Saturday, March 31, 2012

New York Philharmonic - Schnittke, Dvorak & Tchaikovsky - 03/29/12

Conductor: Christoph von Dohnnanyi
Schnittke: (K)ein Sommernachtstraum (Not a Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Dvorak: Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53 – Frank Peter Zimmermann
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”

There are a few musical works that I simply must hear every season, if at all possible, and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” is definitely one of them. As luck would have it, it was on the New York Philharmonic’s program this week, and having this distinguished orchestra do the honor certainly does not hurt either. Although none of the recorded versions of Dvorak’s violin concerto I had heard so far had really grabbed me, I figured that it might be fun to experience it live for the first time with reliably solid Frank Peter Zimmermann, the orchestra’s Artist in Residence for this season. So come to think of it, everything seemed to fall into place for me to wrap up my short work week and start my extra long weekend under some pretty favorable auspices.

However, before immersing ourselves into Czech folklore and Russian Romanticism, we first made a short but immensely enjoyable detour in contemporary eclecticism with Alfred Schnittke’s (K)ein Sommernachtstraum, which he paradoxically wrote for a program dedicated to a version of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Salzburg Festival. Innocently opening with a classical piano and violin duet, it does not take long for the audience to notice that, in this case, it is the 12th chair of the second violins that is in charge of the solo passages. Before you even get a chance to legitimately start wondering what this is all about, the composition veers into a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic adventure spanning the whole history of music while indiscriminatingly mixing up various genres with its own kitschy seasoning before returning where it all began less than 10 minutes later. It has to be heard to be believed.
After such a wild ride, Dvorak’s violin concerto sounded downright traditional, especially with its sweet, hummable melodies so pleasantly spun out by Frank Peter Zimmermann. It certainly does not have the dazzling impact of the composer’s Cello Concerto and inevitably pales when compared with the Big violin concertos of the répertoire. Even Joseph Joachim, for whom it was originally written, never got around to playing it (Not to be overly picky, but really, where do you go after the Brahms?). On Thursday night, Zimmermann exercised much German meticulousness, and a tad more bohemian spontaneity would have helped turn the folkish third movement, which contains Czech and Ukrainian dance tunes, into a more joyfully exuberant Finale.
Then came Tchaikovsky’s magnificent swan song, one of the most popular musical masterpieces ever, and for some very good reasons. Under Christoph von Dohnnanyi’s solid command, the score’s gripping emotional power, which is stressed by the French meaning of the word “pathétique”, was on full display during the entire long-winded journey. The mighty orchestra’s silky strings and bright brass took us through a superbly majestic first movement, an elegant, if slightly sarcastic, limping waltz, a brilliantly assertive military march which, of course, did not fail to arouse a healthy round of applause, and finally the achingly drawn-out ultimate whisper. It does not get any better.

Jack Quartet - Ives, Crawford-Seeger & Mackey - 03/25/12

Ives: String Quartet No 2
Crawford-Seeger: String Quartet
Steven Mackey: Physical Property - Steven Mackey (Electric Guitar)

Depending on the capacity in which I participate in Carnegie Hall’s Neighborhood concerts, I may or may not be able to give my undivided attention to the performance. So I was particularly excited, last Sunday, to hear that I would have the possibility to fully focus on the fascinating program presenting the reputedly fearless Jack Quartet, who would later be joined by Special Guest electric guitarist Steven Mackey. As part of Carnegie Hall’s American Maverick series, the playlist included out-of-the-box works by modernist composers such as Charles Ives, Ruth Crawford-Seeger and… Steven Mackey. The presence of The Village Voice and the fact that the concert would be recorded confirming the hotness of the event, I happily took my spot in the lovely Playhouse of the Abrons Art Center at Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side .

