Today, musicians find new and creative performing outlets to inspire and motivate the community around them. Perhaps this results from the economic climate of today’s society, where jobs are no longer a dime a dozen and financial security is a rarity. It seems that music and art are always the first to be cut from school systems and even within the family. Musicians and artists fight against this battle; musicians feel it is more important to share their art with the community than to live a luxurious and lavish lifestyle.
“Starving artist” isn’t an endearing phrase, but it is a phrase many musicians have come to live and breathe by. To musicians, it isn’t about the riches but about sharing our love of art and music with the world.
The world of performing arts is changing.
We no longer look to traditional performing venues for concerts but to the more remote corners of our community. The ability to connect to our audience can happen anywhere and at any moment.
In the musical world, a new breed of musicians are emerging; a breed of musicians hunting for new venues and arenas to share their music. We’re also seeing a change in the form of music, evolving to encompass not only music but also dance, multimedia and video.
This is exactly what the chamber music society, Vivre Musicale, has done. A group of talented young musicians that come together from all across the U.S. to create, what I’ve called in previous articles, the instrumental music of the future. I had the pleasure of seeing one of their performances at Faith Lutheran Church in Cincinnati.
Vivre Musicale brings to the stage something fresh and interesting; their performances are thought provoking and pleasing to a variety of audiences. Evolving Landscapes, the theme behind Vivre Musicales inaugural season, aims to show the changing aspects of the world. Not only does the theme highlight the evolving musical world, but also the evolving human psyche and spirit.
The program was a tour de force of music, a mixture of genres from classical and contemporary to the more avant-garde. Each musician brought to the stage their own personal color and style that created a painting of their own. It was a landscape that portrayed their stylistic flavor and color that was just as diverse as the program itself. The result, the finished product, was a collaboration of the senses that was powerful enough to move its audience both emotionally and physically.
I’d like to highlight a few of the pieces from the performance; otherwise, I could find myself tirelessly writing for hours on end.
The program started with In a Landscape, a solo piano work by John Cage. The piece was composed early in Cage’s life just before his name became synonymous with avant-garde and chance music. The solo piano work, exquisitely performed by Julia Wilcox, was truly a palate cleansing experience from the day-to-day dribble of our surrounding environment.
The brilliance of Cage is the freedom he gives to the performers, even in this pre-experimental work. As usual, the difficultly lies in the extreme technical control the performer needs in order to reach the work’s full breadth and capacity. Ms. Wilcox’s performance was breath taking and captivating. To me, there was no distinction between her and her instrument; her control and facility over the instrument allowed Ms. Wilcox to break the technical boundaries leaving us with a musical core of self-expression and beauty. Ms. Wilcox painted an exquisite work of art that beautifully set the tone for the remainder of concert.
Six Significant Landscapes by Evan Rogers is definitely one of my new favorite works of the year. Evan has an uncanny and exquisite ability in creating a boundless terrain between poetry and music. His work was stunning, creative, and imaginative; it stimulated the aural demands of the ear while feeding the ever-hungry mind. Even more stunning was soprano Jessica Abel’s performance. No doubt, Evan wrote the work specifically for Abel because it showcased her rich, warm, and passionate sound, while displaying her vocal dexterity and virtuosity. With Ms. Wilcox behind the piano, the two were a force of nature. Many musicians are capable of reaching past the musical styles of the Classical or Romantic era, yet incapable of stretching their musical limitations. That was not the case with this particular performance; both Ms. Abel and Ms. Wilcox’s showed a true mastery of a skill that few musicians understand.
There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more from Evan Rogers in the future, his compositional prowess and dexterity will be a force in the musical world. It was an intellectually stimulating work filled with a deep emotional meaning.
I’ve always been fascinated with the works of Ralph Vaughn-Williams, the composer recognized as saving the English folk song. Vaughn-Williams’ ability to weave melodic patterns is under-appreciated and his orchestrations, though sometimes seem slightly off the wall, are eloquently paired and exquisitely executed. I was a little taken back by his instrumentation when I first learned about the Ten Blake Songs for Oboe and Tenor.
