Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Music School of Delaware Opens Season with a "Musical Bounty" for Fans

By Christine Facciolo

The Music School of Delaware opened its 2016-17 season Wednesday, September 28, 2016 by gifting its supporters with gorgeous renderings of two of the best loved works for string orchestra: Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major.

Maestro Simeone Tartaglione conducted a string orchestra composed of music school faculty and three invited guests violists Sheila Browne and Marka Stepper and bassist Arthur Marks.

The program opened with Grieg’s Holberg Suite for String Orchestra. Composed to honor the memory of 18th Century Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg, Grieg cast the work in the musical language of the 18th Century. Tartaglione applied a light touch, playing up the individual character of each of the work’s dance-like movements.

Following the brisk opening Praeludium was a stately Sarabande featuring a lovely dialogue between cellists Lawrence Stomberg and Eric Coyne. The Gavotte recalled the formality of the court while the Musette contrasted with a folksong quality. The deeper strings imparted a profound solemnity to the Air, one of Grieg’s most beautiful creations.  The concluding Rigaudon paid tribute to Norwegian folk violinists as it featured some virtuosic bowing by concertmaster Stefan Xhori.

Tartaglione conducted with authority and passion as he led the orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, an intensely personal work that the composer intended as homage to Mozart whom he viewed as the “Christ of music.” The Serenade is in a vastly different league than the Holberg: Rich in harmonic and melodic invention, it is also more abstract in character and hence more enduring.

The Serenade is Tchaikovsky at his brilliant best and Tartaglione and the musicians did it proud with flair, charm and beauty of tone. The orchestra was nimble and agile in its execution of the second movement — the Valse — with its numerous and sudden harmonic shifts. The third movement — the Elegie with its fugal elements — was ensemble playing at its best. The Finale was played with great virtuosity, bringing the concert to a close with rousing applause.

Market Street Music's Season Opens with Pyxis Piano Quartet

Pyxis Piano Quartet (L-R): Jie Jin, cello; Luigi Mazzocchi, violin;
Hiroko Yamazaki, piano & Amy Leonard, viola.
By Christine Facciolo
Pyxis Piano Quartet opened a new season of Market Street Music Festival Concerts Saturday, October 1, 2016 with its usual combination of superb playing and interesting programming. The ensemble consisted of Luigi Mazzocchi, violin; Amy Leonard, viola; Jie Jin, cello and Hiroko Yamazaki, piano.

The bulk of the program featured two works written a century apart: Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major (K. 493) and Richard Strauss’ Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 13.

Luckily for us, when Mozart’s publisher canceled his commission for a series of piano quartets, the composer had already completed the second quartet and it was published by another firm in 1786. K.493 is one of Mozart’s greatest compositions and a classic of the genre with its pristine form, gracious themes and exquisite interplay between instruments.

The first movement — Allegro — begins intensely but offers gracious themes throughout. The Larghetto is a richly conceived slow movement featuring an exquisite interplay among piano and strings. The third movement Rondo — Allegretto — is full of fire and energy with a prominent piano.

Pyxis was most sympathetic to this spacious and outgoing work. Particularly attractive were the gently springy rhythms and exquisite phrasing of the strings in the first movement and Yamazaki’s beautifully shaped phrasing in the Larghetto.

Whereas Mozart wrote his quarter at the height of his musical maturity, Strauss was a mere 20 and very much in the thrall of Brahms when he composed his work. The result is an unusual fusion of musical personalities: the gravitas of Brahms and the fire and impetuousness of the young Strauss. Rich and dark, the work is full of blazing energy.

The playing has all the attributes you would expect from Pyxis: impeccable intonation and fluid tempos that allowed the music to flow in unbroken phrases. The players were individually excellent, as was Mazzocchi’s rendering of the main theme of the Andante and Yamazaki’s voicing of the chords supporting him. But they are at their best when they function as an ensemble, as in the tight Scherzo or the virtuosic interplay of the closing Vivace.

The evening opened sans piano with the playful Mozart En Route (A Little Traveling Music) by Aaron Jay Kernis, past recipient of the A.I. duPont Composer’s Award. Inspired by a letter from Mozart to his father, in which he complains of being jostled during a particularly rough carriage ride, Kerns’ short (three-minute) string trio takes listeners on a whimsical musical trip from Salzburg to Nashville and back. Thematic variation is the rule as familiar-sounding pop styles interweave with the classical tradition with several quotations from Mozart’s Divertimento for Strings, K. 563.


