Criers Open 2021 Newport Music Festival


The mansion and lawn of Newport’s Breakers, the setting for the opening of the Newport Music Festival on Thursday evening July 8e with the Grammy-nominated chamber orchestra A Far Cry, could well have been the setting of a Gothic novel, shrouded as it was in a fog so dense that guests had to be escorted individually to the tent completely closed performance. Inside, however, warm personal greetings from the festival hosts helped set everyone up for an hour of extravagant beauty and unabashed romance from a vibrant and shiny ensemble. They performed without a conductor, while effectively negotiating the nuances of the ebb and flow of varied musical selections, performing some of the most difficult passages with precision and technical flair, while letting the expressive components hint at intimacy and l interconnectivity that we associate with a much smaller room. music Group. The set sounded bold and aggressive, lush, resonant, rich in color, sensitive and expressive without being too sentimental. The festival reinforcement gear and shell enhanced natural sound, a rare occurrence for events held outdoors.

Presentations from the Governor of Rhode Island and the Mayor of Newport preceded the welcoming of the new festival director, Gillian Friedman Fox. [see BMInt interview HERE]. Rhode Island has reopened completely and seemingly safely for live events, having been one of the few states to meet the national vaccination target on time. And the orchestra noted this as its first performance in front of an audience since February of last year. Thus, the important ceremony given here received warm applause and rightly so from the performers and the audience.

In the famous Edvard Grieg Holberg After, the orchestra displayed tremendous virtuosity, transmitting the most difficult passages seamlessly and effortlessly, while evocatively capturing the folkloric character of the Nordic landscape and its peoples with poetry; the violin air elements and appropriately styled country dances appeared with rhythm and grace. One would expect the bow strokes of an elite group to be uniform, but beyond that, the ensemble choreographed their movements in a natural and even manner. In other numbers, little or no alien movement seemed evident, again as appropriate for selection.

(Photo by the Newport County Preservation Society)

The setups for each roster have also changed, with players not only changing chairs, but also switching between 1st and 2sd sections on violins, and between solo and concert parts. This more democratic approach to staging has fostered a human bond with the public, now united for the delicious rendering of the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major by Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges), Op 3 no 1. This delicious produced by the son of a Senegalese slave from the island of Guadeloupe presented two solo violins as concertante or solo group, sometimes playing together in parallel movement, sometimes against each other as in a dialogue. At the start of this dialogue, a songbird from outside the tent joined in this delicious song, creating a most precious moment of joy in the collusion of humanity and nature.

Sturm, the earliest published score by Lower-East-Side New York composer Jessie Montgomery, featured soaring lyrical lines against a plucked backdrop, depicting a banjo or perhaps a mandolin or balalaika orchestra. Beginning with solo strumming, a solo cello makes its first appearance, followed by a second line on the violin, lines gradually adding, the solo lines transforming into a fully orchestrated tone that seemed to take off as if a migration. of avian creatures. The scratching also turns into short, curved patterns reminiscent of the flapping of wings. The whole herd seems to be content with a moment of lyrical respite and fun play, before taking off again. While the bird analogy belongs to this writer, the composer wrote of the work: “Drawing inspiration from American folk idioms and the spirit of dance and movement, the piece has a sort of story that begins with fleeting nostalgia and turns into an ecstatic celebration. “

Out of silence, and without any physical movement or gesture of any kind, Arvo Pärt’s Silouan’s song began in a hushed solemnity, and unfolded as a prayer to build an intensity reflecting the style of tintinnabuli, intended to evoke the ringing of bells by relying on the harmonic tones of a bell sound to create the series of notes that surround it, ultimately creating a wall of sounds. Pärt himself described it as “a musical universe orbiting a single note”. Pärt achieves this contemplation by balancing his effective soundscape technique with intermittent periods of silence. Silouan’s song ends with the calm calm in which it began, conducive to the silent prayer he evokes and to the Russian Orthodox monk Saint-Silouan whom he honors.

Teresa Carreño, of Venezuelan origin, perhaps America’s most important solo pianist of her time, performed for Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson and was greeted by Liszt. She has also composed a major production, most of which is rarely if ever performed. His Serenade for Strings in E flat major, written in 1895 in Austria, recalls Dvořák’s Serenade in its lyricism, but its decidedly American character gives it a certain distinction. The musicians delicately nuance his most introspective moments, while his most difficult passages dazzle with virtuosity and aplomb.

This fitting end to a wonderful evening of musical creation indicated a new direction for a festival once known for valuing superstar performers. Its current balanced selection of established programs, artists and performing groups promises to reach a much larger and more diverse audience. Bravo and brava.

Stephen Martorella is Minister of Music at First Baptist Church in America, Providence, Rhode Island, and teaches at Rhode Island College.


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