A Far Cry: Lorelei

May 18, 2019

in Concerts


A Far Cry
Lorelei Ensemble
Jordan Hall
Symphony Hall area, Boston
May 18, 2019 8:00pm

A Far Cry:
Violin: Annie Rabbat, Gabriela Diaz, Jae Cosmos Lee, Jesse Irons, Liesl Doty, Liza Zurlinden, Megumi Lewis, Miki-Sophia Cloud, Omar Chen Guey
Viola: Caitlin Lynch, Frank Shaw, Jason Fisher, Sarah Darling
Cello: Audrey Chen, Andrea Lee, Michael Unterman, Naturu Joy Yanai
Bass: Ha Young Jung, Karl Doty

Lorelei Ensemble:
Artistic Director and Alto: Beth Willer
Soprano: Sarah Brailey, Sonja Tengblad, Meg Dudley
Mezzo-Soprano: Sophie Michaux, CHristina English, Clare McNamara
Alto: Katherine Growdon, Emily Marvosh

Georg Philipp Telemann
Wassermusik: The Tempest

Kate Soper
Here Be Sirens: O Sailor

Lili Boulanger
Arr. Rafael Popper-Keizer
Les Sirenes

Jessica Meyer
I long and seek after

Caroline Shaw
Arr. Karl Doty
I’ll Fly Away

Arr. Jonathan Woody
Wayfaring Stranger

Arr. Adam Simon
Sinner Man

Kareem Roustom
Hurry to the Light
I. Penelope; II. Circe’s Instructions to Odysseus; III. Penelope and the Phantom; IV. The Sirens; V. The Ghost of Odysseus’ Mother; VI. Interlude (Penelope Questions Odysseus); VII. The Reunion of Penelope and Odysseus

Thomas Seddon (1821-1856), 'Penelope'

Thomas Seddon (1821-1856)

An intoxicating journey with the daring and venturesome string wizards of A Far Cry, accompanied by the hypnotic Siren singers of the Lorelei ensemble.

What an amazing combination these two groups made in this composite program evoking and celebrating themes from the Odyssey myth. A wonderful selection of new compositions arrayed the program, each dipping into Odysseus-ness in a slightly different way.

Things got off to a rollicking start with The Tempest section of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Wassermusik with enough ferocity and gusto to rip the roof off of any staid dwelling. This was really the prime opportunity for the Far Criers to show their stuff, which is considerable. In their Goldberg Variations concert in February, I heard them, together and in solos, show their virtuosity all over the place. In this concert, after the Telemann, they generally took a seat slightly behind the Loreleis, providing stable support and texture throughout. But, here, in the Telemann, they really ripped.

The first half of the program contained, in addition to the Telemann, two original compositions, Here Be Sirens:O Sailor by Kate Soper and I Long and Seek After, based on poems by Sappho, by Jessica Meyer. As well, four “arrangements” were included, but they were so extensively and interestingly “arranged” that one might just as easily have identified them as original compositions; they included Rafael Popper-Keizer’s sweepingly romantic arrangement of Lili Boulanger’s Les Sirenes, Karl Doty’s arrangement of Caroline Shaw’s I’ll Fly Away, Jonathan Woody’s arrangement of the traditional tune Wayfaring Stranger, and Adam Simon’s ambitious and energetic arrangement of the traditional Sinner Man.

All of these formed an interesting, quite holistic array of explorations, several of which hovered on the Sirens theme and which gave the Loreleis ample room in which to demonstrate their considerable skills. None of these compositions was particularly straightforward and the singers were frequently put upon to hold, as they did beautifully and flawlessly, endless instances of parallel seconds. Much of this called to mind the haunting beauty of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Lux Aesterna made notably famous in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the Loreleis made those reverberations immediate and vivid, capturing those intentionally jarring harmonic paradoxes with remarkable accuracy, delicacy and gracefulness.

The second half of the program was entirely devoted to Kareen Roustom’s seven part Odyssean opus Hurry to the Light commissioned by A Far Cry and The Lorelei Ensemble and given its world premiere at this concert. This majestic work called forth the considerable talents of both groups, and with a coherent set of tonal idioms wove the Odyssean myth over with skeins of hauntingly interlaced melodies that created an overall sense of mysterious longing.

