CONNECTING THE MASTERS
Review written by
In the musical “The Music Man,” professor Harold Hill only promised music. In the sixth installment of the series Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell, co-producer Charles R. Hale promised music…but he and Jiin Yang/violin and Wayne Weng/piano put together a wonderful evening of music and storytelling, an evening that was at once both enchanting and educational.
Co-producers Seunghee (Sunny) Lee and Charles R. Hale with Jiin Yang and Wayne Weng
The evening’s theme centered on classical music, however, the intent was to demonstrate how classical music has influenced and been influenced by different artistic genre, i.e. literature, cinema, poetry, jazz, rock, hip hop and more. Charles added a special touch, weaving music and history—through spoken word and beautifully timed audio video—and in doing so “Connecting the Masters.”
The show opened with the Toys’ 1966 pop hit “Lover’s Concerto.” The melody, which was originally attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, was written by a Bach student, Christian Petzold. Jiin and Wayne followed with a delightful performance of Petzold’s Minuet in G Major, leaving no doubt of “Lover’s Concerto’s” roots.
When Charles suggested that Radio Head, Sweet Box and even Leo Tolstoy were connected to classical music, audible sounds of wonder arose from the audience. Expounding on this connection, Jiin and Wayne played Bach’s “Air on G String” followed by Sweetbox’s European hip hop hit, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” It was obvious from the opening that Sweetbox’s background music originated with Bach.
Continuing with the night’s theme, Charles related that the song “Tonight We Love,” a 1941 hit song by Tony Martin, came directly from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 and Frank Sinatra’s 1945 hit “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” directly from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2. Wayne followed with the very popular main themes from both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff’s works. Charles presented a recording of another post war song by Perry Como called “Till the End of Time,” which was based on Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise. One of the highlights of the evening was Wayne’s stirring performance of this Chopin work.
The evening moved from classical music’s influence on pop tunes to the influence of literature on classical music. Perhaps the author whose works have most influenced classical music is William Shakespeare. One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, “Romeo and Juliet,” has spawned several beautiful musical pieces, including a ballet by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Jiin and Wayne performed an emotionally charged work from the ballet, which is commonly referred to as “Montagues and Capulets.”
Charles’ compelling narration continued. He related how one of the members of the band Radio Head wrote the song “Exit Music” for a 1996 film version of “Romeo and Juliet.” The audience listened to the opening lines of the song, performed by Radio Head, and then Charles read the remaining lines of the song, creating an interesting and compelling juxtaposition of music and the spoken word.
How are jazz, pop and classical music connected? Charles suggested that George Gershwin must have been very familiar with Maurice Ravel’s Violin Sonata when he, Gershwin, wrote “Summertime,” a jazz standard. Jiin and Wayne then performed Ravel’s Violin Sonata, an evocative and bluesy piece for violin and piano. It was quickly evident that Gershwin was likely influenced by Ravel’s work.
Jiin Yang/violin, Wayne Weng/piano and Charles R. Hale/narrator
The penultimate section of the evening featured classical music and cinema. Music from two films, Dangerous Moonlight and Schindler’s List were presented…an audio version of “Warsaw Concerto” from Dangerous Moonlight, followed by Jiin and Wayne’s performance of the main theme from Schindler’s list. The classical music/cinema section closed out with Jiin’s magnificent solo of a caprice from John Corigliano’s film “Red Violin.”
All good things must end and after Charles read a segment from Leo Tolstoy’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” a passionate story of lust, marriage and music, Jiin and Wayne presented a bravura performance of the “Presto” from Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata.”
Many thanks to Seunhee Lee (Sunny) and Charles R. Hale for producing this magnificent show and for the entire series. With each performance exceeding the previous one, we can only wait for the next one in the state of anticipation. Next up, Empire Wild, October 18, 7:30pm at The Cell. For tickets and information CLICK HERE
Photos by Vera Maura.