Music Mosaic, February 7 2021
I watched a concert online on Feb 8, 2021 (it was live on Feb 7), presented by the Palos Verdes South Bay Alumni Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon. My friend Dianna told me about it. The concert started with a performance by the Angel City Chorale, based in Los Angeles. They’re a big group, according to Wikipedia they have 160 members. They performed with a small orchestra and sounded great. Their first song was a medley of “I Love You, I Love You, I Love You” and “What a Wonderful World.” The performance was from a concert a few years ago, in a big gorgeous church.
Next they did “Sogno di Volare,” aka the dream of flight, on a text by Leonardo da Vinci, music was by Christopher Tin. This performance was a COVID special, with each of the singers singing from their own personal little Zoom screen, stitched together by unseen hands. The highlight was some airborne footage of LA. Brought a tear to my eye. The music was glorious, this was the highlight of the concert.
Pianist Sean Chen played two pieces. He started with a Schubert Impromptu (op 90 #1 in C minor). I felt like this playing in the first section was a little too dry, inflexible, and naïve, but he didn’t do Schubert any harm. His voicing was exceptional, and there was a dreamy section in the middle that was especially lovely, and the dramatic section was suitably exciting. He had a clear idea of what he wanted to do and by gum, he did it.
The second piece was the first movement from Ravel’s *Gaspard de la nuit,* “Ondine.” I’m going to quibble again, but I felt like his rippling and fluttering could have used more soft focus, it should sound sort of blurry and the way he played it, it had sharp elbows. But again, the voicing was extraordinary.
The next set was played by violinist Roberto Cani, cellist Udi Bar-David, and pianist Anli Lin Tong. The violinist and pianist were together and the cellist was elsewhere, spliced in after the fact (he was listening on earbuds). I’m always amazed at how well this works. They played the Ernst Bloch Nocturne No. 2, a lovely, aching piece with some surprising juiciness. Their second piece was “Spring” from *Four Seasons of Buenos Aires* by Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla got a little too much stage time in the 90s, but ya know, it’s wonderful music. Performers love playing it and audiences go CRAZY for it. So where’s the problem. These three people played with relish and flair, though I might ask for a bit more sexiness in the violinist’s playing, he was a little too square. I wish the balance had been a bit better so we could have heard the piano a bit more clearly. She was really going to town and we mostly heard the violin, who was closer to the mic.
Tenor Aaron Blake and pianist Cris Frisco did three Spanish songs, “Del Cabello Mas Sutil” by Fernando Obradors, “No Puede Ser” by Pablo Sorzàbal, and “Granada” by Augustìn Lara. Blake has a dark, rich sound to his voice, he sounds more like a baritone. I’m talking about the color of his voice - - he definitely had plenty of ease and ping in his high notes. This, combined, with the dishy Spanish songs, gave a serious Domingo cast to his performance. Not a bad thing. Frisco played well but it sounded like he was playing an electronic keyboard, which is a bit of a disappointment.
The program ended with two pieces played by organist Ken Dake. First, the St. Anne triple fugue by J. S. Bach. This was fun to watch, they had one camera over this shoulder, showing his hands on the four ranks of keys and another camera showing his feet on the pedals. It was a fun moment when the feet first came in with the “O God Our Help in Ages Past” theme. Dake clearly knew what he was doing and was having a great time. The organ sounded fabulous, I imagine it would be a lot of fun to be there in the church when he performs. And doesn’t God want us to have a little fun in church now and then?
His second piece was the finale from the Charles-Marie Widor organ symphony. There’s a reason some pieces of music are war horses: they really deliver! And Dake delivered big time. It was an uplifting and splashy way to end the concert.