Review: Chamber Music Palisades Premieres Adrienne Albert’s ‘Cuban Stories’

May 12, 2014 | By Theodore Bell | Category: Classical Music and Opera

Chamber Music Palisades celebrated the conclusion of its 17th season on May 6 with a world premiere of its newly commissioned work, “Cuban Stories: A quartet for flute, bass clarinet, viola and piano” by local composer Adrienne Albert.

Albert’s inspiration came from a recent trip to Cuba with members of the ensemble. She described the piece as programmatic, depicting Cuba changing with revolution. Inspired by the music of the Cuban streets, the composition is buoyed with an indigenous persona borne of the sweetness of the pre-revolutionary times. Flutist Susan Greenberg delivered a delightful tunefulness and innocence in the opening melody over an accompaniment from the ensemble reminiscent of a 1950s jazz cafe. The thematic development was exciting, and the camaraderie of the group came through in the music. Bravo to Albert and the musicians for capturing this bit of sonic essence from the Cuban psyche.

The program opened with two of the earliest pieces by Beethoven and Bernstein. Greenberg and pianist Dolores Stevens were joined by Carolyn Beck for Beethoven’s “Trio for flute, bassoon and piano (WoO 37)” to open the program. Beethoven gave the bassoon an especially strong part inspired by his patron, and Beck was great — the bubbling scales of the Allegro were energetic, her altissimo melody of the Adagio was especially soulful. The variations culminated in a majestic Beethoven ending with the entire ensemble beaming. Greenberg was splendid. Stevens was superb.

Clarinetist Joshua Ranz was magnificent with Leonard Bernstein’s “Sonata for clarinet and piano.” Bernstein’s unique compositional style was evident from the opening motif, even though the piece was his first published work. Ranz was animated as he attacked the angular, often strident statements. His phrasing was exceptional as he and Stevens danced fancifully in odd meters without dropping a beat. Bravo to Joshua Ranz — the most memorable performance of the night!

The closing piece, Alfred Uhl’s “Kleines Konzert” for viola, clarinet and piano, gave flight to Alma Fernandez. Her viola had natural warmth, yet was sophisticated in its demeanor. The ensemble seamlessly tied Uhl’s 1930s sensibilities into a unitary stream of consciousness. The final Vivo was charged to the max — a great ending!

The sounds are good from the Palisades! Congratulations to Chamber Music Palisades on 17 great years, and a tip of the hat to acknowledge their important contribution to the musical culture of Los Angeles.

~Theodore Bell/CultureSpotLA

For information about Chamber Music Palisades, call (310) 463-4388, email info@cmpalisades.org, or visit www.cmpalisades.org.

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