I am by now well aware of the density of Charles Ives’ œuvre and can therefore better prepare myself for whatever work of his that will be performed. With time this has been become an easier and more rewarding process, making me always more eager for farther exploration. His String Quartet No 2 opens slowly, but already features the four tense, agitated voices deep into the combative discussions that give its title to the first movement. The second movement sees the continuation of what sounds by then like an all-out quarrel with the second violin vainly trying to stand out as the voice of reason. It will all eventually ends in transcendental peace and harmony. True to their raison d’être, the quartet did not shy from the theoretical or emotional complexity of the piece, including the harsh dissonances, and let all the messiness of human nature come out brazenly alive and wickedly kicking.
Another contemporary American composer whose music deals with human emotions, of a more schizophrenic type this time, is Ruth Crawford-Seeger. Here again, it is best to brace oneself to survive the unsettling experience, always keeping in mind that an unexpected reward may very well materialize at some point. And sure enough, just as I was bravely working my way through all the turbulence, out of the short fourth movement suddenly appeared a blissfully, unabashedly lyrical first violin, like a soothing ray of light rising from the disturbing mental darkness.
The critic who claimed 20 years ago that Steven Mackey’s quirky combination of electric guitar and classical strings, Physical Property, was a bad idea and that the best thing about it was that it would never be heard again has probably been eating his heart out for quite a while now. As the popularity of this unusual, yes, but unquestionably successful alliance has proven, open-mindedness is not always the experts’ forte, and it is their loss. Last Sunday afternoon, the composer/electric guitarist and the classical quartet got together to play this energetic musical adventure, which quickly won everybody over with its infectious rhythms and fascinating textures. Another proof that artistic freedom and compositional boldness are to be nurtured, not suppressed. Steven Mackey: 1. Critic: 0.

Met - Manon (Final Dress Rehearsal) - 03/23/12

Composer: Jules Massenet
Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Producer/Director: Laurent Pelly
Manon Lescaut : Anna Netrebko
Chevalier Des Grieux: Piotr Beczala
Lescaut, Manon’s cousin: Paolo Szot
Count Des Grieux: David Pittsinger

After seeing my first production of Massenet’s Manon with the Washington National Opera years ago, I had immediately decided that it would be my last one. I simply could not understand the appeal of this wide-eyed country girl dazzled by the Parisian high life and stupid enough to fall in love with a hapless chevalier, who goes on to live a happy life with him, remembers she’s a gold-digger at heart, finds herself a sugar daddy, becomes the top kept woman of Paris, goes back to her hapless chevalier, gets them in trouble with the law because of her (What else?) insatiable greed, and eventually dies a particularly drawn-out death, especially after you’ve sat through four hours of that silliness. And the music did not do much to help.
Enters Anna Netrebko, relentlessly luring everybody walking the streets of New York City in her fuschia dress and abandoned expression on countless posters all over town. I briefly had second thoughts, but still decided against it. Then appeared an invitation to the final dress rehearsal, and I eventually figured that I had not much to lose, except a Friday evening. And who knows? Second chances can have surprising outcomes.

Well, the second chance was whole-heartedly given, and it is now official: Manon remains off my list of preferred operas. Granted, a few nice tunes sprang up from the mostly uninspired score and… well, that’s about it. Oh, I forgot, splendid costumes too.
As the only slightly developed character, Manon is the constant focus of the opera. By now Anna Netrebko is used to being under a steady spotlight, for artistic reasons or not, and she certainly knows how to work it. This production was no exception. But although she has an undeniably charismatic presence onstage, her acting was as usual overly broad and full of pointless energy (she has apparently never seen a flight of stairs without feeling the urge to run it up and down at top speed). Her voice, however, was beautifully dark and richly textured, coloratura technique be damned. Of course, ideally she would bother articulating instead of contending herself with leisurely unrolling those long, impossibly gorgeous phrases. In fact, a puzzled French student approached us during the second intermission wondering if his incapacity to catch even a single word was his problem or hers. Definitely hers. But let’s face it, when she put her heart and soul into the poignant farewell “Adieu, notre petite table”, I remembered why I was in the opera house in the first place, temporarily put aside any misgivings and completely indulged in the moment.
A masterfully articulated singer was the excellent tenor Piotr Beczala as the Chevalier Des Grieux. He even managed to give his character more depth than he probably deserves (I mean, what kind of dork falls so hopelessly in love with such a shallow floozy?) and did it all with the utmost ardor and sincerity. Confidently belting out his dreams of happiness or the depths of his despair, he came out of the evening a real winner. The chemistry between the two leads was rather tepid though, and the awkward seduction scene in the church turned out to be more comical than anything else, so things were far from perfect, but there was definitely some good singing to be enjoyed.
The rest of the cast was praise-worthy as well. Baritone Paulo Szot was as solid as could be in the rather thankless part of Lescaut, Manon’s gambling-addicted cousin. And as Des Grieux’s father, bass-baritone David Pittsinger effortlessly conveys the expected authority and affection towards his lovelorn son.
The sets were a mixed bag. The opening scene’s décor was made of a courtyard and some weirdly angled paper-cut houses on top of some stairs, and it somehow worked. The couple’s modest apartment in Act II seemed straight out of La Bohème and featured, you’ve guessed it, a set of stairs. In Act III the stairs were replaced by a long ramp that turned out to be useful to give more than one level to the stage, but got in the way of the dancers for the ballet number. On the other hand, I thought that the minimalist pier of the final scene did a good job in conveying isolation and doom.
One priceless advantage of most French operas is that the music is often subdued enough to let the audience actually hear the singers, which is not always the case with the more hot-blooded Italian scores or the Sturm und Drang-driven German compositions. Therefore, Fabio Luisi had no problem making sure that the singing would be heard loud and clear above the pleasing sounds from the orchestra, and we got to hear some pretty melodies indeed. Even then, I still find the enduring popularity of this opera utterly baffling, and this time may actually be the last time I have put myself through it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Quatuor Ebène - Mozart, Beethoven & Reimagined Jazz and Pop Standards - 03/18/12

