NEAR FLAWLESS PLAYING BY COLIN CURRIE ENLIVENS FRIDAY’S UTAH SYMPHONY CONCERT

UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, April 18; second performance 8 p.m. April 19, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org  

The Utah Symphony’s mastery of the classical style as of late has been quite impressive. It sounds incredibly focused with defined, meticulous movement, expertly wielded dynamics, and long stretches of impeccable, if not inspiring, intonation. Friday night, Haydn’s opening to The Creation, titled The Representation of Chaos sounded clean, intense, and restrained. The performance benefited from particularly strong opening and closing sections.

Scottish percussionist Colin Currie made a reappearance with the symphony, taking on works by Elliott Carter and collaborating with principal keyboardist Jason Hardink. Currie’s previous appearance with the symphony left the Abravanel Hall audience divided in its response to Christopher Rouse’s piece Alberich Saved, with a sizable portion of the audience sounding rather discontented at the conclusion of the performance. This time, with the Carter, things were different.

Carter’s music is outstanding. Using an atonal setting, Carter’s style is unique and unmistakably polished and individual. The texture is always carefully crafted and often economical in its density. Currie’s solo marimba technique was practically flawless during Figment V, which made use of the entire range of the magnificent instrument. In Two Controversies and a Conversation, Currie and Hardink conversed using musical fragments of varying lengths and levels of complexity. The orchestra handled its accompaniment with the necessary reservation, and the musical phrases emerged from the stage with refinement and craft.

Perhaps Carter’s music is more accessible than Rouse’s, or perhaps the audience has begun to better appreciate more diverse means of musical expression after being regularly exposed to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries during Thierry Fischer’s tenure. At any rate, it was good to see that the audience was delighted by Carter, Currie, Hardink and Fischer’s orchestra.

Mahler’s epic Fifth Symphony concluded the program. The music was often brooding and intense, with an incredible dynamic range. In spite of the challenges the score presented, including a 70 minute length and several technically difficult passages, the orchestra performed with the usual high level of professionalism and attention to detail that has been characteristic of the Fischer baton.

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SALT LAKE CHORAL GROUPS TO PERFORM BACH’S ST. JOHN PASSION TODAY AND SATURDAY

 

Brady Allred

The Salt Lake Choral Artists’ Chamber Choir and Vocal Artists will perform an English language version of J.S. Bach’s magnificent St. John Passion today and Saturday. The concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and take place at the Waterford School Concert Hall, 1480 E. 9400 South, Sandy. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door prior to each performance or in advance by calling 801-232-7521 or logging on to www.saltlakechoralartists.org.

Joining the choirs will be the BYU Early Music Ensemble.

Soloists are tenors Chris LeCluyse and Tyler Nelson; baritones Christopher Holmes, Darrell Babidge and Rex Kocherhans; soprano Carol Ann Allred; and mezzo-soprano Anna Mooy.

Salt Lake Choral Artists’ music director Brady Allred will conduct.

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LYRIC OPERA ENSEMBLE’S ‘HANSEL AND GRETEL’ CAPTIVATES YOUNG AND OLD

Hansel and Gretel is known as a children’s opera. To be sure, it’s based on a fairy tale, but nothing could be further from truth.

The composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, was a Wagnerian. The score is lushly orchestrated, and the music, while it does have moments that are reminiscent of children’s songs or even folk tunes, is harmonically sophisticated. And the libretto, by Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid Wette, is clever and witty, and really does appeal to both youngsters and grown ups. Hansel and Gretel is certainly an opera that doesn’t deserve to be dismissed as a trifle.

The University of Utah’s Lyric Opera Ensemble is staging Humperdinck’s opera today and Saturday. It’s a production that captures the essence of the work and presents it in an engaging way that can captivate both young and old alike. It’s sung in English with sets and costumes by Utah Opera.

Demaree Brown as Hansel and Amber Stachitus as Gretel. (Photo: Courtesy Robert Breault)

Stage director Michael Scarola, who has been coming to the U. to direct opera for several years now, has done wonders with the staging. It’s a fairly tale setting that has some serious undertones, but done in such a manner as not to turn the story into something grim and sinister that would frighten young children.

I attended Wednesday’s dress rehearsal with the same cast that will sing today’s performance.

The leads were absolutely delightful. Demaree Brown and Amber Stachitus were charming as Hansel and Gretel, respectively. There was wonderful chemistry between them and they obviously had a blast doing these roles.

