hear the young singers; I would love to know what she thought of the voices she was hearing. Two expert pianists - Arlene Shrut and Jonathan Kelly - provided invaluable support for the singers in a succession of arias ranging from Rossini to Rachmaninoff.
It seemed to me, and to my companion, that most of the arias were over-sung. The singing seemed almost overwhelmingly relentless, and only rarely did anyone attempt a piano/pianissimo or produce a gracefully tapered phrase. Some of the singers experienced passing moments of straying off-pitch, most likely due to nerves or mis-judging the hall.
The men excelled; the women - all of whom had viable instruments but perhaps chose the wrong selections to show them to best advantage - seemed more generic of sound. One soprano, Michelle Bradley, was unable to appear as she was stuck in an airport somewhere.
So for us, it was an afternoon of listening to very enjoyable male voices in some of our favorite arias. Baritone Pawel Konik did a fine job with Aleko's cavatina, with an impressive conclusion. Fanyoung Du courageously tackled "A te, o cara" from Bellini's PURITANI - and he nailed it: the voice is pliant, steady, and blooms fully at the top. He risked some soft moments along the way - beautifully managed - and overall found the bel canto style quite congenial.
Kidon Choi has a large, warm baritone sound at his disposal and sang the gorgeous "Vision fugitive" from Massenet's THAIS with passionate conviction. Kang Wang's singing of Alfredo's aria from TRAVIATA was very finely phrased with an appealing vocal quality - he seemed fully stage-ready. Kevin Ray, who put me very much in mind of Mark W Baker, ended the concert's first half with a wonderful "Winterstürme" from DIE WALKURE; in addition to a firm, pleasing sound, Mr. Ray brought a sense of the poetry of the words to his singing that eluded most of the other singers today. He also showed off an wide dynamic range, effectively employed to make every phrase count.
Following the interval, Andrew Stenson sang Rinuccio's aria from GIANNI SCHICCHI. This demi-caractère piece was wittily delivered by the amiable young tenor; for all the fun involved, the aria also has to be sung...which Mr. Stenson did, and very well. Galeano Salas's heartfelt singing of "Che gelida manina" from LA BOHEME was moving indeed: the tenor's timbre has a unique colour, and his sincerity and generosity (to say nothing of his richly sustained high-C) mark him out as someone I will want to hear again. Sean Michael Plumb, singing Malatesta's aria from DON PASQUALE, closed the program with a fine performance. He was an audience favorite.
May 02, 2016 | Permalink
Above: The Mask of Agamemnon
Saturday April 30th, 2016 matinee - Since ELEKTRA is one of my favorite operas - sometimes I think it is my favorite opera - I planned to see The Met's new production of it once, and then to hear it again from a score desk.
Some people had issues with the voices of Nina Stemme and Adrianne Pieczonka at the production's Met premiere on April 14th: squally, shrill, and flat were among descriptive words I heard being tossed about. There were also complaints that Waltraud Meier, as Klytemnestra, was "inaudible" or at least seriously under-powered vocally. So when my friend Dmitry and I attended the second performance on April 18th, we were pleased to find that both Stemme and Pieczonka sounded much better than we'd been expecting, and that Meier, though vocally restrained when compared to such past exponents of the role as Resnik, Rysanek, Fassbaender, Christa Ludwig, or Mignon Dunn, was able to make something of the music thru diction and vocal colour.
This afternoon, the three principal women all seemed rather out of sorts vocally. Stemme sounded frayed and effortful, the highest notes sometimes just a shade flat and her vibrato more intrusive than at the earlier performance. Ms. Pieczonka was likewise on lesser form, tending to sound shrill under pressure, and the voices of both sopranos seemed smaller and less free that I remembered. Ms. Meier was - honestly (and I am a big fan of hers) - nearly inaudible much of the time; a lot of her verbal detail didn't penetrate the orchestra. (Since the performance was being broadcast, undoubtedly Ms. Meier made a much more vivid impression over the airwaves).
