Violinist Pavel Ilyashov at VWC Concert Series
“You guys really came!” was Pavel Ilyashov's comment to the audience at his February 7, 2011 violin recital at Virginia Wesleyan's Hofheimer Theater. Pianist Lee-Jordan Anders was his collaborator in an evening of super-charged chamber music. All of the regular seats were filled and additional chairs had to be added and this on a Monday evening with Marcolivia string duo at the Feldman concert in Norfolk. Many fellow Virginia Symphony players came to hear Pavel, including violist Jocelyn Smith and cellist Peter Greydanus.
The program began with Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Opus 30 No. 3. The opening measures glowed with excitement in this classically elegant music. The second movement with a moderate minuet tempo was filled with sustained singing violin phrases echoed gracefully by the piano. The bright, lively third movement was a spirited unison of sensual enfolding energy.
The high point of the evening was a rarity - Richard Strauss (1864-1949) chamber music. His Sonata in E flat Major Op. 18 was new to us. In the composition's first movement the muscular piano was well-matched to the insistent violin. The end of the movement was a huge orchestra-like sound full of passion. Mr. Ilyashov is emotionally so available when he performs that when he missed a pitch he scrunched his face in pain but it was the only time in the evening that he had to do that. The second movement, Improvisation, andante cantabile, with its singing lyrical opening was a tender interweaving of piano and violin textures. Written by Strauss in the same period as his songs Ständchen and his Lotusblättern, it has the violin playing as if it were the voice of a singer in one of his beautiful, long-lined songs. In the piano Strauss tries for orchestral intensities letting the violin reach and sustain high notes impossible for a human voice. The third movement has the piano opening with powerful chords leading to a busy violin tune that surges forth dramatically. It is a wild, passionate ride to the end and the unrelenting technical demands were easily met by our performers. In many ways the piece is a double concerto rather than a sonata, written by a young man with things to prove, to quote Ms. Jordan-Anders program notes.
Mr. Ilyashov spoke to us after the applause died down telling us that this Strauss Sonata topped his list of things “to play before I die” and explained that he had heard Elmar Oliveira play the work at Carnegie Hall and talked with him after the concert about what it was like to perform a work that is so beautiful. “He told me that if I ever find a pianist who is good enough and crazy enough to play it, it will be the most fun you'll ever have.” Pavel told us that he meant this as a compliment to Ms. Anders. No one doubted him.
Returning with less heady fare, the program closed with two, pretty, exceptionally well-played pieces of European music. Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882) was a prolific composer encouraged by Mendelssohn and Liszt and is mostly forgotten except for his Cavatina Opus 85, No.3 for violin and piano, which they played. Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) was a violinist who toured the USA with pianist Anton Rubinstein in 1872. Historically, he is regarded by many as the world's second greatest violinist after Paganini. They played Polonaise No.1 in D Major which is a Viennese dance for piano and violin – challenging for performers but easy for listeners.
Jeffrey Phelps and Lee Jordan-Anders
October 17, 2011
Virginia Wesleyan College
by John Campbell
Some performers are so committed to the music they play that they bring an intensity of passion that communicates to the audience in a special way. Pianist Lee Jordan-Anders and cellist Jeffrey Phelps did just that in a recital at Virginia Wesleyan College on October 17, 2011 at Hofheimer Theater. The program notes were projected to the right of the players with a picture of the composer. I was so intensely engaged in the performance that I failed to read the notes.
They opened with Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) Sonata in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2 and captured the joy of the music. In Ms. Jordan-Anders' hands, Beethoven's dramatic statements provided a clear framework for the quiet, lyrical passages by Mr. Phelps. By age 25 when his Opus 1 piano trios were published Beethoven had experience as a violist in an orchestra and had attempted to study with Haydn. He had immediate success and so the next year this uncouth, clumsy genius composed his two Opus 5 cello and piano sonatas.
