333993_313419255382941_112877605437108_922501_755864424_oOlga Kern is a 30-something virtuoso pianist from Russia, whose North American fame became assured in 2001 when she won the Van Cliburn Piano Competition. She was in Toronto recently as part of a duo tour with distinguished violinist Vladimir Spivakov, a fellow Russian a generation older than she. The two of them played a sold-out recital (!) at Koerner Hall on Thursday, February 23, presented by local Russian-Canadian impresario Svetlana Dvoretskaia’s Show One Productions. Sonatas of Brahms and Franck anchored the serious bill, along with neoclassical Stravinsky (Suite Italienne) and the moving Spiegel im Spiegel of Arvo Pärt.

It proved a recital of understated perfection. Spivakov is an immaculate, restrained fiddler with silky light tone, and Kern accompanied him almost deferentially. Their playing was gorgeous, in a coolly dignified way. A rapt audience of predominantly Russians soaked it all up with reverence.

A day prior, Kern had presented a keyboard master class at Robert Lowry Piano Experts, inaugurating what is hoped to be an ongoing series of occasional piano master classes at this Leaside piano dealer. The spacious upstairs salon showroom was a lovely venue, and the piano was no less than a $200,000 Bösendorfer Imperial nine-and-a-half foot concert grand (on which Kern played her duo recital the following evening at Koerner Hall).

Three piano students were selected for this public learning forum, each of whom had been a prizewinner in the North York Piano Festival: 11-year-old Coco Ma of Toronto, high-school age Amadeusz Kazubowski-Houston of Waterloo, and adult Ricker Choi of Toronto. Each of them proved an extremely well-trained and flexible pianist, capable of enduring Madame Kern’s constant reproaches in front of an audience of perhaps eighty.

Kazubowski-Houston, a ponytailed, seemingly inward fellow of fifteen, offered the Chopin Fantaisie in f minor: his name and career I will enjoy following over the coming years. His technical equipment is already solidly in place, but more importantly, he offered welcome tenderness and poetry in this work, more than the martial heroics Kern kept stressing.

Coca Ma played the songful Ballade No. 3 of Chopin admirably for a young girl; she will grow into its emotions. She deserved a medal for putting up with a stern Russian lady towering over her and shouting commands like “More relaxed!” Maybe when you’re eleven years old and a talented pianist you’re used to being shouted at.

Ricker Choi, about the same age as Kern, presented a fascinating biography. He began the piano at age 13, then dropped it altogether at age 18 for a decade of studies in business and eventual work as a financial analyst.

Nowadays he is back to pursuing the piano with a vengeance, despite his day job in the banking industry. He is one of the pack of current hotshot adult amateur piano contestants who travel the globe to compete against other part-time pianists in international amateur competitions, and he has the trophies to prove it.

Choi played Liszt’s brash First Mephisto Waltz with clinical precision, spare pedaling, and clear engagement. Then it was time for Kern to critique his rendition almost bar by bar, and re-sculpt it to suit her taste. She observed that Choi was employing myriad tiny adjustments of tempo for expressive effect, and this annoyed her - and so he gamely adapted to a more metronomic version of Liszt’s dance.

Clearly Olga Kern is not someone for whom teaching represents the give-and-take of ideas; instead she proved an old-world European autocrat. On the plus side, we did experience a woman consumed by music, who frequently gestured, and sang, and demonstrated at the piano. She devoted ample time to each of the three participants, and went through their scores in detail. She was not cruel in her remarks, just grim and arbitrary.

Let’s hope future master classes will be more nourishing.

 

junoThe biggest round of applause  at the Juno nominations announcement yesterday was not even directly related to the music: it was that the awards, taking place in the nation’s capital on April Fool’s Day, will be hosted by…William Shatner!  Warm applause also ensued after it was announced that rock group Blue Rodeo will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In terms of the actual nominees, there was no clear frontrunner, with 6 acts tied at first with 4 nominations apiece: City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Drake, Feist, Hedley and Nickelback.

Needless to say (for those who know our magazine) none of the aforementioned frontrunners were reviewed in The WholeNote, but a few hearty bravos  are in order, nevertheless, to our hardworking crew of CD reviewers who have, out of the 35 classical and jazz nominees this year, already reviewed 27 of them in our DISCoveries section, (with three more to be reviewed next month!) A list of all the nominees in the five categories we routinely cover is provided at the end of this blog post, with embedded links to the ones we have already reviewed.