Tyler Oliphant and Hayley Bell as the children’s parents were spot on in their interpretations. Both imbued their characterizations with credibility, as did Brown and Stachitus.

Erin McOmber as the witch. (Photo: Courtesy Robert Breault)

Erin McOmber played an eerie witch. She was ominous but not without some finely tuned humor in her characterization.

Mackenzie Matthews as the Sandman and Ruth Ellis as the Dew Fairy were also wonderful in their roles.

The kids of the International Children’s Choir were a delight as the witch’s captive children. And the dancers, who were the 14 angels watching over Hansel and Gretel as they slept in the forest, were a pleasure to see.

The members of the Utah Philharmonia under Robert Baldwin played with finesse.

This is really quite a mesmerizing — bewitching? — production that is entertaining and well worth seeing by children as well as adults.

In Saturday’s cast Gretchen Windt and Shana Osterloh sing the title roles, respectively. Mackenzie Matthews is the mother and Elijah Hancock sings the father. The witch is played by Olivia Custodio, and the Sandman and Dew Fairy are sung by Alyssa Jenks and Michelle Dean, respectively.

  • PERFORMANCE DETAILS
  • What: Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble, Hansel and Gretel
  • Venue: Kingsbury Hall
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. April 18-19
  • Tickets: $20 general, $10 non-U. students/U. faculty and staff, free for U. students and children under 18
  • Phone: 801-581-7100
  • Web: www.kingtix.com
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UTAH SYMPHONY TO TOUR SOUTHERN UTAH AND PLAY CONCERTS NEAR NATIONAL PARKS

The Utah Symphony announced Tuesday it’ll be spending a week in August touring southern Utah and playing four concerts near five major national parks.

The so called “Mighty 5 Tour” (not to be confused with Russia’s Mighty Five composers) will have the orchestra, under the baton of music director Thierry Fischer, play concerts near Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. They’ll be joined by local favorite, soprano Celena Shafer.

The concerts will take place the week of Aug. 11. The program will consist of music by Shostakovich, Dvorak, Bizet and Gershwin. Shafer will sing several pieces, including Johann Strauss’ Frühlingsstimmen Walzer, “Quando me’n vo” from Puccini’s La bohème and “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

The concerts are free but tickets will be required. Advance tickets, as part of a lodging or recreation package, will be available May 1. For those who’ll be camping in or near these parks tickets will be available starting July 1. Tickets will also be distributed at the gate on the evening of each performance, if still available.

For more information log on to www.utahsymphony.org/mighty5.   

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PIANIST EMBARKS ON MULTI-YEAR BEETHOVEN PROJECT

Vedrana Subotic has long been intrigued by the instrumental sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven. Already as a teen she was interested in the sonata form and how it changed and developed, especially in Beethoven’s hands. “It was as a teenager that I was first able to comprehend the form and how it evolved,” she said in an interview with Reichel Recommends.

Vedrana Subotic

And this fascination is a major incentive behind her decision to perform all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, as well as his other instrumental sonatas and piano trios. It’s a multi-year project that the pianist and University of Utah faculty member is eager to finally undertake. “I’m very excited about dedicating the next few years of my life to learning and performing this extraordinary repertoire.”

When performers decide to play a genre specific cycle of a composer’s works they oftentimes program them in more or less chronological order. Subotic, however, chose a different direction — she’s alternating early and late works. “I’m programming in an arch form,” she said.

For the first concert in the series last month she programmed Beethoven’s first published work, the three piano trios of op. 1.

Her second concert, which takes place on Easter Sunday, is devoted to the composer’s final three piano sonatas: no. 30 in E major, op. 109; no. 31 in A flat major, op. 110; and no. 32 in C minor, op. 111. “These are mind boggling works. I see each of these as a small universe in itself.

“His first trios are so youthful, and the last sonatas are just amazing,” she said. “I like taking this approach because you can see his development. You can see how he expresses himself early and late in his life.” The ability to see how Beethoven matures as a person and as a musician is important to Subotic. “This juxtaposition makes such an interesting musical journey.”

Her next concert, and the last one for this season, is on April 28 and gives the audience a broad overview of some of Beethoven’s early works: the Cello Sonata in F major, op. 5; the Horn Sonata in F major, op. 17; and two of the three violin sonatas in the op. 12 set.