Stemme and Pieczonka did achieve a higher level as the afternoon wore on; their most exciting singing came after the murder of Aegisth and on thru to the end of the opera. But compared to their earlier performance, they were both a bit disappointing. Of course, we have to take into account that these are two of the most fearsome and challenging roles in the soprano repertoire, and are being sung over a huge orchestra in a vast space. The wear and tear on their instruments must be incredible.
The audience at large were undeterred by concerns over vocal matters, and they lustily cheered the three women at the curtain calls; the ovation for Ms. Stemme - well-merited for her generosity and courage - was enormous, and the house lights were turned on so she could see everyone standing and screaming for her.
For me, it was the opera itself - and Esa-Pekka Salonen's conducting of it - that made the performance memorable. The orchestra played spectacularly, and if Maestro Salonen sped thru some of the music (the Recognition Scene seemed really fast) it sort of added to the sense of exhilaration I was experiencing just from hearing the opera live again.
Eric Owens made an outstanding impression as Orestes today; his first lines established a powerful and rather creepy vocal presence, and at "Lass den Orest..." he was truly splendid. He has the right amplitude for this music in this house, and was deservedly hailed at his solo bow.
Special mention to Bonita Hyman for her rich, deep contralto singing as the First Maid, and to the remarkable Roberta Alexander, who again made such a moving impression as the Fifth Maid, a Chéreau 'invention' that paid off handsomely.
Metropolitan Opera House
April 30th, 2016 Matinee
Serving Woman..............Bonita Hyman
Serving Woman..............Maya Lahyani
Serving Woman..............Andrea Hill
Serving Woman..............Claudia Waite
Serving Woman..............Roberta Alexander
Young Servant..............Mark Schowalter
Old Servant................James Courtney
April 30, 2016 | Permalink
Above: NY Philharmonic principal cellist Carter Brey, with his colleague Eileen Moon
Thursday April 28th, 2016 - Performances of Robert Schumann's cello concerto seem to be something of a rarity, so I was glad of an opportunity to hear it at The New York Philharmonic tonight. I always love to see the orchestra's principal players stepping out for a soloist turn. Carter Brey's playing was most enjoyable, as was watching him play; his colleagues swamped him with affectionate applause as he took his bows.
A new work by Franck Krawczyk opened the concert. I'm fairly open to new music; when new works are programmed, I am always hoping for two things: that the composer might go beyond good craftsmanship and somehow touch the soul, and that there would be something to remember in the music. I found both tonight in Mr. Krawczyk's Après, having its world premiere in these performances.
Both my companion and I felt a sense of narrative in Après: she envisioned a scene in nature with large trees and roaming beasts while I imagined the final days of a war and its immediate aftermath. The program notes imply no story of any kind, but the composer does pay homage to Beethoven, Kurtag, and Dutilleux.
Après commences with a poignant, intense theme, the lower voices glowering. A big passage for strings, with the violins soaring upward and the violas then exuding calm follows; a single sustained note from the clarinet introduces somber winds, and things turn ominous. For a few seconds the music ambles restlessly, with percussive effects introduced quietly: chimes, cymbals, snare drum.
Suddenly, a clattering arises: all the musicians begin to drum on their stands or tap their instruments. The horns herald an odd dance. An unsettled feeling - almost of being trapped - develops and there's a huge build-up which evaporates to a single note from the piano.
The crack of a whip sparks a march-like section, with loud chimes. The lower winds darken, only to give way to the work's most fantastical passage: the mingling of solo harp and piano creates an eerie tranquility. So atmospheric! The winds re-enter, the violins lament, the harp and piano sound together again. Brass and percussion swell to a great loudness, the violas are plucked, and then, in a wisp, the harp gives us a mysterious ending.
The youthful-looking composer appeared for a bow; having heard Après - with that bewitching harp and piano motif - and having read of Mssr. Krawczyk's musical roots (he was an accordionist), I'll be finding more of his music to explore in the less hectic days of Summer. Of the new works presented in recent months by the Philharmonic, I rate Après very highly indeed.
