Monday, March 21, 2005

Apple Hill Chamber Players

Whoa, the pressure on 16-year-old Tudor-Dominik Maican. Before a single note of the young Bethesda composer's new solo piano piece "From One World to Another" was heard, presenters from the Dumbarton Concerts openly hailed him as an artistic genius. If the Saturday evening Georgetown performance by Eric Stumacher of the Apple Hill Chamber Players showed that Maican is not another Mozart or Mendelssohn, it did point toward a promising musical imagination.

In "From One World to Another," Maican puts forth a melancholic and lyrical sound that comes right out of Chopin and Debussy. Stumacher gave the 10-minute piece a clear, unflagging reading, which allowed listeners to hear the melodic top line and the thicker accompanying figures. This languid music never lingered around the few climactic moments, and ultimately came in for a gentle landing.

Maybe with time, Maican will be able to create masterworks like Schubert's "Trout" Quintet and Faure's Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 15, of which the Apple Hill Chamber Players gave fine accounts. While the Faure was consistently rich and colorful, the Schubert took off only in the third movement as the players brought everything into greater focus. Each musician vividly carried the main line in the penultimate theme-and-variations movement, husbanding enough energy for the outgoing finale.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

Cantate Chamber Singers

When not a shade of meaning is missed, when pinpoint accuracy, even virtuosity, marks an evening of mostly unaccompanied music, then you have a concert that is not easily forgotten. That was the case Saturday night when the Cantate Chamber Singers, directed by Gisele Becker, performed at St. John's Norwood Parish in Bethesda. And they sang for a full and 100 percent enthusiastic house.

At first glance the program looked like a hodgepodge of composers, styles and emotions. But Becker artfully modulated every turn in the road so that the intensity increased throughout, culminating in a volcanic outburst of sheer sensuality, the finale being Johannes Brahms's fiery "Zigeunerlieder" ("Gypsy Songs"), ably accompanied by pianist Lara Hanoian.

The concert's underlying premise was a celebration of song, anchored in samples titled "Cantate Domino" ("Sing to the Lord") by Claudio Monteverdi, Hans Leo Hassler and William Byrd that framed the program. The chorus bounced its way through these works, combining excitement with multidimensional poly-choral effects, all three rooted in a stylistic legacy from the Netherlands Renaissance transformed into Venetian baroque.

In between, the chorus performed a Britten motet, blustering paeans to drink by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Haydn, three spicy Ravel chansons and William Schuman's gloomy "Carols of Death," infusing each in turn with myriad colors and attention to the emotional curve of every phrase.

-- Cecelia Porter

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