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FUS: Villa-Lobos, Mozart, Paert

Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
Mozart: Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, K. 448
Arvo Pärt: Pari Intervallo
Arvo Pärt: Miserere

Mimmi Fulmer, soprano
Karlos Moser, piano
Melinda Moser, piano
Eva Wright, organ
Karen Bishop, soprano
Patricia Crowe, alto
John Webber, tenor
Mark Schmandt, tenor
Harry Johansen, bass
ellsworth snyder, conductor


A full house was on hand for the opening of this summer's six-event Unitarian concert series. The program was adventuresome, even daring. Predictably, with such challenging repertory, various things went wrong, including a few near-disasters, but on the whole the music was well served by the performances.

Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 got a heartfelt reading by soprano Mimmi Fulmer. She managed a variety of colors, but the warmth and sensuality the piece evokes were only partially realized. Finding eight cellists equal to the task of the accompaniment, especially in the summer, is precarious enough, surely, but the need for absolutely perfect ensemble is even more daunting; the glitches were mercifully few.

Karlos and Melinda Moser undertook Mozart's Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, K. 448, a wonderful piece if ever there was. It went well despite moments of flagging tempo in the slow movement and of slap-dash in the third.

The balance of the program was devoted to music by Arvo Pärt. Serving as a prelude to the main offering, organist Eva Wright gave a straightforward, clear account of Pari Intervallo (1976). The big piece was Pärt's Miserere (1989, revised 1992). I confess being concerned beforehand because it is really supremely difficult, especially for the solo singers, though it is no picnic for the chorus or small instrumental ensemble either.

What went well was that the group stayed pretty well together under the direction of ellsworth snyder, though he occasionlly raced through the long silences that punctuate the vocal line. Of the solo singers, bass Harry Johansen, soprano Karen Bishop and alto Patricia Crowe were the most secure, Johansen especially. The mostly nonprofessional Unitarian choir handled their tricky parts fairly well, and the instrumental ensemble (oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, tympani, percussion, electric bass, electric guitar, and organ) did very well indeed.

For the singers, finding the proper pitches on which to enter, often on a discord, is a real bear, and tenors John Webber and Mark Schmandt crashed quite painfully more than once. Nevertheless, the piece was performed reasonably well, considering the forces available. Most of all, since it's an overwhelmingly beautiful and serious work, I respect the attempt to make what I'm pretty sure is its first Madison hearing memorable. That it was.

Isthmus, June, 1998
Copyright 1998 Jess Anderson

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