Mr. Brey then appeared for the Schumann concerto. Both the work and his playing of it were thoroughly pleasing, as was the feeling he conveyed of truly enjoying the music and of listening to his colleagues attentively in those moments when the soloist is silent.
Three movements are listed for this concerto, but they are played without pauses in between so that it becomes an arc, a sort of cello tone-poem. It opens with a heartfelt, rather sad theme. Even when things become more animated, there is a sense of longing. Mr. Brey's playing is subtle and refined in the more sustained passages: there's a constant stream of melody for the cello over commenting strings. Rising scales recur, and the French horn has some lovely moments.
There's an ironic waltz, with the pensive cello playing deep and lulling as the violins and violas are gently plucked. A tender cello theme leads to what 'should be' a cadenza, but the orchestra continues to play a part.
Suddenly a dance erupts, and Mr. Brey's animated fiorature cover a wide range at high speed. The virtuosity continues, with the orchestra stately or turbulent by turns, to the end; the audience couldn't restrain their applause, breaking in before the final note had faded away. The tall cellist was warmly hailed, embraced by the conductor, and lionized by his colleagues.
The program concluded with the Brahms 2nd symphony; it was (needless to say) gorgeously played, and Alan Gilbert's vision of it is most congenial. I very much enjoyed watching the Maestro's podium choreography tonight.
In a letter on his second symphony, written around the time of its premiere, Brahms apparently referred to the state of melancholy as a signature of this work. There is, to be sure, a tinge of sad regret that runs thru the music, but also passages of hope, romance, affirmation. Overall, it is a warmly wonderful infusion for the spirit.
The Brahms Second is rather front-loaded; the first two movements together last about 30 minutes while the final two together take less that half that time. The third and fourth movements - for all their appeal and zest - seem somewhat light-weight after the riches of the first two. Of course, everyone is listening for the famous "lullaby" - which my grandmother actually sang to us when we were small: "Go to sleep, go to sleep, it is night-time for baby." I also remember Christa Ludwig singing the 'Brahms Lullaby' as an encore at a recital she gave in this very hall many moons ago. The theme recurs in various guises throughout the opening movement of the 2nd symphony.
Horns and winds welcome us, and a unison violin theme develops grandly and spreads thru the orchestra; the playing is resplendent. A horn solo lingers in the memory. The cellos play a lovely theme at the start of the second movement; horns and winds again mingle voices and the adagio moves opulently forward. Winds play over plucked celli, dancing thru the third movement towards a presto finish, and in the fourth movement a gentle start soon goes grand...and oddly Russian. The broad flow of melodies is simply delightful to bask in as the symphony sails to a spirited finale. Maestro Gilbert and his players were at their very finest here (all evening, actually) and the applause was still echoing as I walked up the aisle.
Tonight's concert honored The Philharmonic's retirees - four who are currently playing their final season, and several former members who were in the audience tonight and who stood for a bow. Retiring violist Irene Breslaw and violinist Carol Webb each made heartfelt speeches, recalling the high points of their years with the orchestra and speaking fondly of their colleagues. Their words were very moving.
Flautist Sandra Church and violinist Newton Mansfield (a 55-year Philharmonic veteran!) are also in their final season; and violist Katherine Greene was honored tonight as she is celebrating her 25th anniversary with the orchestra.
April 29, 2016 | Permalink
Above: soprano Mafalda Salvatini
Having been a devoted opera-lover for over half a century, it's quite unusual for me to encounter a singer I never heard - and rarer still to find one I've never heard of.
The lovely photo of Mafalda Salvatini (above) sent me on a research quest. Italian-born (in 1886), Salvatini studied with Pauline Viardot and Jean de Reszke. Her career was centered in Berlin, where she made her operatic debut in 1908 as Aida, opposite Enrico Caruso. Among the roles she sang were Tosca, Santuzza, Carmen, Senta, and Turandot. She later appeared at Paris, Vienna, Riga, Dresden, and at La Monnaie, Brussels. She retired from the stage in 1932.
