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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Women's Philharmonic Concert

From:

Susan Juhl <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 27 Mar 2000 21:03:52 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (90 lines)

Here's the review of the latest Women's Philharmonic concert from the San
Francisco Chronicle:

   Thwarted Composer's Intense Work
   Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic
   Monday, March 27, 2000

   The history of music contains all too many cases of gifted women
   thwarted by gender politics.  But few are as complex and fascinating
   as that of Amy Beach, whose Piano Concerto got a brilliant performance
   Saturday night by JoAnne Polk and the Women's Philharmonic.  A child
   prodigy as a pianist and composer, the young Amy Marcy Cheney found
   her musical life curtailed after her marriage at 18 to a conservative
   and much older Boston doctor transformed her into Mrs. H.H.A.  Beach.
   She continued to compose, but married life restricted her contacts
   with the musical world and cut her concert career almost to nil.

   The Piano Concerto, which she premiered with the Boston Symphony
   Orchestra in 1900, represented one of her rare public appearances,
   and there's no mistaking the piece's emotional urgency or its air of
   making up for lost time.

   Its four movements are packed with incident -- beautifully shaped
   melodies (several of them drawn from her songs), a forthright rhythmic
   profile and a vivacious and sometimes contentious interplay between
   soloist and orchestra.  The piano part is as flashy and demanding as
   a virtuoso vehicle calls for, but there is also an element of poignancy
   about it -- a sense of constraint that seems to shadow even the work's
   most extroverted passages.

   For 1900, the concerto is a fairly conservative work stylistically
   -- Beach's models are the midcentury showpieces of Chopin and Liszt,
   as well as Tchaikovsky's First Concerto, which she would have heard
   in Boston.  But it is hard to resist the inventiveness or emotional
   subtlety of her writing.

   Polk, who is in the midst of recording Beach's complete piano works
   for the Arabesque label, combined with music director Apo Hsu in an
   enormously vital, imaginative reading.  Her playing was expansive in
   the opening movement, brittle and keen in the delightful scherzo.
   She brought a light touch to the foreshortened slow movement and
   fearless technical panache to the showy conclusion.

   The concert at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts also featured two
   works by the African American composer Florence Price, who died in
   1953.  "The Oak," a broad and wonderfully dark tone poem, and "The
   Mississippi River Suite" both date from about 1934, although the
   historical details of both are sketchy -- Saturday may even have
   marked the world premiere of "The Oak."

   It is, on first hearing, by far the more interesting of the two, a
   gleaming and slow-moving stretch of music whose thick orchestration
   may owe something to Price's career as an organist.  Built around a
   few distinctive melodies, the piece proceeds with unassailable grandeur
   and depth.

   "The Mississippi River Suite" is what its title says -- a collection
   of familiar tunes (including "Go Down Moses," "Deep River" and "Nobody
   Knows de Trouble I've Seen") stitched into a sort of musical quilt.
   The orchestration is often ingenious, and Price combines the melodies
   in surprising ways, but the overall effect is still rather thin.
   The most affecting moment was principal cellist Nina Flyer's lustrous
   solo rendition of "Deep River," answered by concertmaster Iris Stone.

   The world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's zippy, enchanting "Fanfare
   Ritmico" started the concert off with a bang.  Written for the
   orchestra as one of a series of commissioned fanfares, Higdon's score
   is a brisk, sharp-edged concoction, full of rhythmic pizzazz and
   blunt orchestral writing (aside from one splendidly played solo for
   the concertmaster).  Hsu led the orchestra in a magnificent performance.

   ORCHESTRA SCHEDULE

   Five world premieres, including concertos by Nina Kotova and Chen Yi
   and fanfares by Libby Larsen and Margaret Brouwer, are among the
   highlights of the Women's Philharmonic's 2000-01 season.

   The season under music director Apo Hsu begins September 30 with
   Kotova as soloist in her Cello Concerto.  Brouwer's Fanfare and her
   Symphony No. 1, "Lake Voices," are also on the program.

   The November 24 concert will feature Linda Tillery and the Cultural
   Heritage Choir.  Terrie Baune will be soloist for Yi's Violin Concerto
   on March 10.

   The season concludes May 13, 2001, with Melinda Wagner's Flute Concerto
   (Bonita Boyd, soloist).  Call (415) 437-0123 or visit
   http://www.womensphil.org/

Susan

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