Mozart: String Quartet in D Minor, K. 421
Beethoven: String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131
Wayne Shorter: Footprints
Eden Ahbez: Nature Boy
Misirlou from Pulp Fiction
The Beatles: Come Together
Bradford Mehdlau: Unrequited
Astor Piazzolla: Libertango
Miles Davis: All Blues
Miles Davis: So What

After the low-key recital at Town Hall in the afternoon, I was more than ready for one of my favorite quartets ever – and, no, I am not saying that because they’re French– the fast-rising, endlessly versatile Quatuor Ebène. Moreover, the fact that their concert would take place in the intimate Zankel Hall of Carnegie Hall significantly added a healthy dose of excitement to my already mighty expectations, and I eagerly rushed to what has become an annual rendez-vous.

The first two pieces on the program paid an always welcome homage to two of the giants of Viennese music, Mozart and Beethoven. Although the four musicians onstage have been dazzling audiences with a constantly widening range of musical experiments, they obviously have not neglected their roots and their classically trained chops are as viscerally virtuosic as ever. The second of the “Haydn” Quartets, Mozart’s String Quartet in D Minor distinguishes itself by its deceptive simplicity and luminous elegance. Those two telling characteristics were all the more highlighted by the beautifully refined sounds coming from those assertive strings. The French boys were definitely back in town!
Considered by the man himself to be his highest achievement among his 16 quartets, Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp Minor is complex and intense, keeping the listener continuously engaged in finding out what will come up next. Nonplussed by the challenge, the Quatuor Ebène effortlessly adjusted gears and nailed the rebellious work with impeccable flair.
Once the old masters had been fully acknowledged, it was time to move on to the promised “Jazz and Pop Standards, reimagined by the Ebène Quartet”. Anybody who has been attending their concerts is fully aware of their long-standing commitment to improvisatory adventures into other musical worlds. In the past, this crossover tendency had routinely translated into unexpected, always inventive encores.
This time, however, with the open-mindedness of youth and the deciding power of an established ensemble, they kicked off the second half of the program to the smooth jazz overtones of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and closed it on the catchy riffs of Miles Davis’ “So What”. Between those two tributes to the quartet’s self-professed deep love of jazz music, we got to delight in several other goodies such as a dynamite take on Pulp Fiction’s “Misirlou” and sustained languorous rhythms courtesy of Piazzolla’s much adapted “Libertango” (Fortunately sans accordion). The number that brought down the house, though, was a pared-down and still irresistibly infectious string version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” that would have made the other famous foursome extremely proud.

After the violist Mathieu Herzog confessed that their Paris-bound flight would take off at 12:20 AM from JFK, we decided to let them off after just one encore, an inevitably giggle-inducing a capella and then string version of “Un jour mon prince viendra” (One day my prince will come) from Disney’s Snow White (Is there any other?), which took me straight back to that concert at the Library of Congress where they first caught my attention three years ago. They’ve come a long way since then, and are only getting better. À l’année prochaine !