Before that, a couple of particularly WholeNote-Worthy Nods:

● 2 nominations for Montréal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Orchestre Métropolitain, in the same category, no less!

● 2 posthumous nominations in the Classical Composition of the Year category: Ann Southam’s Glass Houses #5 and Jacques Hétu’s String Quartet No.2.

● Franz Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage suite is played (in part or in whole) in 2 of the recordings nominated in the Classical Recording: Solo or Chamber Ensemble (thank you, Google!)

And now, here are the nominees in the classical and jazz categories, with embedded links (in blue) related reviews already published in The WholeNote. (To view all Juno categories, visit www.junoawards.ca)

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOLO OR CHAMBER ENSEMBLE

Canadian Brass Opening Day*Universal

Brahms On Brass

Louis Lortie Chandos*SRI

Louis Lortie Plays Liszt

Marc-André Hamelin Hyperion*SRI

Liszt Piano Sonata

New Orford String Quartet Bridge*SRI

Schubert & Beethoven

Susan Hoeppner Marquis*EMI

American Flute Masterpieces (to be reviewed March 2012)

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: LARGE ENSEMBLE OR SOLOIST(S) WITH LARGE ENSEMBLE ACCOMPANIMENT

Alexandre Da Costa/Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Acacia Classics*Universal

Daugherty : Fire and Blood

James Ehnes Chandos*SRI

Bartók Violin Concertos

Jean-Guihen Queyras Harmonia Mundi*SRI

Vivaldi Cello Concertos

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Orchestre Métropolitain ATMA*Naxos

Bruckner 4 (to be reviewed March 2012)

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Orchestre Métropolitain ATMA*Naxos

Florent Schmidt- La tragédie de salomé

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: VOCAL OR CHORAL PERFORMANCE

Jane Archibald; Orchestre Symphonique Bienne; Thomas Rösner ATMA*Naxos

Haydn Arias

Karina Gauvin - Marie-Nicole Lemieux Naive*Naxos

Handel: Streams of Pleasure

Le Nouvel Opéra ATMA*Naxos

Caldara : La Conversione di Clodoveo

Marie-Josée Lord; Orchestre Métropolitain; Giuseppe Pietraroia ATMA*Naxos

Marie-Josée Lord (to be reviewed March, 2012)

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Daniel Taylor Analekta*Sélect

J.S. Bach: Cantatas 70 & 154; Concerto 1060; Orchestral Suite No. 2

 

CLASSICAL COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR

Ann Southam Centrediscs*Naxos/CMC

Glass Houses #5

Derek Charke Centrediscs*Naxos/CMC

Sepia Fragments (from Sea to Sea, St. Lawrence String Quartet)

Heather Schmidt Centrediscs*Naxos/CMC

Piano Concerto No. 2

Jacques Hétu Independent

String Quartet No. 2

Jeffrey Ryan Naxos

Fugitive Colours

VOCAL JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Diana Panton Independent*eOne

To Brazil With Love

Fern Lindzon Independent

Two Kites

Sonia Johnson Effendi*Sélect

Le carré de nos amours

Sophie Milman eOne

In The Moonlight

The Nylons Linus*Universal

Skin Tight

 

CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Chris Tarry Nineteen Eight

Rest of the Story

Colin Stetson Constellation*Outside

New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

François Bourassa Quartet Effendi*Sélect

Idiosyncrasie

Hilario Duran & Jane Bunnett Alma*Universal

Cuban Rhapsody

Phil Dwyer Orchestra feat. Mark Fewer Alma*Universal

Changing Seasons

 

TRADITIONAL JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Dave Young Quintet Modica*Independent

Aspects of Oscar

David Braid Independent

Verge

Kirk MacDonald Orchestra Addo

Deep Shadows

Mike Murley Septet Cornerstone*Outside

Still Rollin’

Oliver Jones Justin Time*EMI

Live In Baden

 

Bruce Ubukata and Stephen Ralls' The Aldeburgh Connection (http://www. aldeburghconnection.org) turns 30 February 19 2012. The WholeNote's David Perlman spoke with them late January 2012.

