Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Copeland Plays Shostakovich and Then Some

Hurray for the clean and light rendition the Copeland String Quartet gave to the String Quartet No. 43 in G Major, Opus 54, No. 1! No cloying rubatos, just the smooth tones of Eliezer Gutman as he played the theme to the Allegro con brio. In the Menuetto allegretto, Mark Ward’s cello solo was majestic – reminding me of the fugue in the Emperor quartet. The finale presto had lots of wonderful ensemble playing at quite a clip until it suddenly ended in a whisper.

The String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, opus 110 by Dmitri Shostakovich takes us to entirely different musical territory. The five short movements are played without interruption and Shostakovich wrote so that each instrument blends with the others but also has its own share of the theme, which recurred throughout the quartet – especially in the first and fifth movements. The quartet interpreted the sudden changes in style and mood seamlessly while appearing to have fun in the process.

The outrageous speed of the allegro molto demanded both technical prowess and the ability to see the shape of the piece as it unfolded. The allegretto gave them a merry chase as well – Eliezer Gutman had the macabre dance theme and Nina Cottman played double stops on the second and third beats as Mark Ward had the downbeat of the waltz – then Cottman and Ward each had the waltz accompaniments alone.

Tom Jackson and Gutman were perfectly matched in the very fast passages filled with half-steps and usually a fourth apart. How do they stay in tune? The chorale writing of the last two largo movements was beautiful and heart-wrenching. When it ends, you don’t know whether to feel sad or happy. I just know I was happy to hear it and delighted that Delaware has a group that can play these extremely demanding pieces.

See www.copelandstringquartet.com.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Delaware Composer Premiere

The motive which permeates all three movements of Chuck Holdeman’s Quatuor Excentrique is a short melodic phrase reminiscent of a soft, singable Arvo Pärt tune. But the composition premiered at the Second Annual Visual and Performing Arts Festival at West Chester has some Twenty-First Century harshness as well.

The three-movement quartet was based on Holdeman’s 2001 composition, Divertissement, a piece which was commissioned by the Adirondack Ensemble which featured a balaphon – an African xylophone with about a dozen notes.

Holdeman revised the Divertissement and added two other movements that he scored for violin, cello, marimba and bassoon.

The Divertissement retains a classical quartet feeling, with a good blend and balance between the instruments. Sylvia Ahramjian played violin facing the back of the stage to avoid overpowering the bassoon played by Holdeman. Chris Hanning kept the marimba extremely pianissimo through most of the movement, allowing Ovidiu Marinescu’s smooth cello sound to come to the forefront.

The second and third movement kept the same theme, but the second (Mélancolique) was muted and doleful while the third movement (Outré) ended in a jazzy and wild frenzy, with Marinescu and Holdeman playing dueling bassoon/cello and Chris Hanning seemingly playing the entire marimba keyboard at once.

Holdeman commented, “I was very grateful to the West Chester players for this opportunity to revisit the tune which opens the quartet, not only to hear it again, but to permit it to go in new directions. And I always felt the Divertissement was a little too short, and perhaps lonely. Now it has two companion movements."

Delaware artist Wes Meminger was at the premiere and compared the third movement to a work by Piet Mondrian entitled Broadway-Boogie Woogie (see above).

Holdeman is in residence for the rest of September at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts supported by a grant awarded to a Delaware artist by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation of Baltimore.

See www.chuckholdeman.com.

Local group nominated for Latin Grammy

You read the headline and said to yourself that a local samba rock band must have made a CD, no?

Not even close. The wild and raucous group whose CD drew the attentions of judges in the Latin Grammy is none other than the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.

The category in which they are competing is CLASSIC (sic) and the subcategory is Best Classical Contemporary Composition. They recorded a piece by Sergio Assad called Interchange which he wrote for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and the recording was quickly and brilliantly made and mixed by Telarc.

The LAGQ performed the world premiere of the piece live with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in May 2009 and the recording was made just after the performances.

Much credit should go to the gifted and frighteningly intelligent music director of the DSO, David Amado. He has chosen artists and repertory which have not always attracted large audiences, but he has managed to make contacts with young artists and composers.

His orchestra, already good when he took the helm, has become a unified living and breathing entity on its own merit. The players have been playing an extremely wide and demanding range of works under Amado’s direction and this has given them the sort of confidence, prowess and dependability that enticed the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to record a world premiere with them.

Congratulations are due to all involved in this impressive project. And don’t worry, there are still a lot of Latin rockers going to Las Vegas in November, too.

See http://www.delawaresymphony.org/.

See http://www.latingrammy.com/.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Arts-Filled Weekend: A Welcome Back, A Goodbye & A Toast

What a weekend! I tried to get to everything. my shoedazzle.com-adorned feet sure are tired!

First up: Wilmington's Art on the Town on Friday, with great weather and an amazing artist roster. My evening favorite: Yakime Akelá Brown at the Grand Opera House, whose work was described as "colorful, eclectic and textural". They weren't kidding. His sizable works were a profusion of color and strong brush & palette strokes. More than once I sneaked over to touch a piece, so I could feel the energy he created. Also of note: Milton Downing's abstract acrylics at CCAC; Katlyn Cofranciso's wild ceramic work at Red Mohawk that made me cackle out loud; and Randy Ciurlino's digital photography at DCAD's faculty exhibit. It was a melancholy end of Loop, however, as we enjoyed the last show at Red Mohawk Gallery, simultaneously recognizing its 1-year anniversary. Although "the Cool has left the City", the Mohawk promises he himself won't be far away. He'll return periodically to host shows and keep his brand of energy alive in Wilmo. For now, please join me a in a moment of silence—with your fist in the air.

