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Review: Gems found for MOM ‘Travelogue’

Review: Gems found for MOM ‘Travelogue’

On Friday night at the First Reformed Church as the final concert of its season, Musicians of Ma’alw

Musicians of Ma’alwyck director Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz loves to rescue musical gems from oblivion. On Friday night at the First Reformed Church as the final concert of its season, MOM presented several recent finds that most of the small but enthusiastic crowd had either never heard of or at least never heard.

Billed as a “Musical Travelogue,” violinist Barker Schwartz, cellist Petia Kassarova, mezzo-soprano Kara Cornell, violist Yi-Ping Yang and violinist Elizabeth Silver played works in various combinations that spanned 200 years and several countries.

They all began with two excerpts from a Handel opera “Ariodante” of 1735. It was his first opera that played in London’s Covent Garden with a soprano part originally for castrato. After a bit of a shaky start, the instrumentalists settled down to play the pretty overture.

Cornell then joined them to sing an aria about landing safely after navigating a storm-tossed sea. With a spirited accompaniment, Cornell projected easily in the church’s acoustics, which added a bit of reverb. She was agile over the aria’s extensive range and numerous scales and showed an especiallly rich low range.

Bohemian violinist Vaclav Pichl probably knew Mozart but Pichl’s many compositions are unknown today except for his Duet No. 2 in G Major for viola and cello. Written in classical style, the two instruments traded melodies and tricky passages in close harmony. The sound was mellow. Yang had some errant pitches. Kassarova showed a husky, warm tone and sang her melodies well.

Swedish violinist Franz Berwald wrote his Duo Concertant in A Major for himself and his violinist brother in 1828 in hopes of making some money. The two movements had a romantic inclination with the first part more filagreed. Silver had some pitch issues but played with great enthusiasm.

The two violinists and violist couldn’t go wrong with Dvorak’s Terzetto in C Major. Written for musical friends in 1887, the piece proved too difficult, but today it’s considered a standard of the repertoire. Four movements of interesting melodies with complex, interweaving lines and harmonies that explore several keys all please the players and the listener. The three instrumentalists worked well together to shift gears from moods of tranquility and sweetness to vibrant folk rhythms or speedy, flowing drama.

Cornell returned to sing with everyone Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s beautifully seductive “Il Tramonto,” published in 1916, with text by Shelley. Hints of Wagnerian harmony and drama opened the piece but the independent instrumental lines that mingled with the romantic and soaring vocal lines created its own identity. Cornell’s tone was luscious and her phrases melted with feeling. The ensemble was outstanding in its support.

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