“I wanted to offer a range of works that were written before his op. 18 quartets,” Subotic said. “Only a few years separate these pieces, which makes it interesting to see how he articulated himself in his piano writing.”

Joining Subotic for the April 28 concert are Utah Symphony colleagues Lun Jiang, violin, Pegsoon Whang, cello, and Stephen Proser, horn. “Everyone is excited to do these works,” Subotic said, adding that “all the musicians have been delighted being involved in this project.” Besides Jiang, Whang and Proser, Utah Symphony members Claude Halter, violin, and Anne Lee, cello, will also take part in this series.

Subotic said that the musicians are all keen on playing chamber music. “They’ve all said the same thing, that this is what keeps us sane. And I would agree. Playing chamber music reminds us of what it is we need to do. It’s very important to us.”

With these two concerts, Subotic will have played 10 of the 56 chamber works Beethoven wrote for piano or with the piano as an integral component. These include the sonatas for solo piano, as well as the sonatas for various instruments and piano, and the piano trios. “Only 46 more to go,” she said with a laugh.

Her goal with what she expects to be a three-year project is to play 15 works per year. It’s a lot of music to learn and play but Subotic is more than ready for the challenge. “It’s intriguing,” she said. “It’s something quite amazing.”

  • CONCERT DETAILS
  • What: “Beethoven Sonata Perspectives,” Vedrana Subotic, piano
  • Venue: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah
  • Time and Date: 7 p.m. April 20
  • Tickets: Free
  • Phone: 801-581-6762
  • Web: http://music.utah.edu/events/index.php#/?i=3
  • ALSO:
  • What: “Beethoven Sonata Perspectives,” Vedrana Subotic, piano, Lun Jiang, violin, Pegsoon Whang, cello, Stephen Proser, horn
  • Venue: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. April 28
  • Tickets: Free
  • Phone: 801-581-6762
  • Web: http://music.utah.edu/events/index.php#/?i=3
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BONNEVILLE CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL TO OFFER FOUR CONCERTS

The annual Bonneville Chamber Music Festival starts Tuesday and runs through April 19. There will four concerts, all of which take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Allred Theatre in the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts on the Weber State University campus.

Tickets are $8 for general; $6 for seniors and member of the military with ID; and $4 for students with valid ID. They can be purchased by calling 800-978-8457 or by going online to www.weberstatetickets.com.

The brainchild of WSU cellist Viktor Uzur, the Bonneville Chamber Music Festival presents a wide ranging repertoire, from standard favorites to unconventional crossover pieces.

Joining Uzur this year will be a number of renowned chamber musicians from around the world, many of whom have played at the festival in the past.

Below is a schedule of concerts along with each program and a list of performers.

  • April 14 — Opening Night. Performers: Begic/Martinovic Duo; Miran Begic, violin; Bojan Martinovic, piano. Program: Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor; Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher op. 42; Pugnani-Kreisler’s Praeludium und Allegro.
  • April 16 — Family Night, “Harry Potter Meets Paganini.” Performers: Carmelo de los Santos, violin; Brad Richter, guitar; Marcos Machado, bass; Guigla Katsarava, piano; Viktor Uzur, cello.
  • April 18 — “Eclectic Evening.” Performers: Carmelo de los Santos, violin; Brad Richter, guitar; Marcos Machado, bass; Guigla Katsarava, piano; Viktor Uzur, cello; Mikhail Bereznitsky, viola. Program: Beethoven’s Seven Variations on Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen; I am the Walrus; Kolo Fugato; Rhapsody in Blue Mashup;  Bottesini’s Grand Quintet for Strings in C minor,
  • April 19 — Festival Finale. Performers: WSU Chamber Choir, Mark Henderson, director; Carmelo de los Santos, violin; Guigla Katsarava, piano; Viktor Uzur, cello; Mikhail Bereznitsky, viola. Program: Brahms’ Three German Part-Songs; Ravel’s Three Chansons; de Falla’s Popular Spanish Songs; Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor.
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LYRIC OPERA ENSEMBLE READY TO CREATE MAGIC WITH ‘HANSEL AND GRETEL’

Coming off last year’s large scale production of Falstaff and after several years of big operatic projects, Robert Breault realized he should give the singers in his Lyric Opera Ensemble at the University of Utah a bit of a breather. “I decided we needed to take a break and not be so ambitious this year,” he told Reichel Recommends.