October 15, 2011: David Perlman, Publisher of The WholeNote Magazine in conversation with bass-baritone Mark S. Doss (www.marksdoss.com). Topics include his recent performance as Thoas in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris, early role models and teachers, his practice regimen, working with different directors and teaching music therapy at the Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The Gypsy Princess
by Imre Kálmán, directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin
Toronto Operetta Theatre, Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto
December 28, 2011-January 8, 2012

For its New Year’s show, Toronto Operetta Theatre is presenting its third production (not its first as I mistakenly stated in my December column) of Imre Kálmán’s most popular operetta, The Gypsy Princess (or as it was known at its 1915 premiere in Vienna, Die Csárdásfürstin)..  It has one great tune after the next, with no lack of that typical Hungarian dance, the csárdás, and a plot that moves forward less because of artifice than because of the interplay of complex human emotions.  The current TOT production has much to recommend it, particularly the stunning performance of Lara Ciekiewicz in the title role, but when I saw the December 30th presentation, halfway between the premiere and the big New Year’s Eve gala, the show still seemed a bit rough around the edges.

The story uses certain clichés of Viennese operetta plotting--a comic couple balancing a serious couple and difference in class as a bar to marriage--but librettists Leo Stein and Béla Jenbach have found a way to emphasize the human side of the conflicts so that characters and the community on stage seem much more real than is sometimes the case in operetta.  For one thing, the title character Sylvia Varescu (Ciekiewicz) is a cabaret singer herself.  Prince Edwin (Keith Klassen) is in love with her, but she doubts whether he has the courage to stand up to his parents’ disapproval of his marrying not just a commoner but, even worse, a stage artist.  Meanwhile, her manager Count Bonifazius or “Boni” (Ian Simpson) is trying to get Sylvia started on a tour of America.  Edwin doesn’t want her to leave so what can he do to stop her but propose?  Boni, who has never taken Edwin’s passion seriously, doesn’t want to cancel the tour and so produces an announcement Edwin’s parents have prematurely had printed announcing his engagement to their choice for his bride, Countess Stasi (Elizabeth Beeler).  The mood for everyone except Boni gets very dark before events work themselves out.

Ciekiewicz has a clear, strong voice and a delightfully pert personality ideal for Sylvia.  She also can dance.  This must be the first time I’ve ever seen a soprano hit her high note while doing the splits!  She and Klassen’s Edwin have a chemistry on stage that makes the frequent tiffs and reconciliations of these two highly strung individuals seem quite natural.  Klassen’s tenor has darkened over the years in a way that has allowed him an even greater range of expression.  This plus the rapport between the two makes the slow minor key waltz “Where Are They Now?” an unexpected highlight of the second act.

As the traditional parallel comic couple, Boni and Stasi are not typical at all.  Stasi, in a surprising notion for 1915, proposes an open marriage to Edwin as the solution to their problem in the “Swallow Duet”.  Beeler’s scintillating presence lights up the whole second act.  She gives Stasi a fascinating personality, a seeming outward nonchalance hiding deeper feelings underneath that makes you pay special attention to her every word.

As Boni, Simpson simply cannot match or the other leads.  Though I have enjoyed other performances of his, his acting style is completely different from that of the others.  He adopts the consciously artificial line delivery one often hears in musicals rather than the naturalistic style the others use here.  Although he played Boni the last time the TOT staged Die Csárdásfürstin, he plays Boni as a stereotypical comic figure rather than the complex one the librettists have created.  While he may be the main source of humour in the operetta, his motivation for ruining Edwin’s proposal to Sylvia are completely selfish.  I’d like to see a bit more chagrin in him when he recognizes the effect of what he’s done.  I’d also like to see some kind of change in him when changes from the devil-may-care rake of Act 1 who does not believe in love to a man hopelessly enslaved by it in Act 2.

In secondary roles, Stefan Fehr is excellent vocally and dramatically as Baron Ferencz or “Feri”, friend to Edwin and Boni.  Mark Petacchi, though much too young for the role, gives a solid performance as Edwin’s father Prince Leopold.  In contrast, Eugenia Dermentzis as Edwin’s mother Princess Anhilte indulges in a bit too much posturing and should give some hint of the hypocrisy of her opposing her son’s marriage to Sylvia.

As usual director and designer Guillermo Silva-Marin has managed with carefully selection of props, furniture and patterned lighting gobos to conjure up the exciting backstage of a theatre for Acts 1 and 3 and the contrasting formal world of Edwin’s parents in Act 2.  Due to an evident enthusiasm for the music, conductor Derek bate uncharacteristically allowed the TOT Orchestra to play at too high a volume in the Act 1 so that most of the words went missing.  By Act 2, however, the balance had been corrected and the words were clear.  The choral singing was lovely throughout.

TOT has not staged Die Csárdásfürstin since 1997 so fans of Viennese operetta in general, and of Kálmán in particular, should not hesitate in seeing the show, especially with such a delightful singer as Ciekiewicz as Sylvia. The show is so full of good tunes that you’re certain leave with waltzes, galops or csárdások still dancing in your ears.

