BWW Review: LIV A LITTLE! at Pasadena Conservatory Of Music

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BWW Review: LIV A LITTLE! at Pasadena Conservatory Of Music

BWW Review: LIV A LITTLE! at Pasadena Conservatory Of Music

On Saturday afternoon January 11, 2020, Pittance Chamber Music presented a concert of infrequently heard music at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. Pittance is made up of members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. Soloists included soprano Liv Redpath, pianist Paul Floyd, and Principal Clarinetist Stuart Clark.

A quintet made up of orchestra members opened the program with Johannes Brahms' lush Op.115 for clarinet and strings. Although violinists, Ana Landauer and Grace Oh, violist Shawn Mann, and cellist John Walz normally play opera, they blended artfully as a quartet as did Clark whose personality came to the fore when he played his scrupulously clean runs. Each player seemed to be drawing inspiration and eloquence from the energy of the group.

Their opening allegro was punctuated by the chords Brahms used to recall everyone to attention. Playing the adagio, the strings seemed to tell of rain on a spring garden, while the Andantino, Presto non assai and the final Con Moto brought the sun and its bright light back to the picture. Both strings and wind played with elegant phrasing, and warm, sometimes passionate tones that depicted 19th century romanticism.

After a short intermission that allowed patrons to walk in the Conservatory's well tended but winter-faded garden, the instrumental artists and vocal soloist Redpath presented the meat of the concert: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Aribert Reimann's Oder soll es Tod bedeuten? (Or Does it Mean Death?) and Franz Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock).

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy who lived from 1809-1847, is best known for his symphonies. Aribert Reimann, who was born 1936, is known for the operas Lear and Medea. In 1996, Reimann arranged eight Mendelssohn songs and a fragment written to texts by Heinrich Heine. His arrangement and the addition of interludes joined them into a cycle that generally gave them a 20th century sound without doing violence to the vocal line. Pittance supplied the audience of just over one hundred with a well laid out program containing English translations of the songs and notes on the entire afternoon's offerings. One thing I did not understand. Each of the instrumentalists playing the Mendelssohn/Reibert had a music stand but Redpath did not. She did have one for the Schubert, however.

Redpath, who has a light lyric voice, was the perfect choice to perform these songs telling about the sweetness of love and the tragedy of death. A young artist at the very beginning of her career, she has a radiant, well focused but creamy-toned high voice that she controls well. She can scale it down to a sweet pianissimo and bring it back to fortissimo in a well formed messa di voce and she used her abilities well on this occasion.

The finale was Schubert's bright and happy Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock). Clarinettist Clark showed that he could start softly and increase his tone smoothly before launching into a complicated run. Redpath, too, began at a modest tempo that emphasized the girlish sweetness of her silver-lined tones. She assumed more of a brisk pace as she begin to spin out more sumptuous sounds telling of her sweetheart living across the deep valley between the mountain peaks. At the end of the piece when the shepherd sings of the coming of spring, she let go of all unnecessary caution and simply sang with all the gusto her youth and physical beauty could offer. The applause for this excellent performance called the artists back to the stage numerous times.

Justin Justin Fields Photography

Public domaine portrait of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy by Eduard Magnus



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