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Bravo Chameleon!

Scintillating sounds at the
Third Annual Women Composers Concert,


Only in recent times have female composers begun to receive well deserved recognition from the musical establishment. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has won a Pulitzer Prize for her First Symphony and has been an important advisor on contemporary music to Carnegie Hall's artistic administration. Thea Musgrave has won acclaim for her operas and instrumental works. Major orchestras have commissioned female creative artists from Russia, England, and France to write large scale orchestral scores. Yet for virtually all of the nineteenth century and most of the last century, women who composed serious music were largely ignored or operated at the fringes of the art form. Many women established performing careers to help perpetuate their creative work. Many musical gems by these pioneering composers have gathered dust on library shelves. To celebrate Women's History Month (in the USA), Chameleon Musicians presented a sparkling afternoon of works by female composers (both past and present) -- the Third Annual Women Composers Concert on 7 March 2004 at the Josephine S Leiser Opera Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

The scintillating sounds of the Spanish Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano by Louise Pauline Marie Héritte Viardot were quite irresistible. Viardot was the grand daughter of tenor Manuel Garcia (who sang the role of Count Almaviva at the première of Rossini's The Barber of Seville) and the daughter of the legendary contralto Pauline Viardot. Viardot attempted several operatic works with little success. She eventually ceased composing and traveled widely throughout Europe, Russia, and the Far East. On the basis of this score, she was a composer of considerable stature. The Latin-tinged melodies of this quartet's four movements are wonderfully inspired and the composer's sense of musical form is strong and well articulated. (One can easily sense the composer's operatic ambitions. Verdi or Puccini might have envied Viardot's melodic gifts.) The instrumental writing is always gracious and inventive with a particularly expressive and prominent viola part. The Chameleon group's performance had the lightness of a good French desert wine. Violist Richard Fleischman played with a vibrant, fruity tone that suited this music perfectly. The warm, resonant cello of Chameleon co-founder Iris van Eick was a real treat to jaded ears. (Appropriately Ms Van Eick plays a French instrument made by Bernardel Pere -- an instrument with a rich, elegant sound.) Violinist Scott Flavin played with robust precision (on a violin made in Naples in 1780 by Tomaso Eberle). He produced a strikingly light, rounded tone. Pianist Anne Louise-Turgeon (a member of the Duo Turgeon) played with brightness and panache. A delightful musical soufflé in a magical performance!

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Copyright © 23 March 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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