All photos by Diane ACOSTA
By Ted AYALA
Last Saturday evening, the First Baptist Church in Glendale was the host for a concert that paid tribute to mothers everywhere on their special day. This concert, part of a series produced by Positive Motions, programmed a wide assortment of works.
Leading off the program was a world premiere commissioned by Positive Motions for this concert: a Sonata for 2 cellos (“Splashes of Spring”) by composer George Gianopoulos. Only the second movement was performed. Entitled “Scherzo-Humoresque,” the movement, with its Prokofieff-like harmonic sideslips, was thoroughly enjoyable. Especially captivating was the lyric writing for the cello in its very highest register. Just over two minutes, the movement left this listener eager to hear the rest of the work.
Next was a pair of guitar works played by guitarist Iren Arutyunyan: Isaac Albéniz’s “Cádiz” from his “Suite española” and the third movement from Roland Dyens’ “Libra Sonatine.” Arutyunyan showed off her broad musical personality – wistful poetry in the Albéniz; fire and brilliance in the Dyens. Arutyunyan played splendidly.
Cellist Andrea Yu, at 16 a winner of several cello competitions, followed with the first movement of Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. Yu had a fine grasp of the work’s virtuoso aspects, but the melancholy heart of this work eluded her. Surely as she grows along with this work, her interpretation will mature. She is a talent to watch.
Trumpet music followed by way of Alfred Reed and Nikolai Rakov. Ilya Sergienko was the trumpetist; Yana Reznik his accompanist. Reed’s “Blues” movement from his Trumpet Concerto was played with warm vibrato and made ample use of Sergienko’s rich low register. The rapid fire Rakov “Humoresque” posed no problems for Sergienko and he confidently made his way through the work’s dense thickets of repeated notes. This was superb trumpet playing.
Closing the first half were two pieces played by violinist Danielle Belen. Belen’s consummate musicianship and vibrant expression were immediately arresting. She played William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child” with great tenderness and warmth. The Sarasate work that followed, the Introduction and Tarantella, held no dangers for this violinist. It was a sparkling, joyous interpretation.
Belen played with an intense vibrato and lush expression redolent of the work of Toscha Seidel. I can think of no higher praise.
The second part of the concert was devoted entirely to a one woman drama by singer Ruby Hinds depicting scenes from the life of the contralto Marian Anderson.
Anderson was not only one of America’s very greatest singers, but was also a civil rights pioneer. Most famous for her recital at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, Anderson won the admiration of many of the greatest musicians of her time including the composer Jean Sibelius and the conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Hinds effortlessly brought Anderson to life. It was a very moving performance interspersed with selections of the German lieder and Negro spirituals that Anderson loved dearly. One only regrets that Hinds was not allowed to perform an entire recital devoted to these works as her rich voice left me hungry for more. Frank Fetta was her outstanding accompanist.
I eagerly anticipate the next concert in this series. I only wish that the program were a bit more focused. In addition, I would have preferred hearing complete works rather than the “bleeding chunks” that were programmed. Make no mistake, though: A great evening of fine music making was had. I can’t wait to hear what Positive Motions has in store for us next month.
To learn more about the Positive Motions concert series, please visit http://www.positivemotions.org/.
Ted Ayala is a music critic who has studied classical music extensively. He can be reached at email@example.com.