“CONNECTING THE MASTERS” at the CELL REVIEW by VINCENT NAUHEIMER

CONNECTING THE MASTERS

Review written by 

Vinnie Nauheimer

 

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.

CLASSICALLY EXPOSED: FROM OPERA to POP…NICOLE ZURAITIS & CLARE MALONEY by VINNIE NAUHEIMER

“From Opera to Pop”

by

Vinnie Nauheimer

Could Charles R. Hale and Seunghee Lee (Sunny), the producers of the series “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell,”  have imagined that they would create an event as mesmerizing as Thursday’s, when they booked Clare Maloney and Nicole Zuraitis to perform “Classically Exposed: From Opera to Pop” at The Cell.  The dictionary defines mesmerizing as: “holding the attention of (someone) to the exclusion of all else or so as to transfix them” and to mesmerize, you need just the right ingredients….these two performers provided that perfect mix.

Matt Baker, Nicole Zuraitis and Clare Maloney

Both Nicole and Clare were classically trained in opera, but each has found her niche in other musical fields: Clare’s focus is on pop, rock and folk music, while Nicole’s is jazz, for which she was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year. Their singing, humor and interaction with the audience–and each other–made for a magnificent evening.

Both women describe themselves as “recovering opera singers” so it was no surprise that they opened the program with an operatic burst, “O Sole Mio,” accompanied by pianist Matt Baker with Clare adding a unique touch…an electric guitar.  (As a side note, Clare mentioned she would prefer singing opera while playing the guitar. Interesting choice and consistent with Clare’s musical direction.)  “O Sole Mio” was an interesting way to open the show, since it had all the qualities of a “show-stopping-tune.”  There was, however, no stopping these two fabulous singers. The pace only picked up.

Matt Baker

In keeping with one of the show’s underlying themes–opera’s influence on pop music–Clare sang “It’s Now or Never,” a song popularized by Elvis Presley in 1960 and taken directly from “O Sole Mio.” Clare was followed by Nicole, who performed a splendored rendition of a 1930’s Larry Clinton song, “My Reverie.” Clinton wrote the lyrics, but the music is based on an 1890 piano piece composed by Claude Debussy. After Pianist Matt Baker was introduced he performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which was enhanced by Nicole’s vocalizations. A musical masterpiece.

Enrico Caruso was arguably the greatest tenor—Pavarotti’s fans might think differently—but certainly one of the greatest. Clare honored this great singer with the song “Caruso,” written by Lucio Dalla in 1986. The song has been covered by many including Lara Fabian, who inspired Clare’s stirring interpretation of the tune.  

Clare and Nicole then introduced singer Elizabeth Tasch who sang a clever rendition of “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Singing the song in full operatic voice, complete with amusing theatrical expressions, she created a humorous montage, switching effortlessly between “Summertime” and a number of popular songs.

Matt Baker, Nicole Zuraitis and Clare Maloney

Nicole and Clare followed with one of the most famous duets in the operatic repertoire and one of the evening’s many highlights, the “Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ “Lakme.”  The evening was moving into high gear.

Clare then chose to honor two women who had a great influence on her and for whom opera was an inspiration early in their careers, Joan Baez and Linda Ronstadt. Clare began the tribute with a song that Baez sang at Woodstock, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” beautifully sweeping into Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou.”

Returning to the theme of opera’s influence on popular song, Nicole, with Matt’s accompaniament, performed “Stranger in Paradise,” from the 1953 show Kismet. The melody is taken directly from Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor and known as “Polovtsian Dances.”

The program closed in grand fashion with Clare, Nicole, Matt and Elizabeth reprising “Summertime.”

It was an exceptional night of song, musical innovation and interaction between the performers and the audience. Thank you, Charles and Sunny for producing the series “Classically Exposed From Carnegie Hall to the Cell.” Last night created a new bar for this series.

Matt Baker, Nicole Zuraitis, Charles R. Hale, Clare Maloney, Elizabeth Tasch and Seunghee Lee (Sunny)

Photos by Vera Maura and Tom Myles. 

 

THE VERONA QUARTET at THE CELL: DAZZLING PERFORMANCE

A wonderful performance in a most “New York setting” last night–The Cell Theatre at dusk–featuring the Verona Quartet, with from left Jonathan Ong, Abby Rojansky, Jonathan Dormand and Dorothy Ro with a special guest appearance by Seunghee Lee, Clarinet/Sunny Kang. A Charles R Hale/Musica Solis presentation. Photo by Tom Myles

The Verona Quartet/Jonathan Ong, Abigail Rojansky, Jonathan Dormand and Dorothy Ro.