Monday, October 3, 2016

A Review of Rehoboth Art League's 7th Juried Exhibition

By Guest Blogger, Stan Divorski 
Stan Divorski is an artist and avid art and photography collector who lives in Lewes, Delaware. He has a PhD in Psychology from Northwestern University, a Certificate in Painting and Drawing from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC and has studied modern art curating at the Chelsea College of Arts in London.
Kyle Hackett "Forward Restraint"

The Rehoboth Art League’s 7th Regional Juried Biennial Exhibition is a significant step in the League’s continuing evolution to a regional art force. The work is bold, resolutely modern and abstract.

The juror, George Ciscle, focused on the unique and mastery of technique. His emphasis on craft is part of what makes the exhibit current. After decades of the art world emphasizing concept over technique, the quality of execution is increasingly valued. Kyle Hackett’s oil painting “Forward Restraint” was chosen as Best in Show partly because it stood out from the crowd of portraits and partly because of the artist’s command of his medium. In his detached view of the subject, Hackett distresses part of the sitter’s face and leaves part of the background apparently unfinished, reminding us that this is his interpretation of the subject, not a copy of reality. 

Brook Hedge’s “Still Standing,” a deeply emotional photograph of a gradually subsiding barn garnered an Award of Excellence. Achieving her effects “in camera” rather than through post-processing in Photoshop, she demonstrates mastery of her medium. Harold Ross’ “Still Life with Pencil Sharpener and Steel Ball” initially appears to be an example of the “Photorealism” paintings of the 1960s and 70s. In fact, it is a meticulously crafted digital photographic print comprising 30-plus layers of imagery. It bears greater relationship to the Dutch Masters than to photorealism.

Amani Lewis "The Conversation"
“Relevance,” the relationship of art to social issues, is increasingly part of the art world’s language. Amani Lewis’ “The Conversation” examines the current status of African Americans. The central figures in her creation appear to be involved in a calm exchange, but are superimposed over images of angry protest. Protesters can be seen through the figures themselves, illustrating how social upheaval penetrates individual existence. Digitally cut and pasted images printed on canvas worked over with paint evoke the screen printed posters of 20th Century protest movements. 

George Thompson’s painting “Sometimes ‘IT’ Percolates uphill” depicts the permanent and reflexive damage to the earth of individual acts of pollution. He has chosen a jewel-tone palette rather than the “earthier” palette expected. It is up to the audience to decide whether this choice works against the artist’s intent or leads to closer exploration. George J.E. Sakkal’s photo collage “Climate Change: Earth at the Beginning of the End” depicts the detritus of western existence in a small, densely packed image that invites the viewer to practically stick their nose into the swirling mess.

Some current perspectives in contemporary art are not evident here. On display is what
Sondra Arkin "Shadow Drawing"
some would dismissively refer to as “wall art.” Missing are “installations” which become part of or transform the gallery space. The closest examples are Sondra Arkin’s Award of Excellence winning “Shadow Drawing,” and Jihyun Vania Oh’s “Trace My Memory.” Ms. Arkin’s wall-mounted wire sculpture is a delicate spiderweb of geometric forms that creates a shadow drawing on the gallery wall. Ms. Oh’s sculpture of leather, paper and other materials -- resembling a post-apocalyptic gas mask -- snakes up a corner of the gallery, stepping from wall to wall. Her ‘s is the only piece that seeks to directly engage the audience by encouraging viewer interaction. Below the work is a small sign that invites the viewer to “Open me.” Pulling a small metal ring opens a trap door, revealing a pop-up that transformed my understanding of the work.

Missing in their entirety from the exhibition are examples of video and performance art.

It is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million professional artists in the US -- nearly 1% of the population. Taking into consideration the additional number of amateur artists, it is easy to understand the challenge for artists to have their work seen and sold. George Ciscle’s curation demonstrates the value of artists who analyze what has gone before, both in terms of technique and theory, and seek that unique variation that lifts one’s work above the fray. The exhibit is among the best that I have seen at the RAL, but still leaves room to grow.