in: Reviews

March 17, 2017

“To Sing Again”

by

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach

Presented by the Women and Music Mix of the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, Sunday’s Alfredo and Dimitra Deluzio Concert, “To Sing Again featured music by Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke, Ruth Lomon, and Marianna von Martines, whose gorgeous, masterful works remain woefully underperformed.

After a warm, informative welcome by its organizer, BMInt’s own Liane Curtis, Beach’s devastatingly beautiful Dreaming commenced. Originally composed for solo piano and published in 1892, it was arranged by the composer in 1937 for cello and piano. Rhonda Rider’s cello sang sensuously expansive phrases as Sarah Bob’s piano spun fine harmonic webs. Its entrancing music grandly crescendoed before dissipating into a peaceful, suspended beauty, as Rider’s passionate, lucidity complimented Bob’s tasteful dexterity.

Binnorie: A Ballad by Rebecca Clarke followed. Although she composed many pieces that went unpublished during her lifetime, today she is best known for her 1919 Viola Sonata. Binnorie was discovered in Clarke’s estate in 1997 and was most likely completed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Its text is a traditional Scottish ballad, telling the story of a young princess who is drowned by her own sister over the love of a knight. A musician builds a harp out of her body, and upon entering the court where the maiden once lived, it begins playing by itself—revealing truths and cursing the treacherous sister. Accompanied by Sarah Bob, baritone Brian Church sang this haunting, epic tale. His resonant voice intelligently captured the lengthy song’s tragedy while simultaneously making it a dramatic show-stopper.

Ruth Lomon’s, Metamorphosis transforms thematic elements throughout its three movements—Source, Emergence, and Imago. Motivic quarter tones are reworked into focal points in the first two movements, with otherworldly plucking of the piano strings creating a numinous mood from the outset. A dramatic cello entrance summoned the surreal. Lomon’s spellbinding use of dynamics, resonance, tone and texture, coupled with modern techniques, strumming, and cello slides crafted a fine spell. Bob’s fierce, confident interpretation command attention, while Rhonda Rider’s consummate cello chops highlighted her instrument’s extended techniques. The second movement ended in a fury of bowing; Rider’s passion was such that after the conclusion of her very last phrase, her bow hit the side of the instrument. The atmospheric sound created by this chance collision was a perfect accomplice to Lomon’s musical incantation. A disjointed, hypnotic third movement involving percussive piano textures and excited momentum left one in awe of how masterfully crafted and trailblazing this piece is. Written in 1984, it is a must-hear for every aspiring contemporary composer and lover of contemporary classical works.

Lomon received a loving ovation from the audience. Born in 1930, she has been a scholar and composer at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis since 1998 and is perhaps best known for her song-cycle, Songs of Remembrance and her oratorio, Testimony of Witnesses—both based on the poetry of Holocaust victims and survivors. During the applause she received two large bouquets of flowers, which she sweetly handed over to each person onstage. It was a heartwarming, unforgettable moment.

Rebecca Clarke as a young woman (file photo)

After intermission we heard two psalm settings by 18th-century Viennese composer, Marianna von Martines. A friend of Mozart, she was known throughout Europe for her compositional genius and remarkable vocal talents. Eudaimonia, a conductorless period orchestra co-led by Vivian Montgomery (harpsichordist and scholar at the WSRC) and violinist Julia McKenzie, gave In Exitu Israel de Aegypto and Quemadmodum desiderat cervus. The two psalms set Italian translations of the traditional Latin and manifested rhapsodic vocal writing, showcasing the beauty and fluidity of the human voice. With graceful and balanced instrumental textures interwoven throughout, Martines’s psalms are brilliant examples of the elegant gallant style. Eudaimonia’s eight instrumentalists and five singers (two female and three male) saturated the auditorium with Martines’ harmonies. Kathryn Aaron’s dulcet soprano along with Carrie Cheron’s soothing mezzo, helped conjure the sonorous magic. The ensemble played continuously throughout In Exitu’s six movements and Quemadmodum’s eleven. Montgomery, seated in the center with her harpsichord, cultivated an unrelenting, impressive musicality, rounding off each fascinating movement with Martines’s exquisite cadences.

After the show the performers revealed that learning this centuries-old music is akin to undertaking contemporary work, because there are no recordings or recent performances from which to draw. Essentially, for the interpreter—as well as for the listener—this is new music. If this concert is any indication of the future of classical music, it is this: the future is female.

Stephanie Susberich is a soprano and composer living in Somerville. She writes about music on her blog, www.sopranointhecity.com

2 Comments

  1. As the Founder and Director of the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, I simply have to express my admiration for WSRC musicians who created WAMMIX to move the spotlight onto music composed, performed and conducted by women. Jane Rink Frank, Vivian Montgomery, Laury Gutierrez, Ruth Lomon, Dana Maiben, Suzanne Hanser, Amelia LeClair, and Liane Curtis. Concerts don’t happen unless there is a patron of sorts – this honor goes to Rosalie Ripaldi Shane who provided the funds for the concert to honor her late and uncle, Dimitra and Alfredo Diluzio, musicians in their own rights, who loved their niece. Stay tuned for this annual early spring concert.

    Shulamit Reinharz

    Comment by Shulamit Reinharz — March 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm

  2. Stephanie Susberich’s review of the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center’s production “To Sing Again “ is on target as are her comments about paying more attention to women composers. However, lest we forget, Boston’s, and now New Hampshire’s pianist Virginia Eskin continues to champion works by women. Eskin’s ‘First Ladies of Music” broadcast by PBS a few years ago included two thirteen one-hour programs that chronicled women in music — composers, performers, conductors, and patrons. Her discography highlights recordings of her performing works by, among other, Amy Beach, Marion Bauer, Rebecca Clarke, Vitezslava Kapralova, and Ruth Crawford Seeger. Also garnishing positive notice were several performances of Beach’s music with her former husband cellist Jules Eskin (1931 – 2017) and violinist Joseph Silverstein. Hopefully, Eskin’s long tradition of promoting women composers will persevere.

    Comment by Jean Gibran — March 22, 2017 at 9:13 pm

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