It’s All Music At The Seasons

There was a sneak peak of the–for lack of a more accomodating word–classical aspects of The Seasons Fall Festival when tenor Robert Frankenberry and soprano Gilda Lyons previewed a bit of Daron Hagen’s opera Amelia. The Seattle Opera will premiere the work next spring. At an intimate session in The Seasons back room, theDaronHagen.jpg New York composer talked about the opera, which is in gestation, then took to the piano to accompany Frankenberry and Lyons in an aria. The Amelia of the title is not the lost pilot Amelia Earhart but the daughter of a Navy flyer who died in the Viet Nam war. The libretto by the poet Gardner McFall is based on the wartime loss of her own father. The work, as described by Hagen, has a complexity of themes involving flight, including references to Earhart and the myth of Icarus and Daedalus. If the entire opera is as beautiful as the sample, it will be worth the trip to Seattle in May.
Hagen, the festival’s artistic director, put together a sampler concert in the main hall that previewed many elements of the festival’s nine days. It encompassed performances by the Finisterra Piano Trio, the Kairos String Quartet, Chris Brubeck, the African percussion expert Michael Wimberly, more singing by Lyons and Frankenberry and a performance by Frankenberry of Aaron Copland’s 1931 Piano Variations. The Copland piece begins as a puzzling series of abstractions from his most experimental period. It works through 20 nervous, kinetic variations to a coda that ends the work in a grand Frakenberry.jpgstatement packed with harmonic riches. It is notoriously demanding to play and, for many, difficult to listen to. Leonard Bernstein used to say that he could wind up a party with it because it would empty the room in two minutes. This recording is probably the best one available, but Rob Frankenberry should put it on a CD because–there’s no better way to describe it–he plays the hell out of it.
The “Bravi Tutti” sampler evening ended with a new Hagen arrangement of “Amazing Grace” played by all of the evening’s 20 or so musicians. Brooke Creswell, the retiring music director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, played double bass, Chris Brubeck worked up a long, blowsy, trombone solo and the Finisterra’s Tanya Stambuck brought down the house with her vigorous interpretation of the solo piano section.
The next evening’s chamber music concert by Kairos and Finisterra had riches of several eras. It included works by composers Michael Torke, Felix Mendelssohn, André Previn, Bedřich Smetana and a deeply felt short string quartet piece by Hagen, Snapshot no. 1: Wedding Day. It endedLyons Gilda.jpg with the Finisterra Trio’s world premiere performance of Gilda Lyons’ Folklorico, commissioned by The Seasons for this festival. The four-part piece is based on music and folklore of Nicaragua. It abounds with passions and rhythms of Latin America and a slow section called “Tortuga’s Lament” so intriguing that I am ready to immediately hear it again.
More later on an evening of cabaret, an African drum spectacular, the dynamo known as Matt Wilson and the Dena DeRose trio, which, as this is written, I am off to hear. Stay
tuned.

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