Hashanah is an old tradition celebrating a new year, so it
seemed appropriate that Capitol Chamber Artists’ tribute concert
included new works with older beginnings.
by CCA co-founder Irvin Gilman dated back to World War II,
when flautist Gilman was serving on the U.S.S. Wichita. It
began as a poem, written in Yiddish, lamenting his homesickness.
“I’ve written a number of poems,” he explained, “but this
was the only one I wrote in that language. Why? I have no
idea.” But the answer revealed itself in the performance,
by tenor Dan Foster, who also arranged the song for voice,
piano and violin.
begins with a simple repetition of the title set to an accessible,
folksong-like melody. It gains complexity as it progresses
and benefits from the Germanic sound of its language, which
nicely suits the image, towards the end, of the devil laughing
at the destruction wrought by this terrible war. By the time
the opening repeats to gently close the song, its meaning
is rendered all the more poignant, and the exoticism of the
language (to these English-rooted ears) reinforces the plaint
of this lonely sailor so many years ago.
who also served as pianist for much of the concert, has a
beautiful timbre to his unaffected voice. With Andre Laurent
O’Neil at the piano and violinist Mary Lou Saetta, the ensemble
was nicely balanced and the effect disarmingly touching.
Thibodeau was a flute student of Gilman and has gone to an
impressive career on that instrument. He’s also a composer,
and debuted his Introduction and Variations on Hatikvah
for flute and piano, a work that also has long-ago roots,
beginning in his student days when the variations portion
numbered but one.
is the familiar national anthem of Israel, and served its
respectful variants well. The introduction sets up a tonal
palette that promised crunchy but pleasing complexity—nothing
more outré than Stravinsky offers—and the theme itself, with
a characteristic four-note phrase, was explored using a wide
range of techniques, not least of which were some dazzling
Gilman reasserted his virtuosity, hiding all of the work’s
difficulty behind a confident manner and ear-grabbing tone,
while Foster, back at the piano, was a sensitive partner.
also demonstrated his dexterity as cellist in some of the
program’s ensemble works and soloist in Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei”
(from the only non-Jewish composer of the evening). No instrument
could have suited this work better, and it’s a staple among
cellists. O’Neil played it from memory, and might as well
have been a cantor at work, so affecting was his tone.
sonatas by Salamone Rossi opened the program. Rossi bridged
the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and is credited with
developing the trio sonata form. The works, performed by the
full ensemble, are impressively forward-looking, prefiguring
the sounds of Bach and Vivaldi.
soloed in characteristic works by Ernest Bloch and Joseph
Achron. Bloch’s Baal Shem Suite is a set of three short
works subtitled “Pictures from Chassidic Life.” Saetta chose
the last two of them: “Nigun,” a slow, dramatic recitation
heightened by frequent tremolos in the piano, and “Simchas
Torah,” a lively dance, both of which she played with aplomb.
well known is Achron’s “Hebrew Melody,” popularized by Heifetz,
heard here in an arrangement for violin with flute, cello
and piano. The opening accompaniment is given to the cello,
thus giving the fiddle a sinewy line to enter over. The work
skillfully builds to a dramatic, plaintive climax, and Saetta
showed how much interpretation matters as she took it, at
the finish, from a dramatic high E down to a perfectly paced
and phrased coda.
concert featured the performers in lighter works by Anton
Rubinstein, Fritz Kreisler and others, finishing with Foster’s
performance of two songs from Fiddler on the Roof:
“Sunrise Prayer” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” with a flute-violin-cello
backing that proves these songs have a home on the formal