So this year, the group will be doing Engelbert Humperdinck’s delightful fairy tale opera Hansel and Gretel. There will be two performances in Kingsbury Hall on April 18-19.

From left: Amber Stachitus (Gretel), Olivia Custodio (Witch), Demaree Brown (Hansel); from a recent rehearsal.

Even though it’s always been described as a children’s opera, Hansel and Gretel is anything but easy to do. It’s still a fairly large undertaking. “Besides the singers, you have a children’s choir and dancers. There’s a lot of work involved in staging Hansel.”

Nor is the score a breeze to play. Humperdinck was a devoted follower of Richard Wagner, and the music is rich in late romantic harmonies. “It’s so Wagnerian and so beautifully orchestrated,” Breault said. (Incidentally, it was Richard Strauss who conducted the premiere in Weimar in 1893.)

One of the reasons Breault wanted to do Hansel was to reach out to young people. “Students under 18 can attend for free. We want them to see what real opera is like, and hopefully parents will come along.”

To make it more appealing to a younger audience, the opera will be sung in English.

Without giving too much away, Breault said the staging will be imaginative. “For example, we’re going to bring the witch in through the audience and have her hand out candy.”

Breault is co-directing the production with Michael Scarola, who has been coming to the U. for several years. “Michael is actually doing the lion’s share of the work and I’m just tweaking,” Breault said. “It’s been a great collaboration.”

The biggest challenge in Breault’s opinion is keeping the children interested in what’s going on onstage. “We have to get their attention, or they’ll just check out,” he said. But he feels this production is going to keep everyone’s interest. “We’re trying to create magic,” with the staging, lighting and other elements.

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Humperdinck’s opera, with a libretto by his sister Adelheid Wette, tones down the darker, more gruesome aspects of the original story and makes it more accessible and not as frightening for younger audience members. “I think we would get a PG rating,” Breault said.

From left: Gretchen Windt (Hansel) and Shana Osterloh (Gretel).

The opera will be double cast. Among the singers are baritone Tyler Oliphant and mezzo-soprano Gretchen Windt. “Tyler is working on his doctorate. Gretchen has been a Utah Opera young artist, and has sung several roles for us and elsewhere,”  Breault said. Recently she sang the role of Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro for Opera Idaho.

Some of the other singers in principal roles include Shana Osterloh, Demaree Brown, Erin McOmber and Amber Stachitus.

“This is a golden age for us,” Breault said. “We have some big voices who are doctoral students right now.”

Also taking part are the International Children’s Choir and member of the Utah Philharmonia. Conducting will be Robert Baldwin.

The costumes and sets have been rented from Utah Opera, and member of the company’s artistic staff are helping out. “I’m so grateful for this collaboration with Utah Opera,” Breault said. “It means a lot to us.”

Gretchen Windt and members of the International Children's Choir; from a recent rehearsal.

  • PERFORMANCE DETAILS
  • What: Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble, Hansel and Gretel
  • Venue: Kingsbury Hall
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. April 18-19
  • Tickets: $20 general, $10 non-U. students/U. faculty and staff, free for U. students and children under 18
  • Phone: 801-581-7100
  • Web: www.kingtix.com
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UTAH SYMPHONY’S KATHRYN EBERLE SHINES AS SOLOIST IN BERNSTEIN’S SERENADE

UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, April 11; second performance 8 p.m. April 12, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org 

This weekend the Utah Symphony features one of its own as soloist.

Associate concertmaster Kathryn Eberle is in the spotlight in Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, after Plato’s Symposium. Scored for strings, harp and percussion, the Serenade is one of Bernstein’s best classical works. While there are jazz elements in the piece, notably in the final movement, the work overall is in a much more serious idiom than most of his other symphonic works.

It’s also a good vehicle for the soloist; it gives the violinist ample opportunities to display her technical and expressive talents. And Eberle wowed the audience Friday with her musical chops. She played the work commandingly, with cleanly defined articulation and eloquent expressiveness. In fact, she played it as if the piece had been written for her.

And under music director Thierry Fischer’s baton, there was a finely crafted balance between the soloist and the ensemble. They complemented each other wonderfully.

There were also many fine solo moments for the orchestra as well. Of particular note was the duet between Eberle and acting principal cello Matthew Johnson in the fourth movement. The two played off each other with gorgeously crafted phrasings and beautifully molded lyricism.

