Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 30, 2022

On the Road: Thoughts from the Tanglewood Lawn

Celebration of Stephen Sondheim Music
August 18, 2022
by Erica Schutz

Upon arrival to Tanglewood's grounds, the parking attendants were warm and kind with big smiles. Getting out of my car, we observed many people serving a kind of tailgate picnic. Others were walking in quite early, as I was. It's rare to experience an all-Stephen Sondheim concert.

Walking straight to the tix booth for directions I observed the press porch. The young attendants pointed the way and made me, what I would call a “hall pass” to bring until I got the real thing. The porch was actually an old grey house surrounded by lovely little hills of grass. Also, the Pepperidge Farm cookies were welcome goodies.

I noticed a father and small son playing frisbee in a large section of the lawns that was unoccupied. They were in matching shirts and having a great time. This is not unusual, as generations mix in joyful activities, pre-concert.

Many parties had set up their lawn seating areas further away from the larger group at the front. Some had basic picnic blanket arrangements, others dined elegantly, defining their areas as if the lawn created small living rooms complete with coffee table, throw pillows, flowers, and candelabra. Everyone appeared well prepared to be comfortable in their own ways.

I chose a central spot on the green closer to the shed and set up my own space. The people around welcomed me and offered to share snacks and wine. I declined but was glad to feel part of the group. I've heard that Tanglewood audience members are a pleasant and generous group. It's true.

I settled in to enjoy my picnic that I had brought and review the lengthy playbill. I was about an hour early, but it seemed as if little time had passed before the bell rang to announce the concert was about to begin. The weather cooperated, and the camaraderie of concert goers was evident. The lights dimmed and the digital screens stopped looping the commercial ads. The live feed of the stage filled the screen, and the applause began for the entering musicians. Even though we couldn’t see the actual stage, the lawn audience, which included me, behaves as if we were in the shed.

Photo courtesy of BSO.ORG/TANGLEWOOD

The music began. It became clear that most people around me were huge fans of Sondheim. Many heads bobbed along to the rhythm and a few danced in their seats. Partway through the first section of the program, an older gent next to me commented to his group that he didn’t know any of the music that he just heard. However, when intermission came, he began humming and singing "A Weekend in the Country" over and over. Apparently, he had been caught by a Sondheim earworm for sure! This lasted through intermission. 

Children of all ages were snuggled on laps, had seats of their own, and I noticed a few had little camp beds set up in wagons, or strollers. There were a few small playpens, too. To my surprise, I never heard crying or fussing the entire night.

The concert was amazing, as to be expected. The audience on the lawn stayed to applaud until the last moment. I was right there with them. We made for the gates together, but there was room for all and only a short wait to cross the street to reach the parking lots.   The environs had a different feeling that night. It could be I was just paying more attention. It was a joyous energy. I found myself singing as I drove, thinking about all the friendly people I had met and the experience we shared together listening to Sondheim. 

August 29, 2022

ON THE ROAD: Berkshire Highlights, Summer 2022

by Shera Cohen

Jacob's Pillow, Becket, MA
We almost missed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble due to an error on our clock. We made it from Lenox to Becket in record time, arriving just as a young intern musician happened to be parked in a white golf cart. We are finding more and more mini carts on the campuses of numerous performing art venues in the Berkshires. 

Cleo Parker Robinson brought her 14 or so young, accomplished, professional dancers to present modern, folk, ballet, and jazz footwork. Robinson narrated each piece prior to each to performance. In hiring dance troupes for its summer season, the Pillow has nothing but the best. Parker Robinson's company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

For those in the dance field, the Pillow offered classes, community workshops, annual art exhibits in the barn, and Pillowtalk; the latter usually given by Pillow dancers or dance historians. Nearly all of these ancillary programs are free.

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
"Measure for Measure"
"Hymn" was a study in character of two men who, later in life, discover that they are half-brothers. That was not a spoiler, as this knowledge comes early in the play. Not surprisingly, the men first met at their father's funeral. They are complete opposites in beliefs, demeanor, family issues, and dreams. Director Regge Life, kept the play and the actors' bodies and minds working constantly. Dance and song spoke to camaraderie as well as feigned joy between the brothers. The audience could see the end coming. This was the only way to properly complete the play. 

