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Entirely Transcendent

Another day at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival,


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Day six -- Wednesday 4 July 2007

In honor of American Independence Day (and this American greatly appreciated the gesture) today's Coffee Concert featured a charming red-haired Irish lass (and I mean that in only the most complimentary fashion) Mary Hegarty, in a program of songs by American composers. Her very able and sensitive collaborator at the piano was Nicole Panizza. As usual, the scene was the Rose Drawing Room at Bantry House.

Barber's Four Songs, Opus 13, provided great variety among the four of them. Passion, humor and longing are evident to some degree in all of them however, and Ms Hegarty imbued them with those qualities, as well. Her voice is pure of tone, and her diction impeccable, as one would expect, making the words readily understandable. She was obviously enjoying herself: she smiled frequently, and even laughed if the song suggested it, as well as employing body language to make her point.

Two brief songs by Bernstein set to exceedingly passionate poems of Rilke were dramatically rendered. The piano portion was of Bernstein's frenetic nature, and the vocal part not only required vocal agility, but extra attention in the humming/wordless ending of the first one, and exceptional breath control at the end of the second.

The happy surprise was the Seven Poems of Bob Dylan, set to music by John Corigliano. The cycle, titled Mr Tambourine Man was only completed in 2000. The composer says he didn't listen to Dylan's music when it was new, (neither did I) so he came to the poetry with fresh eyes and ears. He constructed an awesome -- if not very lyrical or melodic -- song cycle out of the seven lyrics that he selected for his purpose.

Most folks hearing these songs will recognize at least the titles, even if they've not heard the original songs. Prelude: Mr Tambourine Man featured the pianist simulating a tambourine with clusters of notes and even tapping on the wooden endpiece at the top of the keyboard. It is an extremely challenging piece for both performers, as at times it seemed as though the singer was in one key, and the pianist in another. I can't begin to imagine how difficult that is to do successfully, as they indeed did. Clothes Line is somewhat wistful in nature, a respite between the two bigger works. Blowin' in the Wind became a sort of anthem of the turbulent 70s, at least in the US, if not the world. Its plaintive cries for freedom (especially for certain races in the American south) was especially appropriate on this Independence Day, considering all the battles currently underway on the planet.

That, of course, led directly to Masters of War with its sardonic message. Thinking of wars and revolutions made me ponder the question of how many such events has Bantry House survived in its lifetime? All Along the Watchtower presented yet another kind of battle, adding a thief into the mix. Chimes of Freedom is set to a martial rhythm for the piano, as the singer tells the story of longing for peace.

Postlude: Forever Young was sheer beauty as presented by Ms Hegarty, as it is very reminiscent of the famous Irish Blessing: 'may the sun rise up to greet you ...' Here, Dylan's words were perfectly matched by Corigliano's most lyrical writing, in a benediction suitable for anyone anywhere.

There was no late afternoon concert, so I took myself off to the Parish Hall for the recital featuring two sisters at one piano, another of my favorite musical things. Rebecca and Kirsten Capova produced shimmering and lustrous tones for Debussy's Petite Suite, and Schubert's Fantasie in F minor, before presenting an exuberant rendition of four Slavonic Dances Op 46 of Dvorák -- the numbers 1, 2, 7 and 8. Having misplaced my notes, I can't identify the encore, but it was as charming as the rest of the program.

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Copyright © 6 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland


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