Ensemble Monterey has chosen a new venue for its 2019-2020 season Monterey Peninsula concerts — First Presbyterian Church of Monterey. With its larger sanctuary, theatrical quality lighting, professional choral risers (with very comfortable seats), fine acoustics and adequate parking, it is a most excellent choice. Maestro John Anderson for this occasion had constructed a very satisfying program showcasing some of the finest musicians from our area, plus some outstanding soloists.
The concert began with an exciting performance of a 20-century work, Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello by James Chaudoir. Oboist Peter Lemberg joined violinist David Dally, violist Susan C. Brown and cellist Margie Dally to give us a performance that abounded in attractive writing for the instruments and dazzling virtuosity by the performers that held our attention throughout. Peter Lemberg’s lovely sound and vitality demonstrated how satisfying it is to add a woodwind instrument to the string quartet genre.
The concert continued with a heartfelt performance by baritone Burr Cochran Phillips and the string quartet of Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach, on the poem of Matthew Arnold. It is a sensitive and moving poem that I found myself reading over and over, each time discovering subtle meanings I had missed previously. Not only was Phillips’ pronunciation absolutely superb, but his expressive dynamic nuances of dynamics and shaping of phrases, right up to the dramatic, hushed pianissimo of the ending, had a powerful cumulative effect.
John Anderson always surprises me with new repertoire I didn’t even know existed, and the next work on the program, Partita, by Vittorio Rieti, surprised me and exceeded my expectations. The work is scored for chamber orchestra with a prominent part for harpsichord featuring keyboardist Leah Parker Zumberge, who gave us such a remarkable performance of Stephen Tosh’s piano concerto a few years ago. Zumberge was at the top of her form in this brief multi-movement work. Although I want to point out one of the movements, Fuga cromatica, as especially satisfying, the work is written effectively for the instruments and made the players sound great.
After intermission Cheryl Anderson, Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Cabrillo College, introduced us to a guest student ensemble, Con Brio, from the Cabrillo Youth Chorus performing a set of three Handel songs. We heard from these young musicians lovely expressive singing. It was very moving.
The concert ended with Ensemble Monterey and Cantiamo Cabrillo joining to give a a powerful and meaningful performance of Psalm 112 – Laudate pueri Dominum by Georg Friderick Handel and featuring coloratura soprano Lori Schulman. Schulman’s fabulous voice is capable of zipping through the most challenging melisma and also using her very flexible voice to charm us in more subtle text with her elegant shaping of phrases.
Bravo, Ensemble Monterey and Cantiamo Cabrillo!