Tom Strini

Frankly Music, a new CD, and Arts Fever; MSO Cancels Tuesday Chamber Concert

By - May 9th, 2010 01:18 am
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Technically, the Milwaukee Symphony has a couple of weeks off, but that hasn’t stopped many of the orchestra’s musicians from making music.

Clarinetist William Helmers, cellist Adrien Zitoun and violinist Shu Zhan played with Present Music Saturday night.

Monday night, Almond will take his Frankly Music Series to the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center, in Brookfield. His guests artists are pianist Michael Mizrahi and Joseph Johnson, the MSO’s principal cellist. They’ll play Dvorak’s “Dumky” Trio, Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata and selections from Ned Rorem’s Day Music and Night Music.

Principal bassist Zachary Cohen and 11 MSO colleagues will play chamber music at the Pabst Theater Tuesday night.

The Rorem pieces bring us to Almond’s recent CD release, Portraits & Elegies, on the Innova label. Almond and pianist Brian Zeger offer uncommonly beautiful music by four American composers on this disc. French influence shimmers in Philip Lasser’s Vocalise is lovely in the way of Fauré’s music. His Berceuse Fantasque, a psychological study of rare depth and insight, begins with a lilting waltz of a lullabye and devolves into a restless, surreal nightmare.

Impressionist aroma a la Ravel rises also from the eight brief numbers from Rorem’s Day and Night. Pearls sound more like diamonds, here, with skittering violin lines that leap unexpectedly to outline exotic chords and the piano trailing like a glittering reflection. Very high sighs of melody cast a steamy, languid spell in Extreme Leisure. Odd starts, stops and sharp turns of melody wittily trace the flight of Bats. Billet Doux (Love Letter) couches natural speech rhythms in ardent, yearning intervals. And so they go, with each little piece setting a perfect, specific mood that materializes and vanishes in a few charmed moments.

All the music in Peter Lieberson’s Elegy grows from the violin soliloquy at the outset, from the chaconne-like piano pattern that follows to the gorgeous cantabile violin melody that is the ardent climax of this coherent but varied seven-plus minute work.

Russell Platt, the New Yorker writer and brother of Wisconsin Philharmonic conductor Alexander Platt, contributed Adagio, Amoroso and Lamentoso (Chaconne). The former goes over-the-top Italian operatic. The latter refers more to Bach, but has an unusual structure. You don’t really get the chaconne figure full-blown until the middle of the piece. After that Platt takes off on a developmental tangent that moves into Baroque language and then into harmonies that sound straight out of Beethoven. It’s an odd sort; I’m still not to sure what I think about it.

But I have no qualms about the performances, which are focused, sensitive and technically impressive across the board. Much of this music is very difficult, but nothing but ease and command is audible in the final product.

The 7:30 p.m. Tuesday chamber-music program at the Pabst Theater has been CANCELED, due to poor ticket sales.

However, Frank Almond will play a solo some time between 5:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, May 13, at the Arts Fever event that TCD is putting on with UPAF at the Crystal Ballroom of the downtown Hilton. Arts Fever will be a great after-work Downtown event, with food, a first-class silent auction, nine different performances, a hands-on art-project put on by Raoul Deal and UWM visual arts students, and more. Do come. Here’s how.

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