Next, as we soberly honored September 11, we also celebrated the good and the right, heralding the return of the Brandywine Arts Festival. Resurrected by Barry Schlecker and a host of artists and business supporters, the Fest couldn't have asked for a better welcome back: the aisles were packed with visitors, new artists and veteran favorites, in addition to excellent food & drink and a non-profit area that saw great traffic. Among my Artist notables (no in particular order): Mitch Lyons, Joy Davis (Joy Davis Designs), Rick Phillips, Jim Sprinkle, Jannine Lavner (Pick Me jewlery), Erin McNichol, Adopt-A-Bot, Eunice LaFate, Leah Van Rees, and Colleen Zufelt. But there were so many others! Hope you got to check it out.

To close the weekend, I attended Serafin String Quartet's CD Release & Send-Off Party, hosted at Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories in nearby West Grove, PA. It was a veritable Who's Who of Delaware Music, with David Schelat, Grant Youngblood, Mark Hagerty, Brian Stone, and Julie Nishimura among the attendees. The Serafins (violinists Kate Ransom & Timothy Schwarz, violist Ana Tsinadze and cellist Lawrence Stomberg) performed beautifully, as always. I do love to watch Ana play; she displays both intensity and gentle grace in performance. She introduced their first piece, Sachidao, as a "wrestling folk song" from the Republic of Georgia, composed in 1947 by Sulkhan Tsintsadze as part of his Three Miniatures for string quartet. (Tsindaze herself also hails from Georgia.) The short, lively piece was a great opening selection, highlighted with plucking violin strings. They followed with Amazing Grace, by Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. They closed their performance with two movements from Sanzas de Panama for String Quartet by William Grant Still, from the current CD. The first was in a Spanish style and the second an African style, which began with "drum sounds" from the ensemble tapping on their instruments and ended in a fervent jaunt. The Quartet is off to their September 25 premiere in London, but will return to open the Calvary Community Series on October 10. Their CD is available at www.centaurrecords.com.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DAIB Takes a Bite of The Fringe

Fashion and food at Bite of The Fringe.  Photo: Jessica Graae
Performance, fashion, film and extreme cuisine came together for a preview of Fringe Wilmington's festival of the city's boldest and most daring art, coming September five-day festival of the city's boldest and most daring art, coming September 29th to October 3rd. A Bite of the Fringe took over an open space at the Shipyard Shops -- you couldn't miss it, with the fire-twirling performance out front around 7 pm, when we arrived to take in the scene. A line of chef-manned tables made an aisle of fringy food for sampling. Lots of food. The $20 ticket price was more than worth the "free" food alone: Chicken and fish from Paradise Palms; fresh veggies and cheese and cold, fruity summer soup from Fresh Thymes Cafe; Latin meatballs from El Diablo Burritos; lobster spanikopita from Walter's; carpaccio, paper-thin raw beef topped with capers, sea salt and avocados from Union City Grille; duck confit corn dogs with a spicy maple sauce and lemoncello cocktails from Chelsea Tavern; cinnamon curry chicken legs with orange raspberry chipotle glaze and peanut butter pound cake with chick-o-stick infused whipped cream from Copper (opening soon at the coIN loft); and a huge array of whimsical (and creepy!) cupcakes from newcomers Cupcake Kaboom! The tasting was easy -- but this was a competition, and choosing the best (and FRINGYest) cuisine was challenging. The winner? Chelsea Taverns' inarguably bizarre gourmet corn dogs, which are now available on the specials menu of the restaurant.
Cakes from Copper. Photo: Jessica Graae
No time to linger over cocktails and cupcakes -- the show got rolling with the trailer for "In 200 Words or Less," a film about looking for love online (and in Delaware) by Mauro Giuffrida, which will be playing at Theatre N during the festival. Next up, an engaging live performance by Lary Moten, written by Ed Shockley. Going solo for the night, Moten transported viewers back to the day after the Montgomery Bus Boycott started, in a short piece highlighting the indignities, hope and dark humor.
Cakes by Cupcake Kaboom! Photo: Jessica Graae

Last year's 24-hour Extreme Film Festival will be a little different this year: filmmakers will have 48 hours to complete their submissions from script to post-production, but, like last year, will be assigned a mystery prop, location, line of dialog and genre. We screened one of last year's winning entries, the crowd-pleasing "Predators in Pink" (see all of last year's winners here). The short horror-comedy, like all of last year's entries, featured the fuschia feather boas that decorated the room.

Eddy Seger took the stage for a snippet of his one-man storytelling show, recounting his nearly two-month solo adventure canoeing the Estella Dawn the entire length of the Mississippi River. City Theater Company, Delaware's "Off-Off Broadway" theater, offered the short two-person scripted piece "From A to Z" by George Tietze, featuring a fighting couple attempting to communicate with the aid of actor improv games.

The fashion show finale. Winning piece, "My Fringy Lady," on the far left. Photo: Holly Quinn

The night was capped off with the extreme fashion show everyone had been waiting for, and it didn't disappoint. Artists created fashion with everything from recycled Juxtapoz magazines to balloons (and more than a little duct tape!). Models wearing the creations of artists including Joe Sielski, Sara Crawford (Anara Originals), Jeni Barton, David Sanchez (Spaceboy Clothing), Mike Dodson, Reverend Eleven and Queen B, and JulieAnne Cross strutted the room one at a time, each a work of fringy-funky art. In the end, the winner of the night's fashion show was Joe Sielski, with his "My Fringy Lady" piece, inspired by "My Fair Lady" and featuring a wild, towering hat topped in large paper lanterns, accessorized with a Goodwill jacket and a gauzy skirt. We loved all of the fashions, and hope to see this event return next year!

Tickets for the Fringe Wilmington festival are on sale now at www.fringewilmingtonde.org.

-Holly Quinn with Jessica Graae