Salvatini made a few recordings of arias, sung in German. She was the mother of famed set and costume designer Rolf Gérard. At the outbreak of World War II, she took refuge in Switzerland, where she died in 1971.
April 26, 2016 | Permalink
Sunday April 14th, 2016 - No fewer than eight violas were in play on the Adrienne Arsht Stage at Alice Tully Hall this evening as Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offered an exceptional program, curated and head-lined by Paul Neubauer (above), in which the viola was heard in music by seven different composers (plus one anonymous composition). The program ranged from mid-19th century works to a world premiere by Joan Tower, who was present and took a bow...and got a kiss from Mr. Neubauer.
A Robert Schumann rarity and a fantasy-suite by August Klughardt were the first two works on the program; written about twenty years apart, the two pieces each call for violist, pianist, and a woodwind collaborator. It was our good fortune this evening to have clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois and oboist James Austin Smith joining Mr. Neubauer and pianist Alessio Bax. Both Mlle. de Guise-Langlois and the dapper Mr. Smith are elegant players, and both are blessed with astonishing breath control.
Above: Romie de Guise-Langlois
The Schumann opens like a breath of Springtime. Clarinet and viola pass melodies back and forth, eventually honed down to a dialogue where they finish one another's sentences. Underscored by Mr. Bax's immaculate playing, Mlle. de-Guise-Langlois' and Mr. Neubauer's blend of timbres was most appealing. The second movement veers from march-like to moments of ironic deftness to a free flow of song, which the pianist takes up. Poignant and pensive, the third movement has a touch of mystery; here Mlle. de Guise-Langlois was able to sustain long lines with total control, tapering the tone into a sweet blend with the Neubauer viola. The animated fourth movement - which pauses midway thru for a gently-paced passage - was as pleasant to watch as to hear, as the eye-to-eye contact of Romie and Paul was keenly focused; Mr. Bax's piano provided added joy.
Above: James Austin Smith
The slender frame and expressive face of James Austin Smith might have graced the salons at Kellynch Hall or Pendersleigh Park: a youthful, romantic figure. His playing also has an Olde World geniality: dulcet of tone and (as with Mlle. de Guise-Langlois) blessed with an uncanny ability to spin out long lines. In August Klughardt's Schilflieder, Mr. Smith established at once an ideal rapport with Paul Neubauer.
The first of the five "fantasies" opens with solo piano, soon joined by the plaintive oboe and the soulful viola; the second brings the restless viola into harmonizing with the oboe. Mr. Bax's dreamy playing leads off the third movement, with the viola and then the oboe singing sadly and tenderly; the pianist's sense of delicacy was a lovely asset here. The fourth movement begins dramatically, with viola and oboe sounding forth over a rippling piano motif.
Mr. Smith's formidable breath control was much admired in the closing movement; the atmosphere is poetic and sustained, the viola wistful. A nicely-turned cadenza for oboe led to the end of the work with a very sustained joint oboe/viola note.
Both the Schumann and Klughardt were brand new to me, and both made me wonder why we don't hear them played more often. Of course, the Gordon Jacob piece for eight violas will always be a rarity, simply because the logistics of getting eight first-rate violists together to rehearse and perform it would take some doing. Mr. Neubauer was able to call upon his viola-playing colleagues to assemble a classy octet - including Cynthia Phelps, the NY Phil's principal violist. Ida Kavafian and Daniel Phillips, more usually seen with their violins, took up violas to join in the fun tonight. Along with Mr. Neubauer, Hsin-Yun Huang, Richard O'Neill, Lawrence Dutton, and Pierre Lapointe formed a very impressive ensemble.
This Suite for Eight Violas, composed in 1976, created quite a buzz. It opens with a unison "Russian" theme, the eight voices blended in song. The second movement, Scherzo and Drone, is a sprightly romp: a folk-dance with a sly finish. Sweet sadness prevails in the Chorale: Lento. Richard O'Neill then kicked off the closing Tarantella with swirling rushes of notes alternating with gentler interludes. A broad melody sweeps us thru to the end. The audience, clearly relishing the combined talents of these eight artists, sent up an enthusiastic ovation.
