Pianist Yalin Chi exceeds expectations at Saugerties Pro Musica

Yalin Chi

From past experience I was expecting a fine performance from pianist Yalin Chi at Saugerties Pro Musica on February 19. However, she exceeded my high expectations by opening her concert with a performance for the ages of Schubert’s Sonata in G, D. 894. This late Schubert masterpiece isn’t played very often, perhaps because it’s so difficult to bring off convincingly. The opening movement, marked with the mysterious designation “Molto moderato e cantabile” (very moderate and singing), usually moves very slowly. Chi observed Schubert’s marking very convincingly, keeping the music alive at her slow tempo with rhythmic and dynamic emphases as well as gorgeous tonal coloring. The whole performance went like that, and though her “Allegretto” in the last movement seemed a bit fast to me, it was still very beautiful. Berg’s one-movement Sonata, Op. 1, and Brahms’s 4 Pieces, Op. 119, were played with similar resources, flowing and masterful. In this concert Chi ascended into a pantheon of fine pianists I’ve heard over the past half century. I’ll be greatly looking forward to her future appearances in our area. SPM continues its outstanding season on March 19 at the Saugerties United Methodist Church, Washington Ave. & Pine St., Saugerties. Cellist Ani Kalayjian, making a repeat appearance, brings with her violinist Siwoo Kimm and pianist David Fung for Haydn’s Trio No. 27 in C, the Elegie by Josef Suk, and the Trio No. 3 of Antonin Dvorák. I love this program, which includes music by my two most underrated composers, Haydn and Dvorak, along with a gorgeous piece by Suk, Dvorák’s student and son-in-law. Information at www.saugertiespromusica.org.

On two consecutive weekends I went to Bard for concerts as different as you can imagine. On February 18, at the odd hour of 5 p.m., and in the tiny cramped space of Bard Hall, the Da Capo Chamber Players played five pieces written for the ensemble, which currently consists of violin, cello, piano, flute and clarinet. Paul Lansky’s “Odd Moments” had some nice counterpoint and syncopation. Jackson Spargur’s “Cascobel” had interesting lyrical counterpoint, but the clarity was sometimes obscured by the scoring for clarinet and vibraphone. I’d like to hear the same music played by a wind trio or quartet. George Tsontakis’s “Gravity” is brilliantly scored and atmospheric, full of intriguing and arresting touches. I especially liked the interrupted barn dance in “Levity” and the sustained atmospheric bird song in “Light in Night’s Garden,” but the whole suite is a winner. Joan Tower’s substantial “Trio Cavany,” one long rhapsodic movement, is very emotional and convincing. Keith Fitch’s “Midnight Rounds” had beautiful colors, but I didn’t immediately get its coherence. It seemed like music one needs to hear more than once. These virtuoso players must enjoy their work greatly. All the composers except Lansky were present to receive the audience’s cheers.

The following Sunday, Feb. 26, The Orchestra Now put on a “semi-staged” performance at the Sosnoff Theater of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” one of his masterpieces. Considering the elaborate narration necessary to convey the lengthy and convoluted plot, I think little if anything was lost by not having a full stage production. The most prominent roles, Candide and Cunegonde, were sung by different singers in the two performances given. I heard Christopher Remkus as Candide, very expressive and lively but a little light-voiced to carry over a full orchestra and large chorus. Natalie Trumm as Cunegonde really stopped the show in her spectacular aria “Glitter and Be Gay.” Nathaniel Sullivan’s Voltaire etc. (3 roles), Luke MacMillan’s Maximilian, and Mary Elizabeth O’Neill’s Old Lady were all excellent. All these singers are members of the Bard College Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program. James Bagwell, an outstanding conductor, led a sparkling and vivid performance throughout. His combined choruses (Bard College Symphonic Chorus and Chamber Singers) and the orchestra did splendid work. I sometimes found myself wondering if smaller forces might have worked better (perhaps fewer than the 70+ singers and a Broadway rather than symphonic scale orchestra) for balance, but I really don’t want to complain about aspects of this gratifying experience. TON returns with two concerts in April. Among other Bard events, the Conservatory Orchestra performs works of Obadiah Wright, who graduates from Bard this year, along with Schumann and Tchaikovsky on March 12 at 3 p.m. Sosnoff events are listed at fishercenter.bard.edu. Peter Serkin’s Mozart Project returns on Sunday, March 5, at Olin Hall, and of course there are many other events at Bard in March. Check www.bard.edu/news/events for a full schedule of Bard’s music and other events open to the public.

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Also coming to Bard in March: the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra! Marissa Kaczynski conducts Maxwell Davies’ “Ojai Festival Overture;” the Schumann Piano Concerto, with Irena Portenko; and Sibelius’s “Pelleas et Melisande.” It’ll be at Bard’s [Olin Hall] Bitó Conservatory Building on March 26 at 7 p.m.; www.wco-online.com for more info. At Olin Hall on March 29, Julie Rosenfeld, first violinist of the great and lamented Colorado Quartet, returns to Bard in a program of “New Music for Violin and Piano” with Peter Miyamoto. It includes works of Katherine Hoover, Laura Kaminsky, John Halle, Kenneth Fuchs, Tamar Muskal, Stefan Freund, and Ernst Toch (not so new but who’s counting?). Rosenfeld’s former CQ colleague Marka Gustavsson plays viola in the Toch. This one should be truly outstanding. And it’s free!

You may have already read, in last week’s Times and this week’s Almanac Weekly, about the opening of the fourth Piano Plus! series at the Olive Free Library so I’ll just mention it briefly although it should be excellent. On Saturday, March 4, at 4 p.m., Manon Hutton-DeWys plays Brahms’s Ballades, Op. 10, and Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 with Paul Wolfram.  www.olivefreelibrary.org.

Kairos: A Consort of Singers, directed by Edward Lundergan, performs “Flower Songs” for unaccompanied chorus on Sunday, March 26, at the Holy Cross Monastery, 1615 Route 9W, West Park. The program, celebrating the end of winter, includes the “Flower Songs” of Benjamin Britten and works of Eric Whittacre, James Fitzwilliam, Irving Fine, Craig Fryer, and various earlier composers. More at www.kairosconsort.org.

At SUNY New Paltz, the Newburgh Chamber Ensemble (all excellent New Paltz faculty) plays an intriguing program of “19th century parlor music” on Tuesday, March 8, 8 p.m., at Studley Theater. Check www.newpaltz.edu/events for more information. Lots to do this month. Have a blast!

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