Two important facts to know about Shakespeare & Company: the campus has many theatres, both indoors and outdoors. Check the location before you go. Also, the venue's title might be confusing since only 50% of the plays are Shakespearian; the balance are relatively new works. 

"Hymn" finished its run  on August 28th. "Measure for Measure" runs through September 18th, and "Golden Leaf Rag Time Blues" will be produced September 23-October 30, 2022.

TurnPark, West Stockbridge
TurnPark, perhaps the newest venue on my Berkshire journey, is a mecca for sculpture. Always on the lookout for new art venues in the Berkshires, two years ago I discovered TurnPark by chance. My Plus 1 friend and I traversed the uneven ground and rocks high and low. It's a hiker's dream location. TurnPark's indoor exhibitions of art and sculpture are often unique. A lovely Russian couple showed us the terrain and the many professional huge sculpture pieces throughout the park. It was happenstance that their 16-acre location was on Moscow Road, West Stockbridge. 

No longer in its infancy, TurnPark has coupled architecture studies, performances in numerous genres, and nature. What was once a marble quarry has been recreated into a sculpture park. A natural rock formation on several layers of the ground looks as if it was already designed as seats in an ancient Roman theatre. TurnPark has grown incredibly since my last visit, hosting performances such as modern dance, stand-up comedy, poetry readings, as well as a Ukraine Fundraiser Event.

TurnPark's current exhibit is "New Works - New Walls," through October 31, 2022.

Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
Illustrating Race through October 22, 2022

"Love is Wise"
The exhibit examines the role of published images in shaping attitudes toward race and culture. Over 300 artworks and objects produced from the late-18th century to today fill five exhibition rooms. The mission of the exhibit is to show the impact on public perception about race in the U.S. The exhibition explores stereotypical racial representations that have been imprinted through mass publication. It culminates with the creative accomplishments of contemporary artists and publishers who have shifted perspectives through the creation of positive, inclusive works of art, emphasizing equity for all.

Divided into three segments, the first is Historical Perspectives, which examines the history of racial stereotypes in illustration. The power of the images shaped opinions of many White Americans not only against African-Americans, but also Native, Asian who did not fit into the norm of the 18th - early 20th centuries.

The second section looks at the Harlem Renaissance through WWII. The study from Jim Crow laws to Black Pride to The Great Depression to NAACP. Oftentimes specially published magazines printed minority issues for all to read. Women became a large and intelligent force to recon with. 

The final selections of art, posters, images, and cartoons focuses on the 1950's to the present, including Civil Rights, racial unrest, emphasis of mass media. Coupled with these derogatory visual statements is the effort of noted illustrators who have worked to push a sense of hope and cultural pride for the next generation.

Note: Some text excerpts from NRM promotional material.

Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
Rodin in the U.S. through August 18, 2022

Who do you think is the most well-known sculptor of the ages? Probably Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), creator of his famous piece of art -- The Thinker. 

Rodin is considered the most innovative, influential, celebrated, and controversial sculptors of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. For 20 years, he worked for jewelers and masons. He honed his skill as a modeler of clay in other sculptors’ studios, taking evening art classes, and eventually setting up his own studio where he worked from live models. Rodin was interested in expressing human emotion, celebrating classical beauty of real human bodies. Some works expressed sexuality with an unapologetic frankness that was considered scandalous.

Rodin’s way of making sculpture was a blend of traditional and innovative techniques. He began by modeling clay, wax, or plaster to create three-dimensional works. Assistants then used the model to produce a mold, which would be cast in plaster. Rodin could produce multiples and even cut the plaster apart, recombining hands, legs, torsos, and heads to alter a composition, to form a completely new work. 

Surprisingly to me, Rodin never carved marble himself, but hired artisans who executed the carving.  He oversaw every aspect of the transition from clay model or plaster cast to stone. The copies in marble are not identical; the composition remains the same, but details differ, depending on the carver and on the shape of the marble block used.

Note: Some text excerpts from Clark promotion material.

Berkshire Quick-Takes

Artweek Berkshires, the Berkshires, Annual, free events show off works Berkshire artists from 9/15-25.

Berkshire libraries: offer discounted tix to just about everything in the arts; some for residents, some for visitors. 

Berkshire Scenic Railroad, Lenox,, takes passengers on a short, fun ride in an antique RR car, starts in Lenox.