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson - Beethoven, Danielpour, Ravel & Brahms - 03/18/12

Beethoven: Allegretto in B-flat Major, WoO 39
Danielpour: Inventions on a Marriage
Ravel: Trio in A Minor
Brahms: Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25 – Nokuthula Ngwenyama (Viola)

After enjoying Jaime Laredo with Leon Fleisher two weeks ago, I was back at Town Hall on Sunday afternoon for another performance of his as part of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio this time. Although these three prestigious musicians have been playing together for 35 years, our paths had never crossed before. A free ticket offer just did the trick!

Ludwig van Beethoven was certainly not known for his light-heartedness, so hearing a sunny piece form his oeuvre is always a special treat. His quick and happy-go-lucky Allegretto in B-flat Major was a perfectly appropriate opening number for an intimate performance.
Richard Danielpour’s Inventions on a Marriage was inspired by the 35-year old union of Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson. With seven short vignettes, the composer explores the many facets of a long-lasting relationship in a wide range of moods, from a tender “As you were Sleeping” to a rowdy “Argument” to a joyful “Celebration”. Unsurprisingly, the couple onstage proved particularly adept at bringing these scenes of a marriage to musical life.
Joseph Kalichstein was back for Ravel’s Trio in A Minor and did provide some downright elating enchantment for the ears and easily stood out from the other two string instrumentalists. Deeply assured and delicated inspired, his playing was constantly inventive and definitely won the day.
Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor took the whole second half of the program for a classically exuberant Hungarian experience. Joined by young in years but mature in talent violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, the four musicians delivered a well-oiled performance, which concluded with plenty of fired-up energy in the final Rondo alla Zingarese. Not a bad way to spend a sunday afternoon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New York Classical Players - Mozart, Bottesini, Bark & Walton - 03/16/12

Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Mozart: Divertimento No 3, K. 138
Bottesini: Grand Duo for Violin and Double Bass – Josef Spacek (Violin) & Daxun Zhang (Double Bass)
Bark: Reminiscence
Walton: Sonata for String Orchestra

After a particularly hectic week at work and upon finally reconciling my system with the time change, which I hadn’t see come in, what could be more appropriate than a soothing yet inspiring classical music concert? Nothing. Luckily, I had already made plans to finally go hear the fabulous New York Classical Players again on Friday night. So I made my way to the foreign territory that is Upper East Side in general and the Czech Center in particular with a couple of like-minded friends to get the weekend rolling under the best auspices possible.

The Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Center is a charmingly understated venue, except for the eye-popping touches reminiscent of the occupants’ native land such as a couple of impressive chandeliers, an intricate iron-wrought railing on the upper level, and buoyant overhead decorations above the stage. Buoyant was also the mood of the first work, Mozart’s Divertimento No 3. And in the highly capable hands of the musicians before us, it became an elegantly entertaining greeting that immediately made everybody feel welcome to this musical celebration.
After Mozart’s familiar radiance, we were on to a brand new adventure in the form of an unusual duo between a violin and a double bass by a composer we had never heard of, Bottesini. Our open-mindedness paid off though and the piece turned out to be one wild ride boasting of a wide variety of rhythms and influences. Through it all, the focus of the experience remained the virtuosic dialog between the two soloists, Josef Spacek and Daxun Zhang, who were brilliantly supported by the orchestra and its relentlessly multi-tasking conductor, Dongmin Kim.
After this big showpiece, it was time for an intimate journey with contemporary composer Elliott Bark’s unabashedly emotional Reminiscence. Regardless of the shortness of the work, there is little doubt that its deeply atmospheric qualities have left a lasting impression on the audience.
A complex and engaging composition, Walton’s Sonata for String Orchestra also drew on many influences in order to create a whole of surprising coherence. While the opening and closing movements distinguished themselves with plenty of grandeur and energy, it is the lush, melancholic lyricism of the slow movement that strongly stood out for me.

