Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cantori New York & Musicatreize - Gurol, Ben-Haim, Flecha, Nazziola, Breit, Moultaka, Canat de Chizy, Markeas & Fauré - 09/15/13

Cantori New York
Artistic Director & Conductor: Mark Shapiro
Erol Gurol: Gel bak ne buldum
Paul Ben-Haim: Sephardic songs
Mateo Flecha: El fuego
Tom Nazziola: Mediterranean Trilogy
Jonathan Breit: Recette de bouillabaisse

Artistic Director & Conductor: Roland Hayrabedian
Zad Moultaka: Ikhtifa
Edith Canat de Chizy: Duerme – Christian Hamouy
Alexandros Markeas: Wall Street Lullaby

Cantori New York & Musicatreize
Conductor: Mark Shapiro
Gabriel Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine

Because there's no rest for the brave, Cantori New York's last concert of the day would be a double bill with Musicatreize in Salle Musicatreize, which happened to be conveniently located a short walking distance from the opera house. Once inside, the concert hall turned out to be a minimalist and welcoming space that was filled to the brim way before the performance's starting time, a performance whose first half would be sung by Cantori New York, the second half by Musicatreize, before the two choirs get together for the final piece.

Starting off with the same three composers as in Cassis – Erol Gurol, Paul Ben-Haim and Mateo Flecha – the program also presented Tom Nazziola's Mediterranean Trilogy, which consisted in three short vocal pieces based on texts by Gibran, Neruda and Shakespeare. Although I've always found The Prophet's New Age mysticism uniformly bland and overly sentimental, Neruda and Shakespeare decisively tipped the balance in the right direction in this case. Cantori's indiscriminately inspired singing did the rest, and the trilogy went down easy to a leisurely rhythm reminiscent of graceful Mediterranean waves.
This portion of the concert could evidently not end without an ultimate serving of "Bouillabaisse", and I am happy to report that all the relentless practicing the singers had put themselves through really paid off: After hearing it five times within 24 hours, not only had I pretty much figured out the entire text, but I had also come extremely close to knowing it by heart myself.

After Cantori's ever-popular finale, their fellow contemporary vocal ensemble Musicatreize took over with their own Mediterranean tour. Opening with Zad Moultaka's "Ikhtifa" (The disappearance), the Marseillais choir immediately set a resolutely experimental tone. Playing around with fragmentation, density and disintegration, this diptych sounded all the more foreign with the combination of atonality and the Arab language, a challenge that the poised singers had clearly no problem handling.
Edith Canat de Chizy's "Duerme" took a poem by Lorca and gave it a polyphonic treatment for voices and percussion that quietly emphasized the mysterious quality of Spanish nanas infantiles.
Back to the real world, Alexandros Markeas' "Wall Street Lullaby" evoked the false escape that sleep provides, either when Wall Street sharks shamelessly lure their victims with fake promises or when a Greek mother sings a misleading lullaby about the future to her child. The composer's growing unease at this unstable world was eloquently expressed in the restless voices of the choir, creating a telling testimony to the insurmountable gap between illusion and reality.

In order to wrap up a wide-ranging smorgasbord of musical works, it is sometimes best to simply go back to a classical piece whose sheer beauty everybody can effortlessly relate to. And that is exactly what happened when Cantori New York and Musicatreize joined forces with the flawless support of pianist Victoria Harmandjieva and under the unwavering baton of Mark Shapiro for an unrehearsed, but nevertheless delicately soothing and beautifully uplifting "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Fauré.

The festivities were actually not quite over yet as artists and audience got to enjoy a scrumptious reception during which we endlessly compared notes about various personal experiences, marveled at the cool concept of the whole enterprise and the tremendous organizational work it took to pull it all off so successfully, praised the bottomless knowledge and genuine kindness of the staff and volunteers, who were always ready to help with a smile, as well as wondered about the ever-changing playlists, which had apparently been updated with each new program printing cycle and constantly kept us on our toes. Best of all, there was still one last concert on our schedule, this time by the prestigious Dutch ensemble Nederlands Kamerkoor in the much-talked about MuCEM museum the very next evening.

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