Chesterwood, Stockbridge, www.chesterwood.org2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the
 Lincoln Memorial by Daniel Chester French.

HighLawn Dairy, Lee, www.highlawnfarm.comjust up the street from Big Y, are calves, cows & fresh milk. Demos are offered to groups.

The Pillow's Pillowtalk, Becket, www.jacobspillow.orgenjoy free lectures by dancers and dance historians in the rustic Art Gallery Barn.

Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, www.redlioninn.comreopened, the ground-floor Lion's Den musicians perform for the local & guests. 

Tanglewood, Lenox, concerts are now essentially bugless. I don't know what changed, but I'm happy. 

Williams College Art Museum, Williamstown, https://artmuseum.williams.eduamazing college facility, free, open all year to the general public.

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, "Miami City Ballet"

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August 28, 2022
by Josephine Sarnelli

Photo by Christopher Duggan
The return of the Miami City Ballet brought with it a debut of the Ted Shawn Theatre’s new
orchestra pit.   In addition to offering a live orchestra for the first time at the Pillow, it also allowed for Balanchine’s 1934 signature work Serenade to be presented - which can only be performed with live music per the licensing agreement with the Balanchine Trust.  The newly enlarged stage accommodated the 26 dancers in this large production.

The program was a study of four very different choreographers.  Whereas Balanchine’s piece has remained ageless, the opening dance Diversion of Angels from 1948 by Martha Graham clearly looked dated.  The repetitive flexed foot leaps and fluttering hands, once cutting edge in the dance world, were tiring despite being performed to perfection.  The three couples, each embodying a different aspect of love – young and flirtatious, romantic and passionate, mature and enduring, worked well together.  The novel costuming of a legged skirt provided for fluidness and athleticism, particularly for Taylor Naturkas as young love.

The most moving work in the program was the world premiere of Geta, dedicated and named for a beloved, recently deceased instructor at the Miami City Ballet School.  Choreographed to Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitta Pas” (Don’t Leave Me), the strong movements were exquisitely performed by Renan Cerdeiro.  His connection with the audience amplified the emotion of the piece.   The costuming of a long tunic over a nude unitard looked awkward and did not enhance the otherwise perfect routine.

Antique Epigraphs, a 1984 ballet by Jerome Robbins, is so named because it is performed to Claude Debussy’s suite “Six Ėpigraphs Antiques.”  The seventh section was a lovely flute solo by Linda Toote entitled “Syrinx.”  Performed en pointe by eight women invoking Greek goddesses, the fragility of the dancers might be discarded as an obsolete representation of femininity in today’s world.  However, the ability of each dancer to showcase her individuality as well as the group’s collaboration and support in partnering as duets and trios speaks of the modern woman.  The developpés were striking; the soft movements of their arms hypnotic.  Of particular note was their directional ability to have the audience focus from one side of the stage to another simply by turning their gaze in unison.

The finale Serenade was well chosen for the many traditionalists who enjoy classical Balanchine. The choreography, set to Peter Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, includes cabrioles, grand jetés and rond de jambe en l’air, which were all beautifully executed by the troupe.  The plot literally evolved during Balanchine’s rehearsals, who incorporated a late arrival of a student and the fall of another directly into the final chorography.  However, it takes a strange turn midway through when a “dark angel” enters and draws to a sad ending. The conductor joined the dancers on stage for a well-deserved standing ovation.

The Miami City Ballet brought to an end the 90th season of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  It was a spectacular year and we so look forward to the 91st!        


August 28, 2022

REVIEW: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Shostakovich/Dvorak/Borodin"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
August 26, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

On the calm evening of an adventurous weather day in the Berkshires, BSO Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina brought an equally adventurous program to the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood that reflected both her Ukrainian-Russian roots and her canny programming skills. 

After getting listeners in the palm of her hand with one of Dmitri Shostakovich’s catchiest, most ingratiating creations, the “Waltz No. 2 from Suite for Variety Orchestra,” played with jazzy flair by a swinging BSO, Rakitina welcomed to the stage charismatic (and frequent Tanglewood guest) violinist Gil Shaham for Antonin Dvorak’s 1879 violin concerto. While overshadowed by the contemporaneous Brahms and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, all three movements of Dvorak’s concerto display his endless melodic invention, the spirit of Czech folk music, and fierce technical challenges, which Shaham rendered with elegance, warmth, and exhilarating proficiency, backed luxuriously by conductor and orchestra.   