Bernstein’s raucous overture to Candide was also on the program, and given a sparkling reading by Fischer and his band.

The concert opened with Mozart’s string divertimento Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The strings gave a crisply articulated, precise and nuanced account of the work. The only downside to the performance was Fischer’s overly fast tempo for the Andante and Minuet movements. Aside from that, it was an entertaining reading.

Closing out the evening was Carl Nielsen’s imposing Symphony No. 5. Nielsen takes his listeners on an emotional journey in this two-movement work. It’s dark and fraught with a nervous tension that barely finds some release towards the end of the second movement.

Fischer and the orchestra gave a superb reading that captured the intensity and anguish that courses throughout the two movements. It was a powerful performance that was honest and sincere and imbued with a rugged expressiveness that served the music well.

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HAYDN QUARTET HIGHLIGHT OF DORIC’S CONCERT THURSDAY

CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF SALT LAKE CITY, Doric Quartet, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, April 10

The field of accomplished string quartets continually keeps getting bigger, with new groups surfacing at a surprisingly rapid pace. Among the ensembles that have emerged in the past decade and a half, the Doric Quartet stands out for its remarkable musicality and interpretative talents. It’s a group that has something to say, and when they do (to paraphrase an old television commerce) audiences listen.

Doric Quartet

The Doric wrapped up its current tour to the United States Thursday with a concert in Libby Gardner Concert Hall, playing Haydn’s Quartet in C major, op. 76, no. 3; Korngold’s Quartet No. 2, op. 26; and concluding with Schubert’s monumental G major Quartet, D. 887.

Of the three, the Schubert was the least satisfying. While their playing was impeccable, the foursome’s interpretation was at times a bit questionable. That was particularly the case in the second movement Andante, which, while having some nice moments of lyricism in the quieter passages, was rough and rather rambunctious in the forte sections — so much so that the contrasts in this movement were somewhat jarring.

Korngold is, of course, best known to American audiences for his scores to some of Hollywood’s most famous movies of the 1930s and ‘40s. But before coming to the United States, Korngold was a renowned composer of a string of works that assured his place in music history. And while he was working in Hollywood, Korngold continued to write classical works. Among these, from his earliest days in his adopted country, is the Second Quartet.

The Second is a captivating work that blends some serious classical idioms with the more relaxed mannerisms of film music. It’s a successful blend — Korngold, after all, was a master of both worlds  — and the Doric pulled it off magnificently. They gave a scintillating account that captured the charm and effusive expressiveness of this work wonderfully. Their nicely articulated interpretation was spot on and they managed to bring depth and dimension to their account.

The real highlight of the evening, though, was Haydn’s quartet that opened the program. This is one of Haydn’s greatest achievements in the quartet medium, and one of his most expansive in terms of temperament. It spans the range of expressions — from carefree exuberance to dark drama — in a cohesive package. The moods are never overdone and the work needs to be played without exaggeration. The Doric understands this and they gave a gorgeously crafted, wonderfully expressed reading that underscored the broad palette of emotions lucidly and intelligently.

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DAZZLING CHOREOGRAPHY ON DISPLAY IN RDT’S ‘LAND’

Normally I don’t cover dance. However, I was invited to attend Repertory Dance Theatre’s dress rehearsal Tuesday for Land, the company’s final production for the season. The four short works that make up the program are visually stunning with superbly crafted choreography. Despite the few technical glitches and the tweaking that is always inevitable at a rehearsal, I was mesmerized by the virtuosity of the dancers and the inventiveness of the choreography.

The opening piece, Desert Sea, with choreography by Molissa Fenley and music by Lou Harrison, is a veritable symphony of angularity, symmetry and precision. The music and dancing become one in evoking visions of vivid imagery.

The next work, Erosion, choreographed by Zvi Gotheiner to original music by Scott Killian, is a fabulous partner piece to Desert Sea. It draws its inspiration from the American Southwest. It’s a picturesque piece, almost ritualistic in its depiction of the passage of time as represented by the natural forces of erosion. The music is percussive, yet also quite lyrical at times. The dancing is fluid and there is an element of sensuality in the dancers’ movements.

Offering a stark contrast to the preceding two works is Ze-eva Cohen’s Rainwood, set to a score consisting of animal and bird sounds associated with a rainforest. The dancers move in vibrant patterns and through their gestures become one with the sounds.

