Friday, February 20, 2009

Millennium Stage - Univ. of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance - 02/19/09

Beethoven: Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No 2 - III & IV
Schoenberg: Sparks of Glory - I & II
Crumb: Sonata for Solo Cello
Bolcom: "Amor"
Bolcom: "A Great Man's Child" from Casino Royale

Still in the context of the Conservatory Project organized by the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, last night I was back in the Terrace Theater before the NSO concert for performances by the most promising students of the famed School of Music, Theater & Dance of the University of Michigan. Although the early start of the NSO concert wouldn't let me stay until the end of the program, I couldn't pass a new opportunity to hear some outstanding youngsters at the beginning of their artistic journey.

Things got started on a decidedly classical note with no less than Beethoven and the last two movements of one of his piano trios. The three musicians did a very good job at bringing out the lightness and sheer virtuosity of the lovely composition, and everything indicated that we were off to a good start.
Next the mood grew considerably darker with Paul Schoenfield's Sparks of Glory, whose music vividly backs up the direct accounts of the Polish-Israeli journalist Moshe Prager when Germany invaded Poland. The unusual combination of piano, cello, violin and clarinet gave the score a multi-layered quality and added to the narration's human dimension, making this work quite effective. Not an easy choice, but the dare did pay off.
The last piece I got to hear was Crumb's Sonata for Solo Cello by the fearless Yeonjim Kim. Written in the 1950s, it stays away from modern music's most off-putting experiments, rather alluding to dark romanticism and Bartok. It is a very complex and therefore daunting work to tackle, but our young cellist did not hesitate to fully throw herself in it, and the result was spectacularly successful. I was certainly sorry I had to leave the theater, but most grateful I had a chance to hear this already much awarded young artist. I'm sure I'll see her again.

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