Saturday, December 02, 2006

RIAS Kammerchor, Rolando Villazon, Anonymous 4

There's so much going on at the Hall these days...we need 36-hour days this time of year! I'm writing this between two concerts on Saturday, December 2nd (organist Jonas Nordwall and The Atlanta Singers) and November 11th seems like a long time ago. However, it must be blogged that the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin made a splendid Spivey Hall debut with a cappella singing of the most rewarding beauty. I loved hearing their exquisite Brahms, Schubert and Schumann, as well as their arrangements of the two Mahler songs -- and was enthralled to hear the Ligeti works (Night, Morning, and the Three Fantasies after Friederich Hoelderin -- "The Middle of Life," "If From a Distance," and "Evening Fantasy") sung with such precision and richness of expression. (The more I hear of Ligeti -- especially in live performance -- the more I want to hear. I find this so often true with modern and contemporary music -- a live performance often has an effect that a CD recording, no matter how good, cannot.) The Kammerchor and conductor James Wood joined the entire audience for a post-concert reception hosted by The Friends of Spivey Hall, The German Consulate General Atlanta and The German Cultural Center. German Deputy Consul General Lutz Goergens and GCC Executive Director Wolfgang Krueger honored us with their eloquent remarks. I sincerely thank them for their gracious cooperation and for inviting their special guests to attend. This was a musically memorable evening, with an exceptionally warm and happy spirit. I gladly praised the artists: a cappella choral singing of this high quality is rarely heard, and it suits the acoustics of Spivey Hall perfectly. They started their North American debut tour very strongly, and left Spivey Hall with an immediate invitation to return.

Rolando Villazon's recital the next afternoon was indeed a momentous event -- truly one for the Spivey Hall record books. Mr. Villazon was in magnificent voice and sang with intelligence, passion, an inviting personality, and tremendous joy. He is someone who takes enormous pleasure in performing and communicates this pleasure amply to the audience, who cheered him mightily. I enjoyed the dramatic insights of his interpretation of Dichterliebe and had Tosti's "Chanson de l'adieu," snippets from Fernando Obradors' Canciones Classicas Espanolas, and Rossini's "La danza" (one of several encores) ringing in my head for days afterwards. This was simply thrilling singing, and pianist Bryndon Hassman proved a superb collaborator. Mr. Villazon signed autographs for about 90 minutes following his recital and many photographs were taken. We were delighted to welcome guests of Mexican Consulate General Remedios Gomez-Arnau and Instituto de Mexico Executive Director Lucilla Ruvalcaba to this auspicious occasion; they all made Mr. Villazon feel especially welcome in Atlanta, and for this I am especially grateful. The Consulate General and the Instituto generously co-sponsored a post-concert reception with The Friends of Spivey Hall, which was lively, reflecting the excitement of this important debut. I'm delighted to report that Mr. Villazon was very pleased to discover Spivey Hall; he admired its intimate size, its inspiring acoustics and the warmth and attentiveness of the audience. He told me he wishes to return for another recital in a future season, which I consider excellent news indeed! I was on such a high after this event.... Such a sound to savor, such extraordinary communication between artist and audience, and such amazing energy during and after the performance. I'll remember this one.

Spivey Hall is a favorite concert venue for Anonymous 4. They'd been away far too long! They returned on November 18 for their latest program, "Long Time Traveling," featuring two special guests, fiddler Darol Anger and guitarist Scott Nygaard. Anonymous 4 generally perform a cappella, thus collaborating with instrumentalists was something of a departure from their typical concert format. As we might have expected from these marvelous musicians, the program succeeded beautifully. If you liked their mega-chart-busting recording American Angels but haven't heard their latest CD, Gloryland, there's a big treat in store for you. "Long Time Traveling" features many of Gloryland's best tunes. I was especially taken by "Merrick," one of several folk hymns and revival songs in the program (and on the CD), with its refrain "Lord, revive us" that rolled around in my head for days afterwards (you can hear a bit of it on their website,, and the gospel song "Where We'll Never Grow Old." Darol and Scott did some impressive numbers of their own, and the four members of Anonymous 4 -- Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner, and Johanna Maria Rose -- were not so anonymous as they took turns speaking to the audience with grace and congeniality. Their voices blend with uncanny unity, but each has its own distinctive character and color, revealed when they take solo turns. Singing from the heart, they created a lovely rapport with the audience. I just received my first holiday card of the season at Spivey Hall, and (lo and behold) it's from Anonymous 4. Many thanks, ladies, for your splendid concert and your good wishes! We look forward to your next project and the pleasure of another evening in your musical company.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed today's (Jan. 20) concert with Scott Thornburg and Richard Morris. Enjoyed Fanfare for the Common Man when they did it in 2006 and enjoyed it even more today! I saw Aaron Copland conduct his work at Ronald Reagon's second inaugural concert in 1984 and I would venture to say he would thorough enjoyed having heard Scott and Richard play his work today inspite of what Richard might think! Enjoyed all the other works also, especially Richard's Boellmann and Tournemire. Please bring back Scott and Richard next year or sooner! Thank you!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today's concert at Spivey was wonderful! I thought Scott Thornburg was exceptional and organist Richard Morris was also very good as usual! In spite of his age he's kept up with his past work and doesn't seem to be losing any steam! Good for you Richard! I love your repartee with the audience! Keep it up! And Scott, you can do no wrong! Is there a reward for the world's greatest trumpeter?!!! You certainly deserve it! You and Richard seem to be a fabulous team! I'm so happy we have the pleasure of your company here at Spivey Hall!

8:10 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

Thanks to Anoynmous & Anonymous (sounds like an evasive, somewhat shady lawfirm, don't you think?) for your comments in praise of Richard Morris and Scott Thornburg. They're long-time collaborators, having trekked across the country giving dozens and dozens of concerts in cities big and small, living (with some canine companionship) out of a big RV. And yes -- they're a terrific team. On the day of their concert I was in New York City meeting with artist managers and hearing concerts to finish booking our 2007/08 season; thus I was sad to miss this concert, but all reports were glowing, and I sincerely enjoyed their performance last year. We'll keep this duo on our list of artists for a reunion at Spivey Hall.

5:20 PM  

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