©Christopher Hoile

 

 

December 28, 2011  WholeNote publisher David Perlman chats with mezzo Wallis Giunta in Toronto, among other things about her current four day Toronto working holiday (Attila Glatz Productions opera spectacular "Bravissimo" at Roy Thomson Hall New Year's Eve), about life in the Lindemann program at the Met, and about where Rufus Wainwright fits in to her upcoming March 1 Music Toronto recital.

It was standing room only at the Music Gallery last night for the first of two concerts featuring the works of Vinko Globokar this weekend, but by the close of the second half of the evening’s programme you wouldn’t have noticed because everyone was standing to applaud. (More about applause as wrecking ball at the end of this.)

What a feast, for players and audience alike. I remember reading about Globokar that every work in his fifty year career poses a different question, requiring a different aesthetic answer – that he never repeats himself. Boy does he ever not! Billed as “Back to Back,” because different presenters did the honours in the first half and second half of the programme, it might just as well have been billed “Back to Back to Back to Back,” because each of the four pieces was as distinctive as could be imagined.

In the first, “Au-dela d’une etude pour percussion” percussionist David Schotzko was put through his paces in a series of evolving, and to my eye and ear devilishly difficult, “exercises” on a wide range of percussion instruments. “If the percussionist is interested only in percussion” Globokar says, they can simply play through sections A to P without stopping.” If on the other hand “the percussionist is interested in things other than percussion – such as fencing, karate, ... the production of noises with the body,... a variety of cries,... or mime, then he can invent six short performances and place them in a suitable space, outside the scope of the percussion.” The list of other interests he gives is much longer than the few I have cited, but no matter, because Schotzko, of course, chose nothing from the list, opting instead for a dextrous little episode of swishy casting with a fly fishing rod, followed by five bouts of chopping, dicing, dusting, cooking and consuming a meal on stage, each episode cunningly and ferociously amplified. As the piece proceeded one had to deal with the somewhat alarming realization that not even artistry of the highest order could hope to match the percussive (and compositional) wizardry of a piece of meat frying on a plate. Smelt good, though.

The second piece was illustrative of another facet of Globokar’s own life and work in that it was a true improvisation by four musicians (trombonists Scott Good and Heather Segger, and percussionists Schotzko and Dan Morphy who worked with Globokar during his two week residency). The four had never worked together before this week (and in fact I was a fly on the wall at their very first session together, exactly a week ago). At that first session they did about a fifteen minute improvisation, with Globokar listening. It was interesting, and resolved easily enough. Globokar talked a bit about his own years as an improviser, how their cardinal rules were never to discuss what they had just played, and never to discuss what they were about to play. And then he simply said “So do another, but this time, play longer.” It was fascinating last night to watch and listen to how that simple instruction still informed the “final” piece, as it wandered along its course, through a classy, deft first ending into a difficult rebirth (for the audience too) and a second, less tidy but emotionally far more satisfying close.
The first half of the programme concluded with “Dos a Dos” (Back to Back), “for any two mobile instrumentalists,” in this case trombonist David Pell and saxophonist Wallace Halladay. “Throughout the piece the performers have a tumultuous relationship, and battle for supremacy” is how the programme notes put it, and that sums it up quite neatly (although “neat” in the tidy sense, is not, as you may have gathered by now, Globokar’s signature.)

I said at the outset that I would come back to the notion of “applause as wrecking ball” at the end of this, and here I am, with nothing said about the life-changing, second half of the programme “Terres brulees, ensuite ... (Burned lands, then ...)”. It’s a work scored for piano, percussion and saxophone (Stephen Clarke, Ryan Scott and Wallace Halladay, respectively), with the pianist and saxophonist relatively stationary, and the percussionist wandering (or is it driven?) through seven stations, unleashing all the cries and moans, concussions, crackles and explosions of humanity doing its very best to do its worst with all the elements available to man. As fire consumes all, and is itself consumed, little jingoistic anthemic snippets of melody blessedly fade. Darkness descends, and with it comes silence. Profound, blessed silence. But dare we hope for a lasting peace?

Nope, not in our time. Haven’t yet been in an audience in this town where some individual didn’t feel compelled to be the first to bellow bravos into the disquieting quiet or fire celebratory rifles of applause into the air hungering for at least a moment more of silent healing.

