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FUS: Bach, Schoenberg

J. S. Bach: Partita in B Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1002
J. S. Bach: Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202
J. S. Bach: Coffee Cantata, BWV 211
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21

Vartan Manoogian, violin
Mimmi Fulmer, soprano
Sarah Lawrence, soprano
Brandon Brack, tenor
Paul Rowe, baritone
Jane Peckham, piano
Marilyn Chohaney, flute and piccolo
Jennifer Morgan, oboe
Nancy Mackenzie, clarinet and bass clarinet
Rictor Noren, violin and viola
Karl Levine, cello
ellsworth snyder, conductor
Beverly Taylor, conductor


The second of this year's "Music for a Summer Evening" concerts was excessively long and as usual steamy, but the program, consisting of Bach and Schoenberg, was quite rewarding. Repeating the Partita in B Minor for solo violin he played earlier this season, Vartan Manoogian's tempi seemed overly cautious, perhaps because he was playing from memory, which alas brought him to grief near the end of the work. Memory slips are probably the cruelest trick Fate can play on a musician, and they're nearly as distressing for an audience as for the performer.

ellsworth snyder beat the time for first-rate instrumentalists in the Cantata No. 202 (soprano Mimmi Fulmer and oboeist Jennifer Morgan) and Cantata No. 211 (soprano Sarah Lawrence, tenor Brandon Brack, baritone Paul Rowe and flutist Marilyn Chohaney). The soloists were all spirited, the tempi were on average much too slow and the number of cantatas was too great by one, for it made the first half of the concert an hour and a quarter long.

After that trial, it's no wonder the audience would only reluctantly give up the nice breezes outdoors to return for the most arresting part of the evening, Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21. The cycle of 27 poems by Albert Giraud captures the fantastic, fleeting moods of Pierrot, at once full of puckish mischief and dark, brooding melancholy. The first work to exploit Sprechstimme (intoned speech), Pierrot Lunaire features settings for various instruments to accompany the vocal part. Mimmi Fulmer's impassioned recitation, from memory and in German, was simply stunning. She fully brought the characters and moods of the poems to life. Pianist Jane Peckham handled a demanding score very capably. Rictor Noren, playing both violin and viola, gave an especially outstanding performance. Karl Lavine (cello), Marilyn Chohaney (flute and piccolo) and Nancy Mackenzie (clarinet and bass clarinet) all played beautifully. Beverly Taylor conducted with skill and commitment.

As it happened I sat next to soprano Bettina Bjorksten, who gave the first performance of Schoenberg's groundbreaking Pierrot Lunaire in Madison. It's as exciting now as it was 60 years ago, still too rarely heard. Taylor told me she hopes this ensemble can repeat their first-rate effort in the coming season. I hope so too.

Isthmus, June, 2000
Copyright 2000 Jess Anderson

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