Obviously appreciative of the enthusiastic ovation they rightfully got, the indefatigable musicians came back for a lovely party favor in Grieg’s The First Meeting. It could not get more soothing yet inspiring than that, and the weekend had effectively started under the best auspices possible.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Met - Don Giovanni - 03/10/12

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Andrew Davis
Producer/Director: Michael Grandage
Don Giovanni: Gerald Finley
Leporello: Bryn Terfel
Donna Anna: Marina Rebeka
Donna Elvira: Ellie Dehn
Zerlina: Isabel Leonard
Masetto: Shenyang
The Commendatore: James Morris

What red-blooded woman would not be thrilled by the opportunity to enjoy not one but two dates with Mozart’s timeless seducer in Mozart’s magnificent opera, Don Giovanni? Not this one! When the Met’s 2011-2012 season was first announced, I was originally torn between the fall’s cast and the spring’s cast until I realized that the best way to resolve the dilemma was… to see them both.

That’s how I found myself back at the Met on Saturday afternoon with my friend Dawn, ready to be ravished not by the youthful fireball that was Mariusz Kwiecien a few months ago, but by the sophisticated player that is Gerald Finley. Although I cannot say that his looks were immediately seductive – some odd choices in the make-up department were giving him a passing resemblance to Mephistopheles – his naturally aristocratic demeanor and undeniable charisma were operating in full force, as was his poised and ardent singing. Don Giovanni had grown up, although he for sure hadn’t matured.
A special treat of this spring’s cast was the inimitable Bryn Terfel taking over the role of Leporello. As Don Giovanni’s hapless but indispensable servant, he superbly conveyed the combination of devotion and exasperation the poor guy feels towards his careless bon vivant of a master. The serious and comic aspects of their tumultuous relationship, so central to the narrative, were vividly underlined by the easy chemistry between the two of them. Bryan Terfel’s voice was in top shape regardless of what he was expressing, and the “Catalog aria” predictably brought down the house.
Matthew Polenzani was a wonderful Don Ottavio, bringing his consistently bright voice to the proceedings while James Morris was more than imposing in the smaller but pivotal role of The Commendatore.
The ladies fared fairly well, especially Marina Rebeka, who powerfully stood out as a thoroughly impressive Donna Anna. Her luscious, remarkably articulate voice enabled her to give plenty of weight and poignancy to the woman that Don Giovanni wrongs not once but twice. Even in her grief-stricken state, her resolve never wavered, and neither did her singing.
Speaking of indefatigable women, Ellie Dehn was a relentlessly present Donna Elvira. Vocally and physically strong, she was a worthy adversary to the incorrigible Don Giovanni.
As the young girl who does let herself be seduced, Isabel Leonard was a cute and engaging Zerlina. She had, of course, the priceless advantage of being part of the enchanting duo “La ci darem la mano”, one of Mozart’s most popular hits. The couple she formed with Shenyang, a good-natured Masetto, was totally charming.
The production had not changed, except for a few details and the bonus of unexpected drama when Bryn Terfel’s coat got stuck in the floor’s trap after Don Giovanni had met his spectacularly hot demise. Not missing a single beat, Terfel unflappably and swiftly got out of it and kept on singing. A stage hand eventually managed to discreetly and quickly yank it off as a sliding wall was about to move over it right before the final ensemble number. Only in live performances, folks, only in live performances.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Leon Fleischer & Jaime Laredo - All-Schubert - 03/04/12

Schubert: Sonatina No 1 in D Major, D. 384
Schubert: Sonatina No 2 in A Minor, D. 385
Schubert: Sonatina No 3 in G Minor, D. 408
Schubert: Grand Duo for Violin and Piano in A Major, D. 574

After the riveting but decidedly dark journey that was Frank Ferko’s Stabat Mater on Saturday night, I figured that a little bit of refined light-heartedness was in order the next day. And that’s exactly what drew me to Town Hall yesterday afternoon for a recital by two longtime giants of the classical music scene, Leon Fleischer and Jaime Laredo. Both dedicated artists have taken up numerous roles  in the past few decades, among which soloist, conductor, chamber musician, pedagogue and mentor, which no doubt have allowed them to sharpen and expand their extraordinary talents that have kept audiences enthralled.
The road to this seemingly innocuous concert, however, turned out to be more treacherous than expected. Just as I got to the People’s Symphony Concert’s Website yesterday morning, I first noticed that the Bach pieces I was looking forward to hearing had disappeared and the program was now all Schubert. Next, while I was slowly coming to terms with the slight disappointment, I realized that the playlist may not matter after all because the concert was apparently sold out… and I did not have a ticket! Persistence, however, prevailed over procrastination as I was eventually able to buy a returned ticket at the box office before giddily proceeding into the historic theater with my friend Paula.

