|The Washington Post ran a review March 13 of "Voltaire's World, Bernstein's World," a chamber music concert on March 11 at St. Paul's Church in Washington, D.C. The concert was the first event in the annual President's Festival of the Arts , which this year celebrates the musical comedy "Candide" by American composer Leonard Bernstein and based on Voltaire's novella. See the review below.|
Voltaire and Bernstein, Playing Well Together
From: The Washington Post Date: March 13, 2007 Author: Sarah Hoover There is another bard being celebrated in town this week. The President's Festival of the Arts at Catholic University features a series of lectures, film screenings and round-table discussions on Voltaire and "The Politics of Comedy," culminating in weekend performances of Leonard Bernstein's 1956 musical comedy "Candide," an adaptation of the Frenchman's satire.
To kick off the festivities, the university's music faculty and graduate students offered "Voltaire's World, Bernstein's World" a chamber music concert Sunday afternoon at St. Paul's Church. In the absence of program notes and song texts, Andrew Weaver, assistant professor of musicology, delivered helpful commentary, contextualizing the two very different worlds of the 18th-century writer and philosopher and the 2oth-century American composer.
The program's first half was devoted to music of Voltaire's contemporaries. Unfortunately, much of the ornate delicacy and crystalline clarity of these works was obscured in the overly resonant acoustics of St. Paul's Parish Hall.
Particularly affected were the higher sonorities of soprano Sharon Christman in excerpts from Rameau's "Le Temple de la Gloire," and flutes played by Vanita Jones and Carolyn Oh in C.P.E. Bach's Trio Sonata in E. More successful was Ivo Kaltchev's portrayal of the amusing character sketches in Couperin's "Les Folies Francoises." Performing on piano rather than harpsichord, Kaltchev conveyed finely wrought detail and a wry wit.
Compositions by Bernstein made up the second half of the program. The Rome Trio gave a compelling performance of his early Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. Violinist Jody Gatwood, cellist Michael Mermagen, and pianist Marilyn Neeley rendered the work's lyricism and rhythmic vitality in fine ensemble playing.
Mezzo-soprano Melissa Kornacki sang two arias from "Trouble in Tahiti," warming up into the truly kitschy "What a Movie!" Tenor Kevin Strother made a creditable case for the discarded first ending to "Candide," a lengthy aria called "Get You Up!" Soprano Christman was joined by Mermagen and Kaltchev in an ardent performance of "Dream With Me," a wistful song from Bernstein's incidental music for the play "Peter Pan."
Faculty and students from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music collaborated in a spirit of generosity and partnership throughout the concert. Particularly noteworthy were the superb musical contributions of Mermagen, whether in solo or continuo playing.