Last Tempo in Paris – Santa Cruz Chamber Players

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On Sunday, March 1st at Christ Lutheran Church in Aptos, the Santa Cruz Chamber Players performed a superb concert of French music directed by Aude Castagna, Artistic Director and cellist with special thanks to President Sandra Ferguson, Michael Stamp, General Manager and Board of Directors and Staff. The very talented professional musicians who performed were Aude Castagna, violoncello, Shannon Delaney, violin, Lars Johannesson, flute, Sheila Willey, soprano, Susan Bruckner and Michael McGushin piano.

The concert program consisted of Madrigal for flute and piano (1908) by Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941); Piano Trio No. 1 in G minor, Op. 11 (1881) by Cecil Chaminade (1857-1944); Cello Sonata (1915) by Claude Debussy (1862-1918); La captive’ Op. 12 (1832) by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869); Violin Sonata (1917) by Claude Debussy; and Chansons Madecasses (1925-26) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).

Obviously much could be said about this strikingly wonderful undertaking, pages in fact, but due to more obvious limitations, this writer must limit kudos to the many high points. The Gaubert work was highly melodic and pastoral in nature. Both Susan Bruckner and Lars Johannesson worked well in presenting musical lines that were shared and dynamically appropriate.

The Chaminade Trio offered an impressive opening by pianist McGushin, violinist Delaney and cellist Castagna, all of whom performed in fine sync and teaming with impressive musical energy that carried through the four movements. The tranquil opening of the first movement served as a counter balance to the robust ending of the first movement. The gentle string lines were well understood and conceived with the piano offering a more energetic, punctuated texture. Piano chords opened the fourth movement and hinted at Chaminade’s career as a keyboard artist.

Rich, warm cellos lines by Aude Castagna with quick, fleeting piano lines by Susan Bruckner were well balanced dynamically throughout the work. The second movement explored interesting musical ideas with cello pizzicati, strummed and tremolo articulations that to a degree were imitated by the piano.

La Captive by Berlioz offered lovely, expressive lines by very talented soprano Sheila Willey that were delightfully balanced in all musical respects by the piano and cello.

Composed at the end of Debussy’s life, his Violin Sonata offered a conglomerate of melancholy, introspective and a sense of atmospherics, both dark and bright that allowed each instrument to create and present its own musical personality.

This writer supports Debussy’s quote: “Music, by its very nature, is something that cannot be cast into a traditional and fixed form. It is made up of colors and rhythms…” Well put and a well realized performance!

Ravel’s Chansons Madecasses were creatively, if not masterfully realized with soprano Sheila Willey imbuing feeling and emotion into the three controversial poems by Evariste Parny, who claimed to have translated from the 1787 original Chansons Madecasses. Ms. Willey’s vocal talent was awesome, interpreting the poetic phrases with superb musicality! The accompaniment was also up to the musical challenge and supported beautifully!

The origin of the texts remains a mystery, however, they did in fact cause quite a sensation at the premiere. Obviously, because of the explicit sexuality and political sentimentality, the three poems were deemed “shocking” and caused some of the less than tolerant, less open minded to art in the audience to walk out (sign of a great work — recall the Premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring), go home and more than likely explore what the texts had to suggest. Perhaps those who walked out were not French? At any rate, this work was very well received and earned an appropriate standing ovation from the sell-out audience. Here is a quick reminder that the eminent Grammy Award winning Del Sol String Quartet, sponsored by the Santa Cruz Chamber Players will perform at 4 pm on Sunday, April 12 at Peace United Church in Santa Cruz. This will be a concert not to be missed!


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