They followed this by music never before heard in Tidewater: Drei Kleine Stüke Op. 11 (1914) by Anton Webern (1883-1945). The contrast with the Beethoven was stunning. Webern's condensed expression plunged us into a quieter, more somber and emphatic soundscape. I was fascinated to watch how the bow is placed against the strings to create various sounds – every gesture is significant. Although the Three Little Pieces for Cello and Piano lasted less than two and a half minutes, it looms large in our memory. In the first piece each wispy phrase of the shared melodic line evaporates into silence – only once does it move forward into a short-lived climax in both instruments. Every note in the piano has a different dynamic and every phrase on the cello was produced by a different method. Scintillating tones created a mood of agitation which comes to the surface in the bold, even violent Allegro of the second piece (it lasted less than fifteen seconds) and subsides again in the serenity of the third piece, retreating to the threshold of audibility in the almost motionless Adagio.
This description borrows heavily on notes from the CD booklet by Susan Bradshaw found in the Sony Complete Works by Webern (Sony 3K45845) conducted by Pierre Boulez. I recommend this set with its polished, accomplished playing. I first became acquainted with Webern's music circa 1968 on LP's conducted by Robert Craft on Columbia which now seem raw and unpolished by comparison. After hearing it live even the Boulez seems flat.
Jeff Phelps seemed enormously comfortable with the cello in Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Sonata (1915). The variety of ways to use a bow is different in this piece, sometimes creating scintillating tones or bold ones. Ms. Jordan-Anders' piano adds to the French feeling of hesitancy and restrained passion. The clear textures, eloquence and unequaled harmonies were all part of Debussy's musical language. The pizzicato double-stopping in the cello gives an imitation of a Spanish guitar that unites the three movements. The dry, hard, opening piano chords are reversed and used at the close of the piece.
After intermission there was a single work: Sonata in F Major, Op. 99 (1886) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). The opening Allegro vivace had a rocking rhythm. The second, Adagio affettuso, movement had a warm, tender sound but a certain tension developed. The third, Allegro passionato, movement opens with great intensity that gives way to a quieter lyricism. The ending is fast and loose, as if Brahms has let go of his usual structure. This wildly loose new sound continues throughout the final, Allegro molto movement. The pacing reminds me of the soundtrack of a detective film. Brahms seems to be searching for an ultimate expression, demanding that the instrumentalists go beyond the limits of their instrument. The duo was up to the composer's demands with great playing and a passion for the challenge.
Redmon, Dailey & Woodward
VWC Concert Series
March 3, 2012
Review by John Campbell
Though Mr. Dailey is building a successful career in California where he is Principal Resident Artist with Opera San Jose and will return to Santa Fe Opera next summer where he was Apprentice Artist last summer, this was his first art song recital. Wisely he paired up with consummate singer Robynne Redmon who has had a long and very successful career, from the Met in New York to Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Teatro alla Scala, Milan, among many other houses. The tie is, they are both Virginia Wesleyan College graduates; in fact, their encore was dedicated to their mentor at VWC, Dr. David Clayton. One of Tidewater’s most trusted art song accompanists, Charles Woodward, was at the piano. He is also Interim Music Director of the Virginia Chorale for the 2011-2012 season. His musical training was at Northwestern University.
Mr. Dailey, who grew up in Hampton, opened the program with four Neapolitan songs by Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916). He sang La Serenata (Serenade), A Vucchella (A Sweet Mouth) and Penso (I Think) before he paused to tell us what the songs are about (the program provided texts) and then closed the set with Aprile (April). These are intensely emotional songs with pretty melodies. With apparent effortless singing, Mr. Dailey, a tall, thin, young man with beautiful hands to match his voice, seemed to shape the sound with spare gestures. These songs are of love and adoration for a beautiful woman – her kissable mouth, her sweet smile when half-asleep; of spring, when love blossoms; and about the fear of rejection that used the urgency in his tenor voice and had the most impressive, delicate pianissimo ending. Later we learned that he was singing from his heart - he was married in December.