Can’t wait for Sunday’s final concert (New Music Concerts, Betty Oliphant Theatre, 8pm).

 

 

I’m an enthusiastic but not very musically sophisticated attender at new music events so sometimes I end up stupefied, not knowing what I am supposed to be listening to or for. In the good old days I could at least pick up a couple of newspapers the following day to find out whether or not I had a good time, or if I did to feel mortified at the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed something that no-one with real taste would have. But those days alas are no more. Now I have to rely on my own judgment (or go out to the Duke of York or equivalent after the event with one or another person whose judgment I value.)

I did just that last night after Austrian composer GF Haas’ IN VAIN performed by the RC New Music Ensemble (that’s RC for Royal Conservatory, not Roman Catholic) under the spirited direction of Brian Current, who is developing a loyal following among audience members, no matter what the repertoire is.

And last night’s repertoire was pretty daunting for players and audience alike – a single work, 65 minutes long, of which fully thirty minutes (in two chunks) was played in complete darkness. My greatest fear was of being discovered sound asleep when the periods of darkness lifted, but happily a well known Toronto stage and production manager/stage fighting coach sat down next to me. With the assurance that a well placed nudge in the ribs would be forthcoming if my deep attentiveness became too sonorous, I relaxed and had a wide-awake wonderful time.

Haas’s piece (as I told readers in my December In With The New column) is, to quote director Brian Current a “spectral wonder.” Happy to say, I have more appreciation of what he meant by that today than I did 24 hours ago, thanks in part to a great lecture Haas gave an hour before the concert, but also because, right away, I got to listen for the things he was talking about. “Spectral” as I now better understand it refers to music based on the physics of sound, the sound spectrum, and the precise scientific relationships between the different wave lengths. Hit someone over the head with a two by four of a precise length and it will not only produce a lovely A440 (concert A) but also a series of overtones, with the intervals between overtones diminishing, octave by octave, according to very precisely calculable rules. So, cutting a long story short, music based on true overtones would, if played on a modern piano, require keys not just capable of half tones, but quarter tones, sixths and twelfths – and VERY skinny fingers.

The modern piano by the way is the great villain of the piece, because it is grounded in something called “equal temperament.” That is to say it divides the tonal universe up into half notes, splitting the difference, agonizingly, between what are for people with musically way better ears than mine necessarily different sounds. To give one simple example, the black key between A and B must serve as both A sharp and as B flat. If you can hear the difference you can spend a whole evening, metaphorically, searching in vain for your auditory contact lenses, quite sure you played or sang or heard a wrong note. (Singers are often the greatest victims in this regard, sounding sharp or flat when all they were doing was matching the 88-key tonal antichrist they were leaning on.), or counting, on. Spectral composers have no such worries. They simply do the math and then put the players (and tuners) through whatever hell is necessary to reproduce the resulting “consonant” sounds.

Haas’ “In Vain” plays with both kinds of “harmony.” The “dissonance” in his terms of the world ruled by the piano (which sounds pretty good to start with to a three chord guitar man like me) is gradually overtaken by a world of true “consonance” (which sounds less and less strange as the piece progresses and the ear becomes more attuned), only to succumb at the end to the old regime again. The struggle for consonance, as the piece’s title suggests, has been all “in vain.” Perhaps not, though, because the stuff that sounded pretty good the first time through, sounds somehow less convincing in the reprise once the listener has had their ears washed out with consonant soap.

Well, at any rate, the great big verbal muscle that passes for my aesthetic brain soaked up enough of the theory ahead of time, that I was thoroughly convinced by what I heard, as were many others in the audience. Not so convinced were some of the aforementioned “people whose judgment I value” with whom I retired to the post-concert do at the Duke, but I have to fly off to Globokar at the Music Gallery right now, so that will have to be grist for another day.

In short, I had a lovely stimulating evening. Kudos to Current and co. for taking on the piece. For all concerned a rare and glorious chance to learn to listen a little bit differently.

 

 

I’m gearing up for the big Vinko Globokar invasion I talked about in my December issue column www.thewholenote.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=40&Itemid=32 , starting tomorrow night (Friday Dec 9 at the Music Gallery) and culminating Sunday night (Dec 11) with New Music Concerts presentation “The World of Globokar” at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

I wanted to add something to a comment I made in the column – I said anyone wanting insights into trombonist/composer Globokar’s work and mind should start with an interview he did with John Palmer http://cda-nt.concordia.ca/econtact/10_2/GlobokarVi_Palmer.html a couple of years back. Well this is to say there’s an even better place to start,  for anyone with 45 minutes to spare, courtesy Paul Steenhuisen.