Some particular notes on the program:
Georg Philipp Telemann, Wassermusik: The Tempest
Ferocity prevails. An energetic concerto grosso. Wonderful coordination, and the development section moves! This is indeed a voyage – passionate, frenzied, furious.

Kate Soper, Here Be Sirens:O Sailor
Wonderful interlocking embellishments within closely wrapped tonalities, like an unraveled Lux Aeterna by Ligeti. Beautifully set. Clarion calls abound. Frighteningly accurate meshed tones.

Lili Boulanger, arr. Popper-Keizer, Les Sirenes
Orchestral – languid, romantic cascades. The choral travels over the orchestral like water, sliding off rocks at low tide. Orchestral tide pools, with mezzo solo, glisten. A lot of slippery strings, evoking the atmospheric sense of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe. And then it feels almost like a Wagnerian chorus riding over a French romantic tidal current. Finally, the light prevails, the mist rises, the way is seen.

Jessica Meyer, I long and seek after
Apparently, just one movement of a seven movement piece, based on poems by Sappho of which only poetic fragments survive. Rippling cross tonalities, vibrating oppositions. A low yearning crow reaches upwards. Sighs, longings, yearnings: I long, and seek after. Restive appeal: chirping and cawing over I long, repealed.

Caroline Shaw, arr. Karl Doty, I’ll Fly Away
A single violin appeals across strings, then the other strings follow. Wonderful opposition of tonal simplicity of voices against cross-stringed amorphousness. A superb blossoming richness of the voices offset by pizzicato simplicity. A cello cross strings, evoking the G major Bach cello suite, then three voices pitched together in lovely appeal, followed by the violins swiping their cross strings skywards.

Traditional, arr. Jonathan Woody, Wayfaring Stranger
Woven waves of voices leaping upwards. I’m going home, with home repeated like a beacon. All of these Lorelei voices are striking! I’m going there to meet my sister. Much vocal wandering, adding modulation to the traditional tune. Pure, clear, wonderful.

Traditional, arr. Adam Simon, Sinner Man
Strong, sharp opening: a frenzied appeal from each set of strings. The jazz transition has a wonderfully animated feel. Energetic and agitated, there’s a subtle balance between bass themes. A bit too complicated in parts, an ambitious attempt to monumentalize, when, as in the jazz section, the simple evocation of energy and rhythm works so well. The chorus claps on rhythm, while echoes of something like the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto appear in the strings. It all goes crazy until the vocalists respond and it all ends in a massive traffic jam.

Kareen Roustom, Hurry to the Light
A severe pluck introduces the choral chant. The rich contralto: by torchlight. Serenity in the strings, with mythic clarity alongside.

Contrast between frenzied strings and insistent durability of the voice. They speak an ancient dialect: Homeric Greek. This man will never travel to his home again! Determined, forceful, the frenzy of the strings beneath the vocal dictates of fate.

Note: How many pieces get written for string chamber orchestra and female chorus?

A falling female voice comes from the rafters. Choral declaration of fate against the turbulent eruption of the strings. Sloppy, sliding cellos – seaweed on rocks. Swirling tides in violins. The undercurrents of the cellos and basses. The chorus heats up, urgently beckoning.

Plaintive call of Penelope and to stop her grief… The lyrical longing paced by the durability of the quest: patient violins. Declarations of Penelope’s faithfulness. The aching cellos, the fearful tremolo.

Sliding strings – ships across the glassy sea. A bird hovers overhead, the sun beats down, the hint of breeze. The Sirens sing, and they are irresistible. Strong clarion string calls. Poignancy prevails. A very evocative piece. Voices simulate the wind.

All the singers are incredible.

Frenzied eruptions from violins, with viola pairings. A simple hymn of determination, expanding upon the urgency beneath: in time to come.

The strings devolve as though into an eddy. She broke out crying and threw her arms around him. The durable appeal, the sonorous significance of devotion.

Wonderful instrumental music flawlessy performed. The pure clarion distillation of voices and a single repeted cello note. And that one note played beautifully.. A violin harmonic almost like a flute. Then in harmony with the meeting of the voices. A spiritual camp meeting by the ocean.

– BADMan

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