Gil Shaham & Anna Rakitina
But the heart of this program was, astonishingly, the BSO’s first-ever performance of Shostakovich’s1929 third symphony, “The First of May.” Written at age 23 as an experiment in which “not a single theme would be repeated,” this kaleidoscopic single-movement half-hour score in four continuous sections echoed the turmoil and excitement of early Soviet culture. Careening between lush post-romanticism and hyperactive, often satirical dissonance, the symphony’s brash energy was absorbingly captured by Rakitina and the BSO, especially the taxing demands on the brass and percussion sections, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, who sang-shouted Semyon Kirsanov’s closing hymn to the Soviet May Day holiday with gusto. 

Keeping the Chorus, prepared by their conductor, James Burton, on stage, Rakitina ended the concert in as crowd-pleasing a way as she began it, with an electrifying account of the “Polovtsian Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s 1890-premiered opera “Prince Igor.” Often presented in concert without chorus, these colorfully orchestrated mini-masterpieces gain ravishing colors from human voices, which kept participants and spectators alike on the edge of their seats. Projected English translations (also helpful in the Shostakovich) even showed a resemblance between some Borodin lyrics and their adaptation in the 1953 Broadway musical “Kismet” as “Stranger in Paradise,” which a few concertgoers of a certain age could be heard singing. 

Her modest yet exuberant stage presence, ability to inspire musicians, and talent for pleasing while educating audiences all promise a bright musical future for Maestra Anna Rakitina.    

August 26, 2022

REVIEW: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Brahms/Garrick Ohlsson"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
August 16, 18, 23 & 25, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Garrick Ohlsson
Towering elder statesman of the piano Garrick Ohlsson is not one to shrink from a challenge.
So it was no surprise that in four two-hour concerts over nine days he performed the complete works for solo piano by Johannes Brahms in Tanglewood’s acoustically ideal Ozawa Hall. 

Although Brahms wrote solo piano music throughout his 40-year career, his works in that genre tended to get shorter over time, from his three early sonatas (1852-53) through five sets of variations on a theme (1854-63) to four late sets of miniatures (1892-93). But as Ohlsson, who was first drawn to Brahms at age nine, told the Berkshire Edge, he finds a “richness of texture” throughout these works, often achieved with “not that many notes.”   

By mixing these forms from all periods of Brahms’ life in each concert, Ohlsson highlighted their wide variety of tone, mood, and impact. The first program opened with eight short pieces, Opus 76, dating from his middle period (1871-78) and each called either “Capriccio” (livelier) or “Intermezzo” (quieter) but distinctly individual in character. This program was completed by two early sets of variations, Opus 21 (1856-57), all unfailingly inventive and often surprising, and the even earlier “Four Ballades,” Opus 10 (1854), each somewhat longer and more dramatic than those in Opus 76.   

All “Seven Fantasies,” Op. 116 (1892) in the third concert were also called Capriccio or Intermezzo, but they revealed paradoxically greater simplicity and emotional depth than those in the Opus 76 set. The sprawling five movements of the third piano sonata on this program had by now been distilled into the bare essence of Brahms’s great ear for melody and classical balance. These two concerts also included some of his most passionate music in the “Two Rhapsodies,” Opus 79 (1879) and his most technically demanding in the Paganini variations (1862-63), whose two “books” of twelve variations each were split between the programs. 

Ohlsson’s energy and concentration never flagged, and he played every piece with the same effortless virtuosity and interpretive insight, exuding a contagious sense of joy. Each program featured as an encore one of the first ten of his twenty-one Hungarian Dances for piano four-hands that Brahms arranged for solo piano, allowing Ohlsson to close each leg of his marathon on a high-spirited, crowd-pleasing note.    

August 25, 2022

ON THE ROAD: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "A Week at Tanglewood"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
August 19-23, 2022
by Shera Cohen

The numbers told the story of a single week enjoying the music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at Tanglewood. In the Spotlight sent seven of its reviewers to cover five concerts led by four conductors playing the works of eight composers bringing 28 pieces to life. This list omits the dozen+ pieces for "Remembering Stephen Sondheim" and 14+ selections by John Williams in Tanglewood's prestigious honor for the maestro's 90th Birthday Celebration.

