Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – In wake of the stirring “Montage of Sound” concert held in March, Brightmusic is preparing for an April 17 concert celebrating a range of “Old and New” works building on the chamber music tradition.
The March performance, at downtown’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, brought to stirring life a diverse range of solid compositions, somewhat obscure in some cases to all but the most trained lovers of music.
The opening work (Trio in F Major) by Gaetano Donizetti featured Parthena Owens on flute, Rodney Ackmann on Bassoon, and Ruirui Ouyang on piano.
This lovely piece gave Ackmann a few precious moments in solo. He and Owens traded “trilling” sequences both in unison and harmony. Owens’ especially pleasing moment came when her flute seemed to “echo” the bassoon’s lead.
The evening featured two short works – with Lisa Harvey-Reed (with Ouyang’s piano backing) performing a five-minute item by Emile Paladilhe; and the happy finale by Francis Poulenc which was performed by Harvey-Reed, Ackmann and Amy I-Lin Cheng on piano.
Appropriate to the holy season of Lent were the vocal presentations, where tenor Andrew Ransom worked so eloquently.
Ranson performed Franz Schubert’s “On the River” (Opus 119) in German, thankfully — for this admirer – with English translation provided. With Cheng on piano, and Kate Pritchett’s horn in restrained support, Ransom soared delivering Ludwig Rellstab’s poetic tale of a beloved’s final kiss before a river journey (literal or figurative?) onto an ocean. In rational musings, the program notes wondered if the work was a mysterious foreshadowing of Schubert’s early death.
Ransom returned for the evening’s longest set, four hymns from Twentieth Century composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, well delivered with Mark Neumann’s viola and Ms. Cheng’s piano backing. The music itself “fit” the Passion themes of 400-year-old poems from Jeremy Taylor, Isaac Watts and Richard Crenshaw and an unknown Greek poet of the Second Century, A.D.
Ransom returned one last time for one of the evening’s highlights – Benjamin Britten’s “Still Falls the Rain” (from poetry by Edith Sitwell). Britten’s music is challenging, “modern” sounding with clashing sounds in Pritchett’s horn work and Cheng’s piano. The agony and pain of the sacrifice on Calvary was strongly conveyed in the song’s final three lines, also an explicit embrace of salvation’s promise.
The written words from Sitwell were crafted in loving tribute to a friend who had committed suicide; they were simultaneously intended as reflection on the horror of the 1940 bombings of London in early stages of World War II. A lot was achieved in a few moments. Mr Ransom and company – well done.
A favored moment in March
This reviewer’s favorite work of the stellar evening came with the “Trio for Flute, Oboe & Piano,” by Madeleine Dring. Parthena’s deft work with the flute nicely blended with Harvey-Reed’s oboe. In 11 minutes with three brief parts, the listener was transported to a place where sounds ranged from mournful yet peaceful, to “spritely” yet disciplined.
Dring was British, a Twentieth Century composer, singer and actress. She died young, many of her works unpublished. Thanks to her husband, her works survived and have subsequently and joyfully come to frequent notice as incidental music for BBC productions.
Ouyang’s piano work provided the rhythm and framework for Dring’s composition – feminine and tender on the ear – of an unsusual piece of music. The first section (Allegro con brio) seemed almost humorous, certainly light and pleasant.
The second (Andante semplice) was contemplative, perhaps mournful. In this portion, it was easy to focus the imagination on Dring’s obviously lovely mind as she completed this work. It incorporates strength and robustness, grace and restraint all at once. One yearned for more in the middle as the tender duet of wind and the piano work of the performer (known as “Ray Ray” to Brightmusic loyalists) wrapped up.
Soon came the zippy (hopefully a proper word for live music) final movement (allegro giacoso) which might serve as theme for a detective story or lighter amusement. Deft work and an abrupt ending – great composition and brilliant delivery at Brightmusic.
Anticipating the April 17 concert
In a press release for the April 17 concert, returning to the grace-filled worship space at St. Paul’s Cathedral (N.W. 7 Street and Robinson Avenue), Brightmusic’s promoters tell us, “The ‘old’ is Franz Schubert’s perennially-popular ‘Trout’ quintet, written nearly 100 years ago when Schubert was only 22. The ‘new’ is a World Premier performance of a striking work by Oklahoma City composer Samuel Magrill, commissioned by Brightmusic. The quartet by Saint-Saëns, falling somewhere in between, was the composer’s second and final foray into the genre.”
Performers for the April 17 “Old and New” concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m., include Gregory Lee (violin), Mark Neumann (viola), Jonathan Ruck (cello), George Speed (double bass), Mira Magrill (flute), Amy I-Lin Cheng (piano), and Samuel Magrill (piano).
Individual concert admission is $20 per ticket. Children, students and active-duty military personnel are admitted free with ID. More information about this concert is available on Brightmusic’s website.