What was Vaughn-Williams’ motivation in pairing the oboe and tenor together? Was it after a night of too much ale?
It was astonishing to see how beautiful these two sounds complimented each other and how well tenor Jorge L. Toro and oboist Evelyn Sedlack worked together. Both Sedlack and Toro were skilled enough on their instruments to effectively merge their sounds to create and atmospherically unique timbre that beautifully played to the melodic ingenuity of Vaughn-Williams. Mr. Toro, with his rich and full voice, treated each melodic pattern with absolute grace. Evelyn Sedlack brought to this performance a grace and style of her own. I was in awe of her gorgeous sound and at every breath she took, I was excited to hear what new color she would produce. Her technical fluidity was a brilliant compliment to the text effortlessly sung by Mr. Toro. After hearing this marvelous performance, the Ten Blake Songs have won a very special place in my musical heart.
Camille Saint-Saens style is ubiquitously French with its noticeable rhythmic flair that he eloquently couples with a display of technical fireworks and dexterity. Saint-Saens captures our imagination with his Tarantella for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano, by using his wealth of compositional techniques to meld with the Italian style with his own French flair. The Tarantella, taking its name after the town of Taranto in southern Italy, is a folk dance with rapid and accelerating shifts between major and minor keys. The trio, Berginald Rash on Clarinet, Jenny Marlin on Flute and Julia Wilcox on Piano, brought these pulsating and rhythmic motives to light while mixing them with their own personality, character and wit. They whipped through this seductive piece, taking no prisoners and showing no mercy! It was a technical display of mastery and a cunning show of their ability to let loose and enjoy the moment.
Jenny Marlin’s polished technique and light sound lent exceptionally well to this jovial dance; her musical tenaciousness was beautifully coupled by Berginald’s technical brilliance. How beautifully each musician danced, encapsulating the fiery and fantastical nature of Saint-Saens Tarentella.
The aria “Parto, Parto” from Mozart’s opera La Clemenza di Tito is undoubtedly one of my favorite arias. It’s possible that it may have something to do with the beautifully lyrical and fantastic clarinet obligato part – and that I’m a clarinet player. I’ve heard this aria performed numerous times and never get tired of it, with its lyrical and rich Mozartian style that we so love, to the melismatic duet between clarinet and voice.
Every time I get the opportunity to hear the piece I look forward to discovering something new, something I haven’t heard before. I was very excited about this performance because it would be the first time hearing the role of Titus performed by a countertenor, performed by Jorge L. Toro. This role, as Mozart was accustomed to doing with many of his male roles, was composed for a mezzo-soprano, even though in the opera Titus is very definitely…a Man. Regardless, this aria is no easy feat and is both musically and technically demanding of the vocalist.
There was a moment where, just after Mr. Toro performed an extremely difficult triplet section that soared into the upper portion of his range, I wanted to stand up a cheer! Kudos! It’s a section that I’ve heard numerous vocalist stumble and trip, but he executed it with such effortless grace.
Of course, the work is not complete without the fantastical clarinet obligato part. Here we found Berginald’s musical and technical mastery beautifully compelling. His evenness of tone and technical superiority played exceptionally well to the musical characteristics of Mozart. Berginald effortlessly weaved back and forth between vocalist and piano, adding the metaphorical icing to the cake. Leave it to Mozart to use the clarinet as the all-important bridge from one musical section to the next. Mozart’s compositional bridges create the foundation of his work and are musically challenging for any player. Berginald handled these bridges, these moments which show Mozart’s sheer genius, with grace and maturity.
“Parto, Parto” displays the skill and maturity of each musician, and they jointly triumphed over the technical demands of their instruments to create a beautiful and memorable performance. They effectively allow the listener to enjoy the emotional underpinnings, motives, and gestures that uniquely define Mozart.
I’m very excited to see the future and growth of Vivre Musicale. Each musician brings something uniquely different and inspiring to the group which creates art that is both tangible and pleasing to its audiences.
I commend the musicians of Vivre Musicale for paving their own musical path and bringing what they love the most to the community – music. Even in the face of economic adversity they’re still doing what they love the most, making music and creating art for the sake of art.