VERONA QUARTET: “CLASSICALLY EXPOSED: FROM CARNEGIE HALL to THE CELL”

Join us on Friday, May 10, 7:30pm for the third edition of “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie to the Cell” featuring the Verona Quartet: Dorothy Ro​/Violin, Abby Rojansky​/Viola, Jonathan Ong​/ Violin, Jonathan Dormand​, Cello and special guest Seunghee Lee/clarinet. Another evening of classical music as you haven’t heard it before.

Hailed by The New York Times as an “outstanding ensemble,” the Verona Quartet is dedicated to showcasing the art form of the string quartet and to elevating their music making to convey the poetic narrative of storytelling.

For tickets and info CLICK HERE. The Cell Theatre is located at 338 West 23rd St. Doors and bar at 7:00pm, 

For tickets and additional info click here

Nancy Manocherian​’s “the cell​” presents Charles R Hale Productions/Musica Solis Series, “Classically Exposed.” With artistic director Seunghee Lee, Clarinet​ (Sunny Kang​)

‘CLASSICALLY EXPOSED” at THE CELL with RENATO DIZ and YURI JUAREZ, APRIL 26

Charles R. Hale Productions and Musical Solis present guitarist Yuri Juarez and pianist Renato Diz performing “From Classical to Jazz,” timeless works from the classical repertoire, rearranged for piano and guitar with improvisation sections (Jazz!), as was popular during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

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Nancy Manocherian’s the cell presents a Charles R. Hale Productions/Musical Solis Series”

“CLASSICALLY EXPOSED:  FROM CARNEGIE HALL TO THE CELL”

April 26:  Yuri Juarez and Renato Diz: “From Classical to Jazz”

 

“The cell” is located at 338 West 23rd St in the Chelsea section of Manhattan

CLASSICALLY EXPOSED: FROM CARNEGIE HALL to THE CELL by VINCENT NAUHEIMER

“Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell” 

Opening Night 

by Vinnie Nauheimer

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Photos by Vera Maura 

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 “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell” opened at The Cell this past Wednesday. There could be no greater example of synergy—the interaction or cooperation of one or more elements that produces an outcome greater than its individual components. Who cannot imagine the difference between an unaccompanied operatic aria or piano solo, as opposed to the richness of the same works performed with a full orchestra? When Charles R. Hale and Seunghee Lee (Sunny) got together to collaborate on and produce “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell” you knew the outcome would be synergetic magic. These two share a number of traits: a love of music, storytelling and a strong desire to help young artists achieve their goals. The results of their collaboration were evident throughout the evening.

Manhattan Chamber Players with Clarinetist Seunghee Lee

The program was a rich mixture of classical and contemporary music. In the first half of the program, Lee, accompanied by the Manhattan Chamber Players, beautifully presented three works for clarinet and string quartet. The first work performed was the first movement of Mozart’s “Quintet for Clarinet and Strings,” a historically significant work—it was Mozart’s first quintet for clarinet and string quartet. The piece debuted in 1789 and set the bar for composers to follow. The quintet played the piece with a vibrancy and vitality that I believe would have been worthy of the composer’s praise. Judging by the reaction of the SRO audience, they too would agree.

Michael Katz and Luke Fleming

The next work was Brahms’ “Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet,” yet another classic. Luke Fleming, the artistic director of the Manhattan Chamber Players, gave a brief history of the piece noting that Brahms was so taken with Richard Mühlfeld’s clarinet performances, that Brahms, who was in a compositional slump at the time, was once again able to compose music. He began to focus on works for clarinet and strings. Fleming quipped that most great composers had only written chamber music for string quartets…until they heard a virtuoso clarinetist. The melodious sounds of the first movement were masterfully interlaced throughout the work by this very fine ensemble.

JP Jofre

The final piece of the first segment was the fourth movement of Weber’s “Clarinet Quintet.” Weber, known as the father of romantic opera, like Brahms, befriended a magnificent clarinet virtuoso, Heinrich Baermann and, as they say, the rest is history. The main difference between Weber’s quintet and the above pieces is that the clarinet has center stage in Weber’s work with the quintet supplying the accompaniment rather than equal roles for each.  Sunny was certainly up to the task, brilliantly taking the lead required by this piece, exhibiting the full range of her abilities.

 All three pieces ended in a burst of spontaneous applause both, I believe, for the musicians’ virtuosic performances and the composers’ compositions.

