Friday, October 11, 2013

Cantori New York - Ben-Haim, Castelnuovo-Tedesco & Traditional Songs - 10/08/13

Artistic Director & Conductor: Mark Shapiro
Traditional Scottish: Ca' the yowes (arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams)
Cantori New York & Azi Schwartz (Tenor)
Paul Ben-Haim: La rosa enflorece
Paul Ben-Haim: Yo m'enamore d'un aire
Paul Ben-Haim: En el vergel
Paul Ben-Haim: Avre este abajour
Cantori New York
Traditional British: Brigg fair (arr. Percy Grainger)
Cantori New York & Azi Schwartz (Tenor)
Spanish and Portuguese pot-pourri (arr. Raymond Goldstein)
Azi Schwartz (Tenor) & Colin Fowler (Piano)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Romancero gitano
Cantori New York, Azi Schwartz (Tenor) & Nilko Andreas Guarin (Guitar)
Traditional Sephardic: Yom zeh leyisra'el/Yismach mosheh (arr. Joshua Jacobson)
Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Singers & Ronen Izik (Percussion)
Traditional Ladino: Durme durme (arr. Alice Parker)
Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Singers
Traditional Spiritual: Lord, how come me here (arr. Evelyn Simpson-Curenton)
Cantori New York, Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Singers, Azi Schwartz (Tenor) & Colin Fowler (Piano)

After all the sea, songs and sun of Cassis and Marseille in September, Cantori New York was back in the Big Apple on Tuesday night with an updated roster for their first concert of the new season at the Park Avenue Synagogue, whose entrance puzzlingly happens to be located on Madison Avenue, and which has the distinct advantage of being located across the Park (as opposed to across the pond) from where I live. Amazingly enough, for once the program, which was focusing on the Sephardic tradition, was at least partly familiar to me with four songs by Ben-Haim, the whole Castelnuovo-Tedesco series, but, regrettably, neither "Fuego" nor "Bouillabaisse". The venue, on the other hand, was a brand new adventure and turned out to be a beautiful space, which eventually filled up with a large and appreciative crowd.

The Ben-Haim pieces were as lovely as I remembered them, but the real treat was hearing the canciones gitanes again with the added benefit of Azi Schwartz, the young resident cantor and music director, whose vibrant voice and colorful singing added rays of bright sunshine to a couple of tunes during our exciting musical trip to Spain. And if globe-trotting Colombia-born Nilko Andreas Guarin did not make me forget our favorite Marseillais Rémi Jousselme when it came to the classical guitar, his equally attractive combination of power and delicacy superbly enhanced the enchanting singing from the ensemble, immediately bringing back vivid memories of our Mediterranean days in the sun.
But that was not all, as Cantori and Azi Schwartz also took us on a whirlwind tour of the British isles for more subdued traditional Scottish and British songs, and Azi Schwarz brought us back to Spain and Portugal with pianist Colin Flowler for an uplifting medley. The Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Singers then took over with an additional couple of melodic Sephardic tunes, efficiently supported by Ronee Itzik on percussion.
It all ended on a communal note including both ensembles, accompanied by Colin Fowler at the organ and Azi Schwartz soloing, all under the baton of Mark Shapiro, for the decidedly downbeat but nevertheless stirring spiritual "Lord, how come me here". Thankfully things perked up again a few minutes later at the bustling reception, which concluded the evening with a happy ending.

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