Many of you know Steenhuisen in his own right as a composer. Some of you will also remember him as the author of perhaps the best, sustained series of interviews “Composer to Composer” we ever ran in this magazine – fantastic chats between Steenhuisen and a veritable who’s who of, mainly Canadian, contemporary composers. The series went on to become a book, SONIC MOSAICS, published by University of Calgary Press, good news for Steenhuisen and book readers – not so good, alas, for us.

In one of those bone-headedly dog-in-the-mangerish moves that (particularly), academic publishers are prone to, we were required to obliterate all traces of the series of interviews from which the book arose from our website, thereby robbing the composers interviewed (and, dare I say it, the author of the book) of any hope of a contant trickle of already interested online WholeNote readers to the U of C Press website.

That being said (gee, it’s good to get it off my chest) Steenhuisen has now gone on to create a wonderful new (ongoing) series of interviews (of which the latest is one with Vinko Globokar), this time in a medium that transcends the limitations of print. Titled THE SOUNDLAB New Music Podcasts http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-soundlab-new-music-podcast/id438086263 the series revolves around interviews, commissioned by New Music Concerts, that Steenhuisen has conducted with a growing list of composers, six to date, including Rick Sacks, Elliott Carter, Jonathan Harvey, Kee Yong Cho, and, of course, as mentioned before, Vinko Globokar.

The beauty of the medium is threefold: the interviews are vintage Steenhuisen (interested, agile, informed); they are edited and embedded in a considered voiced-over narrative; and, the icing on the cake, they include numerous sound samples of the actual music referenced in the course of the interview, not only works by the composer being interviewed, but seminal works by other composers arising in the conversation.

It’s an absolutely brilliant way of getting not only words about the music (guilty as charged!) but a priceless taste of the sounds themselves. No better time to check the SOUNDLAB series out than with the Globokar interview, prior to heading out for a weekend with the master himself.

img_1136_al_forest__jeanne_lamon__tricia_baldwinAt Carnegie Hall on performance night, it was gratifying to see, as Jeanne acknowledged in her speech, many familiar faces. A group of loyal Tafel patrons, board members, and fans from Toronto constituted a sight for sore eyes. Energized by the best acoustics of the tour (and a now silent jackhammer), with a program seasoned by our Virginia run, everyone gave their best for Carnegie.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a reception with sponsors and fans at the trendy Flatotel, just four blocks south from Carnegie's stage door, before fanning out into midtown Manhattan on a Saturday night.

What was the critical reaction?

An online review from a site called bachtrack by one Stephen Raskauskas was generally positive while frequently wishing for more instruments in the ensemble.

In this piece [Vivaldi concerto], a few plucked strings, such as a guitar, lute, theorbo, or any combination thereof, would have enriched the sound. In truth, plucked strings would have improved the sound of every piece that evening, and Tafelmusik should be taken to task for not employing at least one full-time lutenist to tour with them…

Although it pains me, I am for once forced to agree with a critic. Ironically, our own Lucas Harris was in New York that evening, but preparing for a concert of his own. He was no doubt happy to be reunited, however, with his violinist wife Geneviève Gilardeau--who was onstage with us--and baby Daphnée, the newest addition to the Tafelmusik family. Her tiny presence on the tour was a source of cheerfulness to all, and she has already proven herself a stalwart traveler.

img_1139_christina_mahler_and_dick_freeboroughA New York concert always raises the question of whether or not the Times will write a review. Since our concert was on a Saturday night, when the arts sections for the weekend have already been put to bed, there was a wait of a few days before anything appeared. I admit to a feeling a traditional sense of dread about such things – but we didn’t need to worry. One of the newer critics, Steve Smith, attended our concert and delivered a glowing review that started with this headline:

Violins Take Center Stage in a Repertory Reincarnated

An excerpt of the review:

Indeed, the principal allure of the arrangement [Bach Concerto for Three Violins] was in the contrasting sounds and styles of three excellent soloists from the ensemble's ranks: Julia Wedman, Patricia Ahern and Aisslinn Nosky… [In the Bach Suite]Ms. Lamon was an exciting soloist, conjuring a whirlwind in the final Badinerie.

It's not just that the view was positive, but Smith seemed to “get” what our concert was about! What really matters, though, is what we ourselves thought and what our friends thought. [Tafelmusik supporter] Al Forest remarked that it was a “really great concert!”  That's what we want to hear.

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