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The music of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) -- sister of Felix -- is steeped in the grand nineteenth century romantic tradition. Her Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano bears the strong influence of Beethoven. (That master's Third Piano Concerto and Archduke Trio are clearly felt in Fanny Mendelssohn's score.) There is passion and urgency in this music. The slow movement is grounded in a beautiful, flowing romantic melody -- inspiration worthy of Schumann. The stormy tempest of the finale anchors the music firmly in the romantic era. The melodic invention is always first rate. Fanny Mendelssohn's music deserves greater exposure. She was a composer of talent and real stature. Flavin, Van Eick, and Turgeon played this intense work con amore. Van Eick's elegant phrasing of the beautiful theme in the second movement held the audience spellbound in the elegant salon ballroom of the Leiser Center.

Amy Beach (1867-1944) was a prolific composer. Her Gaelic Symphony was admired by no less than Dvorák. She was also a highly regarded concert pianist and teacher. All of her music is marked by clarity, vibrant instrumental colors, and a French-tinged view of romanticism. Three of her many songs -- June, A Mirage and Stella Viatoris -- were spiked with impressionistic harmonies, wide vocal leaps, and surging melodic lines. Soprano Christina Pier revealed a large, strongly focused soprano voice. (Pier sings Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Santa Fe Opera in Summer 2004.) She gave an animated, vocally lustrous performance of these marvelous Beach miniatures. Her diction, however, was not always clear. Turgeon's lightly shaded rendering of the piano line was a delight. (Beach's Piano Concerto is a virtuoso showpiece that awaits the attention of a supremely gifted pianist.)

The song Such be the thought (to a text by Walt Whitman) by composer Harriet Bolz (1909-1995) was written for the American Bicentennial in 1976. While the text is celebratory in tone (quite different from Whitman's war poems), the music is remarkably restrained and dissonant at times. This work was written in the wake of the Nixon-Watergate era and reveals the composer's ambivalence at a time when American democracy was threatened. This contradiction between music and text is highly effective. Bolz's subtly, lyrical idiom and uneasy musical pulse both deconstruct and illuminate the text. (Perhaps this is a musical parable for our present time as well.) Christina Pier's voluminous voice and coolly dispassionate approach to the text struck magic. The pristine flute of Christine Nield provided piquant commentary to the vocal part. The insistent chords in the piano line were presented commandingly by Turgeon.

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


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