Our head Classical Music Reviewer, Michael Moran, has covered each of the concerts in the Recital Series. Over the years, these music events have displayed the talents of world-renowned soloist or ensembles. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson took the Ozawa Hall stage most of the evenings; each concentrating heavily on Brahms. 

The passing of composer Stephen Sondheim this year has left so many memories, particularly his instantly identified style on Broadway. Sondheim's cadre of groundbreaking, distinct contributions of "Follies" and "Company" and organic perfection of shows like "A Little Night Music" and "Sweeney Todd" celebrated the legacy of a true musical luminary. Boston Pops leader Keith Lockhart, along with four vocalists, took his baton as one Sondheim classic flowed into another. (See full review HERE)

It was my turn at the computer, reviewing Tanglewood's John Williams 90th Birthday Celebration. I have attended many of the John Williams concerts, whether Mr. Williams is conducting his own music and/or music of other composers. This was the first time for me to see this master composure/conductor not lift a finger, that is until the finale of the concert. A beautiful evening for an extraordinary show, was complete with guest video salutes from Steven Spielberg, and others, and a chronological documentary of John Williams life. Every season Tanglewood schedules at least one "must see". This was it. [See full review HERE

Over the decades, I have encouraged several friends and acquaintances who think that they don't like Classical music to have a taste; return if they appreciate the program, decide to occasionally take another bite, or never return. For those in the latter category, so be it. I tried. The best way to sample the experience of Tanglewood, the sounds of dozens of professional musicians at their instruments, and the grandeur of the landscape is to attend a Saturday rehearsal at 10:30am (9:30am to hear the pre-rehearsal talk). Rehearsals are less expensive than the "real concert," whether you sit on the lawn or in the Shed. The musicians are dressed just as casually as the audience members. Oftentimes, the music piece is rehearsed straight through, and only afterward does the conductor point out corrections to perfect. Other times, the conductor starts and stops several times. Remember, this is a rehearsal for the musicians to "get it right". I find the start and stop method extremely educational. Although, I admit that I never hear errors.

Saturday rehearsals prepare the musicians for Sunday afternoon performances. The grounds are also open on Thursday and Friday mornings for rehearsals. Just walk in and sit on the lawn. On these mornings, usually rehearsals of Friday night's 8pm concert takes place. Recommend calling ahead.

Photo Courtesy of Itzhak Perlman Images
Nearly every Saturday evening and/or Sunday afternoon performance features a special guest(s) either at the podium or seated with instrument in hand or both. The glorious sounds from violinist Itzhak Perlman were on the bill. I can't believe that I just now typed that sentence. Perlman's name is synonymous with violin, of course. However, I was not familiar with German conductor Max Bruch. Perlman's interpretation of Bruch's Violin Concerto in G minor was tender and loving. I would have been happy listening for hours.

Preview: Music in Common, "Black Legacy Project"

Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield, MA
September 23, 2022

Music in Common, a Berkshires-founded nonprofit that strengthens, empowers, and connects communities through the universal language of music, celebrates the one-year anniversary of the launch of The Black Legacy Project, a musical celebration of Black history to advance racial solidarity, equity, and belonging. The Black LP travels the country, bringing together Black and White artists and artists of all backgrounds to record present day interpretations of songs central to the Black American experience. 

Since the September 2021 launch, Music in Common has produced ongoing Black Legacy Project programming in the region including a Black LP concert at the Colonial Theatre, a series of film screenings throughout the county, and a week-long course at Berkshire School. The upcoming anniversary celebration includes a combination of all of these.

On Friday September 23 at 7:30PM, a Black LP concert featuring a host of local musicians including Rob Sanzone, Rufus Jones, Bryan House, Glori Wilder, Terry a la Berry, Olivia Davis, Liam Giszter, and Brianna Nicola

The event is free and open to all. Tickets can be reserved at

Masks are required.

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, "Waiting for Godot:

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
Through September 4
By Jarice Hanson

Photo by Daniel Rader
Watching “Waiting for Godot” at the Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage is an
opportunity to watch a master class in acting. In this exquisitely realized production of Samuel Beckett’s most well-known absurdist play, the essence of Shakespearean clowning and allusions to the artistry of mime come together to interpret the playwright’s vision of existential ambiguity. This production shows how theatrical magic results from talent, skill, and intelligence. Humor is emphasized, rather than pathos, and watching the physical antics of the actors is a true pleasure.

