ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 4: Colla Voce II

Report by Amanda McCandless

ClarinetFest® 2016’s Colla Voce II recital on Saturday, August 6 in Swarthout Recital Hall featured works for clarinet, voice and piano. The first work was Pioneer Women: From Skagway to White Mountain by Barbara Harbach. As the title suggests, the work reflects the hardiness and folksy nature of a pioneer woman. It has notes of Americana and ample opportunities to display an ensemble’s dramatic skill. The trio Northern Accord – Elizabeth Gunlogson, clarinet, Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano and Eileen Cornett, piano – was well-balanced and engaging throughout. Elizabeth Gunlogson displayed a beautiful sound capable of countless colors. The work was virtuosic and all of the performers were more than equal to the task.

The Lebaron Trio’s performance of Massenet’s “Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux” from Le Cid was delightful. Clarinetist Lori Ardovino’s interpretation of the aria’s opening section was heartfelt and emotional, supported beautifully by pianist Laurie Middaugh. Soprano Melanie Williams performed the role of Chimene with great pathos. The trio captured the mood of this spellbinding aria.
Michael Murray’s “Penny Whistles” from A Child’s Garden of Verses elicited images of childhood, from the sounds of a chugging train in the first movement “From a Railway Carriage” to the ominous nature of movement four, “The Moon.” Clarinetist Steve Becraft, soprano Laura Storm and pianist Rachel Schrag Ehring made each movement evocative of its subject matter. The jaunty third movement “Singing” stood out both for its interpretation and the trio’s skill.
Haven Trio’s performance was flawless. The trio took listeners on a journey of powerful emotions. The trio performed Make Me a Willow Cabin by Lee Kesselman and Nattsanger by Abbie Betinis.  Clarinetist Kimberly Cole Luevano has complete control of the tone colors she produces. Her dynamic limits, both soft and loud, are almost unimaginable. Her technical skills are vast but are always in service of the work’s expression. Soprano Lindsay Kesselman’s range and ability to create countless timbral variation is unmatched. Pianist Midori Koga also has compete control of her medium. She has the unique ability to change moods and aesthetics within a piece in a way that seems effortless. Together, these three musicians paint pictures as much as create music. One cannot imagine an emotion they did not express through their performance, leaving the audience breathless.
The final trio of the concert performed “Oglinda” from Latent Monologue by Jaime Gonzalez. This work is powerful and clarinetist David Barrientos, mezzo-soprano Quinn Patrick Ankrum, and pianist Lyudmila Kise performed it with finesse and passion. Barrientos’s technical ability is impressive, as his ability to express the work’s haunting opening. For this work to be successful, the singer must be have a large, dramatic voice. Ankrum met this challenge perfectly, giving a stunning performance. The group as a whole was well rehearsed and provided a dynamic end to this concert. Finally, Barrientos treated the audience to the short unaccompanied work Aires de Chile, for solo clarinet by Jaime Gonzalez. The cheerful, dance-like nature of this work was a lovely foil to the dramatic trio work.

Amanda McCandless
 is Associate Professor of Clarinet at the University of Northern Iowa.  Dr. McCandless is a former student of Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr.

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