The second half of the show focused on contemporary sounds, which were performed by the Manhattan Chamber Players and Lee, as well as two additional performers,  bandoneonist JP Jofre and pianist Pablo Cafici.

Brendan Speltz and Emily Daggett Smith

Jofre composed the first piece “Tangodromo” with a definitive tango sound, while merging traditional classical instrumentation with a Latin beat. Although adding a piano to a clarinet may not be unusual, Jofre’s new and fresh music allowed the musicians an opportunity to showcase their varied talents in a piece that was “spicy” and full of Latin flavor. Kudos to all the artists for stepping out of what might be a classical musician’s comfort zone to help create a new and exciting piece of music.

The second piece, another example of musical synergy, was the first and second movements of JP’s “Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bandoneon.” Jofre and Lee stated that the work has an additional  movement that they are currently writing. If the third movement is as good as the first and second, this piece is a short way from a classic. Marvelous work and a wonderful performance.

Seunghee Lee, JP Jofre, Charles R. Hale and Luke Fleming

The evening ended with another work composed by Jofre, “Primavera.” The work showcased modern rhythm and sounds with classical undertones. A brilliant performance. 

As an audience participant, I say, “Hat’s off to all for providing a wonderful, joyous evening of music.” If the opening night of “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell,” is an indication of the shows to come, last evening’s performance portends well for the series’ subscribers as well as those who can land a ticket.

All photos by Vera Maura

“CLASSICALLY EXPOSED”: SEUNGHEE LEE, MANHATTAN CHAMBER PLAYERS with SPECIAL GUEST, JP JOFRE

On March 27, 7:30pm, at The Cell Theatre, The Manhattan Chamber Players and Seunghee Lee (Sunny) will be presenting a sampling of a number of the masterworks written for clarinet by Mozart, Brahms, and Weber. The first half of the program will feature the first movement of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, a movement from Brahms Clarinet Quintet and the the last movement of the virtuosic Weber Clarinet Quintet.

The second half of the program will feature tango music, including the works of Piazzolla and JP Jofre. JP and Sunny will perform JP’s Double Concerto, a work that was  written for clarinet and bandoneon and demonstrates the evolution of clarinet music and the instrument’s versatility. The Double Concerto was premiered last  year by JP and Sunny during Sunny’s Carnegie Hall recital.  

For tickets, which are $20, and additional info click here

The cell is located at 338 West 23rd St in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. 

 

To PURCHASE TICKETS for: “CLASSICALLY EXPOSED: FROM CARNEGIE HALL to THE CELL”

“Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to The Cell,” beginning on March 27. Tickets for each of the series’ shows will be $20. You can click on the link of an individual event for tickets:  

March 27:  Season Opener…Seunghee Lee and the Manhattan Chamber Players with special guest, JP Jofre. Works by Mozart, Weber, Brahms and Jofre 

April 26:  Yuri Juarez and Renato Diz: “From Classical to Jazz”

May 10:  Verona Quartet “An Outstanding Ensemble…” New York Times

June 28:  Clare Maloney and Nicole Zuraitis: “From Opera to Pop”

September 27:  Ji in and Wayne Weng, “From Classical to Pop to Hip Hop.”

October 18:  Empire Wild “From Bows to Beats

December 6:  “From Carnegie to ‘the cell with narration by Charles R. Hale and live music, featuring historical Carnegie Hall performances 

SEUNGHEE LEE “SUNNY” at THE CELL, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22

Not only is Seunghee Lee and her production company Musica Solis co-producing the series “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to The Cell” with me, she is also performing on March 27 with the Manhattan Chamber Players and JP Jofre.  But you can hear and meet “Sunny” this Friday, February 22 at “The Cell” when she performs with Empire Wild, a brilliant young group of musicians. This is a free event but you must reserve a seat, which you can do by contacting me at charles@crhproductions.com

A little about Sunny: She was included in the “Top 30 Under 30” by KDFC San Francisco radio. Her albums were chosen as “CD of the Week” and her music is performed on classical musical stations around the world, including WQXR here in NYC. She has collaborated with Deepak Chopra and with renowned Italian film composer, Andrea Morricone, performing his world-premiere arrangement of “Love Theme” from Cinema Paradiso for clarinet and orchestra.

“Now here is a talent… who has a warm, silvery, and woody a tone as anyone could imagine with fast and keen finger work to match… amazing expressive capabilities… positively lovely” – Review by Allmusic.com