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Posts Tagged ‘Lise de la Salle’

Brilliant Chamber Music at Peoples’ Symphony Concerts

Posted on: December 20th, 2015 by Art Leonard No Comments

This afternoon Peoples’ Symphony Concerts presented a brilliant chamber music program at Town Hall in Manhattan.  Lise de la Salle, a marvelous young pianist, collaborated with string players from The Knights, a flexible chamber ensemble, to present a very “multicultural” program of music by Martinu, Mozart, Jedd Greenstein, Takemitsu, and Ravel.

Everything was impressively played, but what stays with me the most is the awesome Ravel Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, performed with great passion by de la Salle and the Jacobsens –  Colin (violin) and Eric (cello).  There are many ways one can play this.  I’ve heard it done with crystalline clarity and lightness, with classical grace, and with surging romanticism.  This performance followed the romantic route, with big tone from all three players, and it really swept me away emotionally.  What a great finale to the program!

The concert started with Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola by Bohuslav Martinu, performed by The Knights violinist Guillaume Pirard and violist Kyle Armbrust.  This is not an easy work to penetrate.  “Madrigals” as a title suggests something archaic and lyrical, but I don’t think one could use either of those words to characterize these pieces, which I found quite enigmatic.  Then Pirard and Armbrust were joined on the stage by Eric Jacobsen and de la Salle for a dynamic performance of an old favorite, Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478, which I’ve known and loved since I was a teenager.  This brought out a great feeling of nostalgia for me.  This is definitely one of Mozart’s finest chamber music pieces, one great tune after another, played by these musicians with enthusiasm and technical precision.

The second half of the concert was planned as one continuous span with no real break between the pieces.  First was Greenstein’s “Be There” for violin and piano, this time with Colin Jacobsen and de la Salle.  The piece is a moderately-paced moto perpetuo, a long lyrical line unfolding as if in one long breath, dying down at the end as Jacobsen wandered away from the piano to a separate music stand to join Pirard in Takemitsu’s “Rocking Mirror Daybreak” for the two violins.  I found this piece the most difficult to penetrate, having a hard time finding any sort of thematic line running through it.  As it faded away, de la Salle began the Ravel Trio as Colin Jacobsen returned to sit next to Eric in time for the first sustained notes of that piece.

This was certainly one of the most memorable Peoples’ Symphony Concerts programs I’ve heard, and I hope they will continue to include such imaginative chamber music programs on their series.  In structure it was somewhat like the Music from Marlboro programs, presenting contrasting chamber works for different combinations of instruments on one program — also like the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center — and I think this is an ideal way to present chamber music.  Town Hall is also an excellent venue for this, with excellent acoustics and great sight lines from anywhere in the house.  Large enough to hold an substantial audience, yet intimate enough to capture the sense of closeness on which chamber music thrives….

Peoples’ Symphony Concerts Launch 114th Season with Piano Recital by Lise de la Salle

Posted on: October 14th, 2013 by Art Leonard No Comments

The Peoples’ Symphony Concerts organization launched their 114th season on Saturday night, October 12, 2013, presenting a piano recital by Lise de la Salle in the newly-renovated auditorium at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan.  Miss de la Salle, who has play previously at PSC, offered a program of Bach-Busoni, Debussy, and Schumann, with two encores of Liszt elaborations of songs by Schumann and Schubert.

I first became acquainted with de la Salle’s playing through her recordings on the Naïve label, and quickly became a fan – a status confirmed the first time I heard her play at PSC.  This Saturday’s program fell a bit short of that standard, I thought, although it is difficult for me to put my finger on the reason why.

She had originally designed the program to present Schumann in the first half and Bach-Busoni and Debussy in the second half, but then after the programs had been printed informed the presenters that she was flipping the order.  Good idea or bad idea?  It meant she opened with J.S. Bach’s Chaconne for Unaccompanied Violin, as elaborated into a virtuosic piano piece in the grand late romantic manner by Ferruccio Busoni, and that was a good opener, but I found her performance of it to be very heavy-handed.  The notes were all there, but the spirit of Bach’s original seemed buried under the busy-ness of the Busoni arrangement.  Of course, one could argue that this was entirely in keeping with the Busoni half of this forced partnership, but I’m not so sure.  I’ve heard Busoni performances that were more fleet, more supple, than what I heard on Saturday night.

The following Debussy Preludes, a selection of six, was much better.  In fact, I thought in retrospect that this was the most successful selection on the program, because the delicacy I found lacking in the Bach-Busoni was very much present here, and appropriately so for the music.  I would not want to stereotype Miss de la Salle, a Frenchwoman, in terms of repertory, but this very French impressionist music seemed to play to her strengths as a colorist.

The Schumann after intermission was all well-played, I thought, but I didn’t hear any kind of really strong identification of the pianist with this music.  I would describe the Schumann performances as competent, polished, but lacking that last ounce of inspiration.   The playing of the two encores was excellent, and I could have enjoyed hearing more Liszt from Miss de la Salle, who excels in this composer.

A final note on the surroundings: whoever planned and executed the renovation of the auditorium did a fine job overall, but I wish there had been enough money to put even slight padding on the seats, which remain the very hard wooden seats characteristic of a high school auditorium rather than the well-upholstered seats characteristic of a modern concert hall.  Perhaps they feared altering the excellent acoustics?  At any rate, the acoustics survive, and at least the new seats have the merit of being more form-fitting than the old and of NOT being broken!!

Next up from PSC is a piano recital at Washington Irving by Garrick Ohlsson that should be a real stunner – Brahms Rhapsodies Op. 79, Liszt Ad Nos Fantasia, Debussy (selected) Etudes, and Chopin’s F Minor Fantasy.  Hearing Ohlsson play at PSC is a real treat.  I’ve heard him uptown in the big halls, but WIHS auditorium is much more intimate setting, and the price certainly is right.  Tickets, if still available, can be obtained through the PSC website.