Although Schubert’s œuvre never instantaneously grabbed me the way others did, I’ve always found his chamber music truly inspired, so I did not have too much of a hard time leaving Bach behind and embracing the one and only composer of the day. Written when he was a mere 19 and 20-year old lad, the three sonatinas and the Grand Duo we got to hear yesterday could hardly compete with, for example, “The Trout” or my personal favorite, his String Quintet with two cellos, but they happily radiated the freshness and innocence of, well, youth.
The two masters on the stage couldn’t exactly qualify as “young” by any stretch of the imagination, but that did not stop them from delivering a totally engaging performance that discreetly highlighted the charming simplicity and Mozartian grace of those lovely sonatinas. It sounded as if it took Jaime Laredo a few measures to completely get into the groove, but Leon Fleischer’s supreme command of his craft was fully present from the very first note and never wavered.
Last, but definitely not least, the more mature and substantial Duo for Violin and Piano in A Major – Isn’t it incredible what a difference a year makes?! – concluded the recital with an increasingly complex and equal partnership between violin and piano, featuring a much wider and delightful range of moods and rhythms. Yet another reason to be grateful for that laid back and heart-warming winter afternoon in the company of old friends.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cantori New York - Ferko - 03/03/12

Artistic Director & Conductor: Mark Shapiro
Frank Ferko: Stabat Mater
Soprano: Rebekah Camm

The prospect of listening to the choral performance of a 13th century Latin hymn, which depicts the Virgin Mary’s suffering while she is witnessing her son’s agonizing death, interpolated with English texts containing variations on the theme of death, somehow does not exactly sound like the perfect plan for a Saturday night. But when you know that the fairly new piece – It came out in 1998 – is by highly regarded American composer Frank Ferko and will be sung by the always adventurous and consistently successful Cantori New York, the proposition becomes definitely more enticing. Finally, upon hearing that the concert will take place in the beautiful Church of the Holy Trinity on the Upper East Side, you’re sold.
That’s how I found myself sitting in one of the church’s pews yesterday with a couple of friends, studying the program and promising myself to come back one of these days during daytime to be able to enjoy what looked like magnificent stained-glass windows. In fact, this slight frustration kind of reminded of the ill-timed Vivaldi evening concert at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris last November, when my mum and I got to delight in full musical but limited visual pleasures as darkness had already fallen outside, unceremoniously turning what is an absolutely stunning religious venue by day into a less stunning but still pleasant concert hall by night.

In New York yesterday evening, regardless of the handsome environment the church’s wood interior provided for, it was unquestionably the singing that grabbed and kept everybody’s attention for a whole continuous hour. And what an hour! The dense composition combines many influences, starting with the introduction from the Gospel according to St. Luke to the original Latin text attributed to Jacopone da Todi to four widely different poems dealing with the grief of a mother experiencing her child’s death from war, from AIDS and from drowning. Under Frank Ferko’s brilliant pen, the monumental sum of the numerous small parts and countless musical techniques has come flawlessly together for what has to be, in my humble, non-expert opinion, one of the finest works in contemporary choral writing.
Then came the voices. Although I am by now completely aware that there are apparently no challenges too daunting for Cantori New York, I had also never heard them undertake and conquer such an uncompromisingly complex piece. Now I have. The singers uniformly let all the delicate textures and subtle colors of the music powerfully come to life and fill up the space, deftly working their way through the score’s many treacherous intricacies. As the grieving mother’s voice in the English poems, soprano Rebekah Camm’s vocal feats effortlessly stood out, bright and expressive. After the memorable journey had come to an end, my personal highlights included the brief but gripping moment of lingering atonality at the beginning of the 13th stanza (Fac me tecum), which had everybody in the audience hold their breath, and the lovely chorale-like finale, full of hope and light. Amen indeed.