Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Chamber Music Concert

                                            C'étaient des fous, mais ils avaient cette
 petite flamme qui ne s'éteint pas. 
(They were madmen; but they had in them 
that little flame which is not to be snuffed out.)

-Pierre Renoir 

On Thursday, March 27th, 2014 (at 7:30 p.m.), I was lucky enough to make it to the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts chamber music concert, produced under the direction of Ava Soifer, artist-in-residence. Students from the SOTA Piano Department and Instrumental Department were part of this memorable night.

The first piece on the program was Invierno Porteño by Astor Piazzola(1921-1992), performed by violinist Raina Christeson, cellist Jesse Jenks, and pianist Cristina Rey. This piece was very emotionally performed, and the great skills of the musicians added on to the inspirational experience produced upon the listener.

The second piece was not written into the program, but what I got from Mrs. Soifer's announcement was that it was a Shostakovich String Quartet performed by the Dragon String Quartet. This piece was fun to listen to, but the violins did not seem loud enough. Last time, at the Concerto Concert, I blamed the seat I was sitting in; but this time I had to strain myself to hear the violinists again, so I came to the conclusion that probably the acoustics in the theatre were not favorable toward violins.

The next two pieces were Sonata by Jacob Avshelomov(1919-2013), performed by violist Rafael Chinn and pianist Katalyn Tan, and Piano Trio by Carl Reinecke(1824-1910), performed by French Hornist Avery Roth-Hawthorne, clarinetist Rain Talosig, and pianist Iven Feng. Both of these pieces struck me as being very well performed. Ms. Tan's performance reflected her sweet and hardworking personality. Mr. Chinn was a very laudable violist. Mr. Roth-Hawthorne and Ms. Talosig had a mutual grasp on the emotional background of the piece. Mr. Feng is not a personality you would call precarious. He was foregoing in his dazzling interpretation of the piece.

The last piece in the first half was the Piano Quartet Op.25 by Johannes Brahms(1833-1897), performed by violinist Shaleah Feinstein, violist Gabriel Anguiano, cellist Oliver Herbert, and pianist Rachel Ng. Personally for me, this was one of the best pieces on the program. First of all, I have a weakness for big ensembles. I love it when there are a lot of people playing at the same time, but not a full orchestra.

Fugue in Eb Major by J.S. Bach(1685-1750) was performed by a wind ensemble including trombonists Lonnol Bay, Kieran Briden, Ruben Sandoval, and Johanne Williams-Baron; bass trombonist Scott Thornton (guest artist); euphonium Kiana Moody. This piece was very exciting. It was arranged by Wilbur Sudmeier for the wind ensemble. It was very interesting to hear Bach performed in such an arrangement.

Sonata by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), performed by flutist Hansen and pianist Jeremy Wei-Rosenstock. Mr. Wei-Rosentsock and Mr. Hansen (the program doesn't show his last name) insnared the audience in a net of beautiful music.

Violinist Anju Goto, cellist Federico Strand-Ramirez, and pianist Angela Rey stunningly performed Piano Trio by Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959). This piece had so much inspiriting energy and alluring tone that the listener was struck dumb by the beauty of the music produced.

The next two pieces were performed by Matt Cmiel on guitar and Brad Hogarth on trumpet and flugelhorn. They performed Piece en forma de Habanera by Maurice Ravel(1875-1937) and Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. These pieces were performed enthusiastically and with humorous introductions in between. (Mr. Cmiel, I didn't know you play the guitar!) What I found lacking in this wonderful concert were jokes in between the performances. Maybe not in between all of them, but some sort of verbal entertainment was lacking at some parts of the concert.

Trumpet player Jordon Lee, trombonist Hannah Williams-Barron, and pianist Jennica Li perfectly completed each other in the performance of Duet for a Ceremony by Eric Ewazen(b.1954).

Last, but not least, was Sonata from Diebankelsangerlieder by Anonymous and Suite from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein(1918-1990). It was performed by trumpet players Jordan Lee and Janis Stuurman, Avery Roth-Hawthorne on French Horn, Hall Goff (Artist in Residence) on trombone, and Eitan Spiegel on tuba. I enjoyed this piece as the conclusion to this so vigorously mesmeric concert.

Some after notes:

I would love to hear some silly gags in between the pieces. I enjoyed it very much when Mr. Cmiel and Mr. Hogarth spoke in between their two pieces while the other was getting set up.

The program was well arranged and interesting for the listener. The piece following the preceding piece never was too similar, and therefore keeping the audience interested.

The program did not mention the flutists full name in Sonata by Francis Poulenc. I also found it quite surprising that the brilliant Theatre Tech Crew involved in the backstage work of this concert was not mentioned anywhere in the program, let alone their names. They did a great job.

I also was hoping for some time-period clothing on the performers. I know that traditional dress is important, but it would be very fun for the performers and the listeners if a musician in old-style dress came onstage. You, grown-ups, don't forget that we're still teenagers and like to dress-up.

I went to this concert with my granny, and she told me after the performance that she was surprised by the professional level and quality of the young musicians; and I can tell you that she's rather picky about that (take my word for it).

Overall, I think that the concert was well organized and that Mrs. Soifer did an excellent job at preparing the musicians. Round of applause for Ava Soifer!
Special thanks to the following coaches, artists, and faculty: Matt Cmiel, Brad Hogarth, Victoria Ehrlich, hall Goff, and Scott Thornton.

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