Rounding out the program is Shapiro & Smith’s Turf, a clever piece with a score by Killian about ownership that at times turns from playful to serious. However, the playfulness of the opening section becomes a unifying motif throughout the piece, and the work never strays far from the whimsical and humorous.

Land is an absolutely entertaining showcase for RDT’s remarkable dancers. I highly recommend it.

  • PERFORMANCE DETAILS
  • What: Repertory Dance Theatre, Land
  • Venue: Jeanné Wagner Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. April 10-12
  • Tickets: $30 general, $15 seniors and students ($5 higher if purchased on day of performance)
  • Phone: 801-355-2787 or 888-451-2787
  • Web: www.arttix.org
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BALLET WEST’S ‘RITE OF SPRING’ HAS STRONG FEMALE PRESENCE

Women figure prominently in Ballet West’s new production of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The story revolves around virgin sacrifices, to be sure, but off the stage there is also a strong female presence, from the guest conductor (Tara Simoncic, making a return appearance) to sections of the orchestra.

From left: Lisa Verzella, Sara Marchetti and Seretta Hart

For the first time in Utah Chamber Orchestra history, the trumpet section will consist entirely of women, said principal trumpet Lisa Verzella. “This is pretty unique,” she told Reichel Recommends. “Among professional orchestras, only the St. Louis Symphony has two women trumpet players.”

Besides Verzella, the Utah Chamber Orchestra’s trumpet section includes Sara Marchetti and Bob Brown. But because of a family matter, Brown was unavailable to play for this production. He will be replaced by Seretta Hart. “She’s our first sub,” Verzella said.

Even though the score is quite demanding, Verzella is excited about playing it. “This will be the first time ‘The Rite of Spring’ has been done by Ballet West since 1998.”

Verzella is also looking forward to having Simoncic on the podium again. “She’s fantastic,” she said, adding that she’s happy to have Hart join her and Marchetti. “This is a great group.”

The Rite of Spring will be danced to Nicolo Fonte’s choreography. Also on the program is Forgotten Land, choreographed to Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and George Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15.

  • PERFORMANCE DETAILS
  • What: Ballet West
  • Venue: Capitol Theatre
  • Time and Date: April 11-12, 16-19, 7:30 p.m., also 2 p.m. on April 19
  • Tickets: $24-$74
  • Phone: 801-355-2787 or 888-451-2787
  • Web: www.arttix.org  
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WESTMINSTER COLLEGE’S VOCAL DEPARTMENT IN ENTERTAINING EVENING OF SONGS OF THE SEASON

WESTMINSTER CONCERT SERIES, “Four Seasons of Song,” Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College, April 7

The seasons were a popular subject for art song composers of the 19th century. They found inspiration in the many poems that were written about the changing seasons. And as the theme for Monday’s Westminster Concert Series program, it served as a fabulous vehicle for the five members of the school’s vocal department.

The quintet — sopranos Cheryl Hart and Shana Osterloh; mezzo-soprano Aubrey Adams-McMillan; tenor Brian Stucki; and baritone Michael Chipman — drew on the vast repertoire and put together a wonderfully diverse program that didn’t just focus on songs of the season; a number of selections merely referenced or evoked a particular time of year. It was a riveting evening of music that put the considerable talents of the singers — as well as the musicality of pianists Karlyn Bond and Emily Williams, the two accompanists — on display. It was 90 minutes of entertainment of the highest order in an inviting salon-like setting complete with a vintage sofa, chairs and rug that went by all too quickly.

Of the 22 selections the five singers performed on the program, several stood out for a variety of reasons.

Adams-McMillan gave a wonderfully sensitive account of the relatively obscure French composer Charles Koechlin’s evocative “L’hiver,” while bringing lightness and fluidity to her reading of Hector Berlioz’s “Villanelle” from Les nuits d’été; Chipman brought eloquence to his rendition of Franz Schubert’s heartfelt “Im Abendrot;” and Hart, with Stucki playing cello, sang the early baroque composer Barbara Strozzi’s “Che si può fare” with wonderfully crafted expressiveness.

Stucki and Chipman brought a wealth of expressions and finely molded lyricism to their account of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ little known “Dirge for Fidele,” from William Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline; Osterloh gave a lyric account of Gustav Mahler’s charming “Frülingsmorgen;” and the ensemble ended the evening with a captivating account of the closing song, “Zum Schluss,” from Johannes Brahms’ delightful Liebeslieder Walzer.

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