Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" ("The Song of the Earth") presents a curious combination of late romantic German sensibility in its music and Chinese poetry of the 8th century in the original source of its texts. Its final segment, "Der Abschied" ("The Farewell"), is particularly notable; it describes two friends saying goodbye, perhaps forever, and many admirers have considered it a farewell to life by Mahler, who was suffering from heart disease and nearing death when he composed it.
No single performance can explore all the dimensions of "Der Abschied," but the interpretation by the Post-Classical Ensemble, Wednesday night at the Austrian Embassy, came brilliantly close.
The Aguava New Music Studio presented chamber music by Latin American composers Wednesday at the Library of Congress.
(Library Of Congress)
The ensemble, directed by Angel Gil-Ordoñez with a precise sense of idiom and style, used the chamber music reduction by Arnold Schoenberg, which requires only 13 players and preserves all the music's subtly varied colors. Mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler sang the text, with a haunting treatment of the final words, "ewig . . . ewig" ("forever . . . forever") that lingered in memory long after the music had faded to silence.
That ended the program. What came before it was equally fascinating. First a solo on the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle, by Wang Guowei, an extraordinary performer; then an exotically evocative piece, "Moonlit River in Spring," played on Chinese instruments by four members of the Music From China ensemble.
In a brief introduction, Joseph Horowitz, the artistic director of the Post-Classical Ensemble, said that crossing boundaries is what this group is about and may be a key to the future of classical music. This program showed exactly what he meant.
-- Joseph McLellan
Aguava New Music Studio
Amanda Squitieri and Erin Smith paced, prowled, stomped and tiptoed across the stage of the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium on Wednesday night, communicating wordlessly as they traced their paths, their steps echoing through the hall. At an apparent impasse, soprano Squitieri and mezzo Smith suddenly burst into song, trading short phrases of wordless syllables; other vocalists and instrumentalists soon joined them from perches all over the auditorium, similar phrases forming new patterns in space and time.
This was the brilliant Aguava New Music Studio, with guests Squitieri and Smith performing Aurelio de la Vega's "El Laberinto Magico" under the musical direction of Carmen Helena Tellez and the stage direction of Chia Patino to open an evening of chamber music by Latin American composers. The score of "El Laberinto Magico" (thoughtfully printed in the program notes) is a maze of crisscrossing staves that asks the performers to find a way out; Aguava chose a path that proved immersive and thrilling.
De la Vega was additionally represented by "Variacion del Recuerdo" in a world-premiere arrangement for singers and instrumental ensemble, which drew on Cuban influences in its eccentric yet comfortable harmonies. Cuban elements also showed up in Lorenz's "Piedra en la Piedra" ("Stone on Stone") for flute, marimba and vibraphone, as a big clave rhythm helped propel an otherwise overly schematic contrast of the concepts of segregation and integration.
After Joe Galvin's fiery percussion solo in "The Warriors," a piece from the Santeria tradition, Aguava presented a modern interpretation of that tradition: "Batey," a collaboration between composer Tania Leon and jazz pianist Michel Camilo, whose nuanced choral writing and deft deployment of a vast battery of percussion created a sustained ecstatic atmosphere.
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone
Sarah Wolfson, Lee Poulis
In a sense, the line between art song and operatic aria is vague. Both can express human emotions, describe nature's wonder, confess private thoughts or narrate epic tales. But the typical opera aria has orchestral accompaniment and reels out the singer's message to a large audience, while the art song, with only piano support, culls up intimate, subjective images, psychologically drawing a parlor-size audience into a personal emotive realm.
Lyric soprano Sarah Wolfson and baritone Lee Poulis presented an evening of art songs -- solos and duets -- at North Bethesda's Strathmore Mansion on Wednesday in a Vocal Arts Society series. You name it, they sang it: samples by 10 composers -- folklike settings by Percy Grainger, colorful Iberian rhythms in a group by Maurice Ravel, Spanish canciones by Joaquin Turina, four songs by William Bolcom and single entries by Charles Griffes, John Corigliano, Frederick Keel, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert and Eric Thiman. Wolfson called on finely honed breath control, working magic in sustained tones and tapered phrases, as in Turina's "Cantares." Poulis's ample voice is capable of boldly chiseled sonority, and it peaked in Bolcom's "Black Max."
Since the art song focuses on a poem's subtlest intimations, it was too bad that the program omitted the poets' names. And both singers have much to learn in the art song arena; their voices were overpowering in Strathmore's intimate recital space. Poulis cannot yet manage a German lied, for the Schumann (an Eichendorff poem) and the Schubert (a Goethe poem) were merely swept over, obliterating their wealth of detailed emotions and characterizations. Pianist R. Timothy McReynolds was the perceptive accompanist.
-- Cecelia Porter