Following the interval, Paul Neubauer appeared alone onstage.
I love Joan Tower's music, and I really enjoyed hearing tonight the two solo works she wrote expressly for Mr. Neubauer, the second of which was having its world premiere. Simply Purple is deceptively simple; a slowly rising scale, with a deep sense of mystery pervading, must be delivered with consummate control and subtle dynamic variants. The premiere, Purple Rush, is a scurrying downward swirl; it goes low and dusky, with cascades of notes and shimmering, slippery slides. Mr. Neubauer's mastery held the audience throughout; and it was so nice to see Ms. Tower there, sharing the applause with the violist.
Stepping across the Plaza from The Met, where she has been appearing as Emilia in Verdi's OTELLO, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano (above, in a Fay Fox photo) sang the two Brahms viola songs, the only music on the program that I was familiar with. A comely young woman with a voice to match, Ms. Cano's warm, even tone and her natural feeling for the words - and for finding beautiful hues to express them - provided a most appealing rendering of these two familiar and beloved melodies. She formed an immediate rapport with Mr. Neubauer as they faced one another across their music stands; their blend of timbres was a pleasure to hear, and Mr. Bax, at the Steinway, continued to take a major role in the proceedings with his lustrous playing. May we have Ms. Cano back please - and soon! - perhaps for the Wesendonck Lieder?
Above: Alessio Bax, a superb pianist who played in six of the works on offer this evening
A flash of Spanish light and colour is welcome on any concert program; tonight, Joaquín Turina's Escena andaluza proved yet another notable discovery. An opening cascade from the piano becomes a caress. Ms. Kavafian and Mr. Phillips are back with their violins now, and together with Richard O'Neill (viola), Paul Watkins (cello), and Mr. Bax at the piano they catch the music's sensuous moodiness and underline Mr. Neubauer's tonal affluence ideally. Outstanding playing from Romie de Guise-Langlois put the final flourish on this miniature Andalusian tone poem.
A lilting and passionate violin solo (Ms. Kavafian) is answered by Mr. Watkins' velvety cello; Mr. Bax's keyboard shifts between the insinuating and the rhapsodic, and there's a flurry of string instruments being plucked.
Ms. Kavafian opens the second section of the Turina playing in the high range. The music glides from sly seduction to rising desire and on to a shimmering glow before the pianist - abetted by the clarinet - urges us to surrender to our passions.
The same ensemble from the Turina remained onstage for Hermann Schulenberg's Puszta-Märchen; they were already seated and raring to go. But where was Paul Neubauer? The ensemble struck up - a gypsy romance - and Mr. Neubauer stepped from the wings, already playing, and strolled down the steps and into the audience. He stopped next to me and my friend Claudia Schreier and - fixing me with an intense gaze - played a dusky, wine-drenched melody with great passion; I could actually feel the resonance of the music rising from the viola. He then locked eyes with Claudia and continued to play, totally by instinct. Momentarily he walked away, but then came back to us to continue his serenade. After a few moments he turned his attention to the usherette and played to her on intimate terms.
Onstage, his colleagues were continuing to play while keeping one eye on the wandering minstrel. Suddenly they switched to a brilliant czardas; Mr. Neubauer returned to center-stage, playing on with virtuoso élan, and evoking swirling roulades from Romie's clarinet. The music halted as all the players stomped their feet, and the audience burst into applause.
Mr. Neubauer's arrangement of Rumanian Canary, with its bird-song 'cadenza', was the concluding delight of the program. This led to a joyous standing ovation, and the players being called out twice.
Being serenaded by Paul Neubauer is something I'll always remember: an unexpected and charming episode in my life - a life that remains full of surprises.
The Participating Artists:
April 25, 2016 | Permalink