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

OPENING NIGHT: “CLASSICALLY EXPOSED: FROM CARNEGIE HALL TO THE CELL”

Thank for this wonderful review and write up by Vincent Nauheimer:

“Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell”

Last night, 23rdStreet in the Chelsea section of Manhattan was filled with magical sounds emanating from the Cell Theater…a preview of Charles R. Hale Productions and Musica Solis’ “Classically Exposed: From Carnegie Hall to the Cell.”  If last night was a glimpse of what is to come in this seven-event series, which will explore classical music and its relation to pop, jazz, and other musical genre, one word comes to mind for the rest of the season: Anticipation.  

Nicole Zuraitis, Mitch Lyon, Seunghee Lee, Brandon Ilaw, Clare Maloney and Ken Kubota

Charles R. Hale and Seunghee Lee (Sunny) have a common interest, which was clearly established last evening: They both seek to promote young and upcoming musical artists. Their unique ability to both find and attract superb talent was clearly demonstrated in this preview of their 2019 series.  

CLICK HERE FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS AND TICKETS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL EVENT.  

Charles R. Hale

Renato Diz/piano and Yuri Juarez/guitar performed the evening’s opening set. Renato, who has performed throughout the world and who be can be heard on over twenty albums and Yuri, who has recorded a number of albums, and has received the  Latin Jazz Corner Award for album of the year, “Afroperuano” were sensational. Watching the finger work of these two enormously talented musicians was special. Their performance included “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo and “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla, which they arranged with improvisational references to jazz and other musical genres. Brilliant.

Renato Diz and Yuri Juarez

Sunny, a renowned international solo clarinetist and recording artist, led the trio Empire Wild in  “Another Day of Sun” from the movie LaLa Land. The superb performance highlighted the fact that what would normally be considered a classical ensemble—two cellos, a clarinet and piano—is equally at home performing pop tunes. Empire Wild, which consists of cellists Mitch Lyon and Ken Kubota and the multi-instrumentalist Brandon Ilaw captivated the audience with their virtuosity. Ken played his cello in ways that would have made Casals proud. He played it across his lap like a guitar, plucked the strings and played it with a bow. Mitch Lyon has an affinity for folk music and arranged a beautiful piece with Brandon and Ken’s accompaniment. The versatile Brandon sang a number of tunes, played the piano, cajon, and kept time with a band of bells around his ankle. The three Julliard graduates performed brilliantly and have bright futures. 

Brandon Ilaw, Mitch Lyon and Ken Kubota

Capping off a mesmerizing evening with a grand performance were Clare Maloney and Nicole Zuraitis, who will, from my point of view, be forever known as the “Cell Sopranos.” Both Clare and Nicole were classically trained and have branched out to become versatile performers. Nicole, nominated for a Grammy in 2019, is a singer songwriter and Clare has been hailed by audiences around the world for her magnificent voice and range. Clare led off with the flirtatious “Musetta’s Waltz” (Quando m’en vo) from Puccini’s La Boheme.  Each lady in turn sang a popular song with its roots in opera and then Nicole did a solo rendition of “O Solo Mio.” The evening ended with a stirring performance of the “Flower Duet” from Delibe’s opera Lakme. Dame Joan Sutherland would have enjoyed listening to these two women sing.

Clare Maloney and Nicole Zuraitis

It was a beautiful evening of musical entertainment made more memorable by the interactions of the artists with the audience. The “cell” is a cozy intimate theatre, where there is little space between the artist and the audience  Does that work? It certainly does. The audience came to their feet several times during the performances. In addition, spontaneous applause broke out in the middle of a number of the instrumental solos. 

Anticipation for the future shows in this series was palpable and I, and I’m sure the entire audience, anxiously await the next performance.  Thank you to Charles, Sunny Lee and all of lasts night’s performers for a memorable evening.  

CLICK HERE FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS AND TICKETS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL EVENT.  

All photos by Vera Maura.