Ms. Redmon sang Seite canciones populares españolas written by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). The set of seven folk melodies from various regions of Spain have beautifully crafted brilliant accompaniments that preserve the spirit of folk music. Falla wrote: “ In all honesty, I think that in popular song the spirit is more important than the letter.” In brief songs we have seven unique moods set by the piano and captured by Ms. Redmon’s singing. Subtle texts are freely set. El paño moruno (The Moorish cloth) speaks of a fine piece of cloth that, like a young woman’s virtue, becomes almost worthless when soiled . A similar message in Séguidilla murciana uses a coin passed from hand to hand to make the point in a dance tune. The plaintive melody of Asturiana (Asturias is a region in northern Spain) is followed by Jota, a dance from Aragon. You hear the guitar and castanets in the piano. Nana is a tender lullaby from Andalusia, a cradle song Falla heard as a child and Canción is a flirtatious, charming love song. Polo concludes the set on a high note. This vibrant tune is from the Gypsy world of flamenco and is a cante jondo or deep song. Here we find sadness and love united in a high-spirited, passionate song, wonderfully performed.
Ms. Redmon, in a stunning red satin, fitted-gown with a black feather boa appeared like a chanteuse in a nightclub singing Cabaret Songs by Benjamin Britten. The poet W.H. Auden furnished the text to his younger friend Britten after they worked together on a documentary film for the British government. The opening song, Tell Me the Truth About Love, is reminiscent of Cole Porter’s sophisticated style. The mood shifts in Funeral Blues where the tempo slows and each word was firmly articulated to give us this tough gal’s sense of loss. Johnny is the type of guy that Dear Abby would definitely tell you to lose. Calypso is suggestive. The rushing acceleration of the taxi to meet one’s new lover at the train station has a fast-paced rhythm, intense vocals and a whistle blown by the pianist, urging us onward to a dramatic climax.
The very popular La donna è mobile from Rigoletto was introduced by Mr. Dailey: “Guiseppe Verdi kept the tune a secret until the opening night of his new opera, only to see it go viral immediately after." The singer told us that the Duke who sings that women are fickle "is one of only a few mean characters I ever played.” Vocally splendid, Mr. Dailey gave us this bouncy tune with a twinkle in his eye and a boyish joy in his firmly focused voice.
Trading her black boa for a red shawl, Ms. Redmon introduced her "um pah pah" aria, also a Verdi favorite and a personal favorite of hers, Stride la vampa. The opera is set in 15th century Spain. Azucena (the role from Il Trovatore that she will sing April 27 and 29 with North Carolina Opera) is a gypsy woman seeking revenge for her mother who was burned at the stake as a witch after she threw an infant into a fire. From this tortured plot comes the powerful aria Stride la vampa (The flames are roaring). I was mesmerized as she became the character and my attention was riveted throughout.
Roger Quilter (1877-1953), an English composer, became known for his songs in 1900 when his Songs of the Sea were presented at the Crystal Palace. Quilter loved English poetry and his best songs are settings of Shakespeare, the Elizabethans, Blake, Shelly, Tennyson and Harrick. Mr. Dailey sang To Julia, a cycle of five poems by Robert Harrick (1591-1674), premiered in 1905. They speak of several facets of adoration for the beloved in The bracelet, The maiden blush, To daisies, The night piece, Julia’s hair and Cherry Ripe. He sang exquisitely of loving a beautiful young woman. The set included solo piano songs, Prelude and Interlude and gave us time to focus and appreciate the skill and beauty in Mr. Woodward’s playing.
The complete texts can be found at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/. For an introduction to Quilter see Roger Quilter: His Life and Times by Valerie Langfield reviewed at http://www.pinktriangle.org.uk/glh/232/langfield.html by Dan O’Hara. There you will learn that Quilter poured his unfulfilled longing for a same-sex partner into some eighty-five songs. To Julia can be found on a Naxos CD (8.557116) devoted exclusively to Quilter songs.
The final programmed selection was their first song together. C’est toi, c’est moi is the final encounter from Bizet’s Carmen. Carmen and Don José encounter each other outside the bull ring. She is ferocious in her contempt for him while he is threatening and hyper; they argue as the scene becomes electric and totally real, not twenty feet away from us. Carmen declares her lines and then turns her back to him as he tries to argue. Finally she tosses the ring he gave her in the dirt and, the furies of hell are in his face as he stabs her. We were stunned!
To ease us down from the emotional intensity, the encore was the Meow Duet by Rossini, a bel canto competition of two alley cats which left us in a jovial mood. After the concert we had a chance to visit with Ms. Redmon’s parents and Messrs. Dailey and Woodward’s mothers.
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