I Am Sitting In A Room

Commentary and thoughts on (mostly) classical music.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Review Notes: Michael Mizrahi, Fnd. for Modern Music

On Marcus Maroney’s recommendation, I caught the beginning of a solo piano recital by Michael Mizrahi on Sunday. I only managed to catch the first work, Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor. Mizrahi has a sure hand, decent range of color and good presence at the keyboard. I was bothered by some bass lines that started in relief but became swallowed before they had run their course, and I would have liked to hear the music dance a little more. Otherwise, it was quite good (the Allemande especially) and I’d like to hear him in more recent repertoire.

I left to see the Fndation for Modern Music’s concert downtown. I really wanted this concert to be successful, not only because it was my first live experience of Ancient Voices of Children, but because FMM does a decent job of presenting new music in a comfortable atmosphere. Artistic Director Rudolfo Morales teaches at the High School for Visual and Performing Arts, so there’s always a following of students at their concerts. The board members are warm, inviting, and generally a nice group of people.

Unfortunately, the concert just didn’t come together. Here’s a rundown:

Silvestre Rivueltas – Five Children’s Songs: Well sung by Tracy Rhodus, but slight pieces mostly in a Mexican folk/popular style.

Manuel Enríquez – Maxienia: Piano solo played by Max Lifchitz. This was the strongest performance of the concert. Maxienia is improvisatory, gestural, and post-tonally chromatic, with enough narrative/dramatic backbone to keep the music moving forward. Lifchitz had good dynamic nuance and let the space between gestures breathe. He was helped out by the resonance of Zilkha Hall, which is a really nice space for the Steinway that was used.

Mary Jeanne van Appledorn - A Liszt Fantasie: Take several Liszt snippets (my scorecard noted A Faust Symphony, the Sonata, and several bits from Années de Pèlerinage), some Lisztian cadenzas and passagework, stir, notate, and serve. Another minute or two longer and I would’ve called this execrable.

Max Lifchitz – Yellow Ribbon No. 38 (world premiere): It felt like Lifchitz didn’t really know what to do with his ensemble of oboe, harp, two guitars, three percussionists, and piano. The material wasn’t particularly interesting and some of the ideas were half-baked. There was no convincing reason why a movement called “Solitude” should have duet for oboe and percussion. The “Peace” movement consisted of interminable repetitions of music from the earlier movements. Each instrument was assigned its own motive and juxtaposed with the others without development resulting in a vision of peaceful coexistence in which nothing interacts.

Crumb – Ancient Voices: Like the performance of Lifchitz’s piece, this didn’t amount to anything. The musical ideas didn’t flow, and there was little palpable ancientness, ritual, or exoticism. Some nice moments were lost in general muddle of the performance.

If I had been reviewing this for a publication, I would be having a really hard time right now. What do you do when you admire a group’s mission and their dedication to it, but their concert doesn’t cut it?


At 3:08 PM, Blogger Marcus Maroney said...

I'm glad that (a) you got to hear a bit of Michael and (b) I didn't go to the Foundation's concert. There's almost nothing worse than modern music in performances that just don't cut it. Do you know what else Michael played?

At 3:41 PM, Blogger jason said...

The rest of the program was four Debussy Preludes and the Schumann Humoreske.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Jenn said...

I've heard Mizrahi play several times now and I've had the privelage of turning pages for him in a performance and also playing for him in a masterclass. I think he is an incredible musician. I'm just a random person, I don't even have a blog on this site. I'm glad however that you got to hear him play, it's a shame you couldn't hear something newer though...his Beethoven is amazing and so is his romanitic period playing.


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