Critical to good theater is something that is often forgotten in today’s world of over-amplified sound, and that is the importance of the author’s words. In this production every word is clearly articulated, clean, and the actors’ and playwright’s intentions clear. This is a first-rate production with actors who are totally committed to the text and to giving the audience not only something to think about, but also, something to stimulate thought and lively conversation.

There are not enough kudos to heap on the cast of four principal players, Mark H. Dold (Vladimir, or “Didi”), Kevin Isola (Estragon, or “GoGo”), Christopher Innvar (Pozzo), and Max Wolkowitz (Lucky). Young Maximus Holey (A Boy) is an able messenger who completes the quintet of performers, but the four principles attack their roles with commitment and vaudevillian skill that keeps this production lively and heart-felt.  Director Joe Calarco peppers this production with his own insightful skill in decoding Beckett, and together the team presents the audience with a classic vibrant experience that allows each audience member to interpret the rich, dense text.

Luciana Stecconi’s creative scenic design becomes yet another character in the passage of time, and Debra Kim Sivigny’s excellent costumes enhance a vaudevillian reference that has become part of the classic interpretation of this play.  

This production shows that theater of the absurd, when done well, can be a masterpiece of theatrical skill and interpretation. Every actor should see this production, and anyone who might fear that Beckett is too dense to be understood should give this production the attention it deserves. It might just change a few minds about theater, performance art, and our own humanity at a time in history in which daily life itself, can seem absurd.

August 24, 2022

REVIEW: Boston Pops Orchestra, "Remembering Stephen Sondheim"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
August 19, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

BSO Cast
As Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart notes in a touching written tribute to Sondheim, the Broadway composer/lyricist had a long relationship with the Pops, including frequent excerpts from his shows on their programs, a semi-staged production of “A Little Night Music,” and a premiere orchestral version of the autobiographical “Sondheim on Sondheim,” which Lockhart ranks among “my favorite musical memories.” In opening comments, he explained that tonight’s concert would focus on Sondheim’s “most productive years,” 1970-1987.

He co-created the program with “stage director and special guest” Jason Danieley, starring in nearby Barrington Stage’s production of “A Little Night Music.” Danieley was joined by “Night Music” castmates in two songs from that show – a charming “You Must Meet My Wife,” with Emily Skinner, and an exuberant “A Weekend in the Country,” with Skinner, Sophie Mings, and Noah Wolfe, along with Broadway stars Nikki Renee Daniels (“Hamilton”) and Conrad Ricamora (“Here Lies Love”). Skinner also offered a devastating solo “Send in the Clowns.” 
These were preceded by selections from “Company,” notably, a vibrant “Another Hundred People” from Daniels, and a climactic “Being Alive” from Ricamora, and “Follies,” especially a rueful but clear-eyed “The Road You Didn’t Take” from “The Lion King” icon Alton Fitzgerald White, a shimmering “In Buddy’s Eyes” from Daniels, and a moving “Too Many Mornings,” beautifully acted by both of them.   

In excerpts from “Sweeney Todd,” Skinner was a hoot as Mrs. Lovett (whom Lockhart had called “a pie shop owner with a supply chain problem”), bringing bravura comic flair and a spot-on Cockney accent to “The Worst Pies in London” and (with a conniving White) “A Little Priest.” Next came “Sunday in the Park with George,” where Daniels was an animated Dot in the title song, Ricamora a dynamic George in “Finishing the Hat,” and both cogent partners in “Move On.” Selections from “Into the Woods” included: “Giants in the Sky,” with Ricamora as a memorably boyish Jack; “Agony,” with Ricamora and White hilarious as Rapunzel’s and Cinderella’s princes; and a poignant “Children Will Listen” from the entire company. 

While “Pacific Overtures” was sadly unrepresented, the company’s “Old Friends” from “Merrily We Roll Along” was a fittingly upbeat finale for this heartwarming celebration of Broadway’s greatest master.

John Williams 90th Birthday Celebration & Personal Thoughts about a Genius in our Time

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
August 20, 2022
by Shera Cohen

It was no surprise that the caravan of cars from the highway through Lee, MA and onto Lenox, MA to attend the John Williams 90th Birthday Celebration at Tanglewood would be long. My Plus 1 friend and I set out at 6pm. It was my fault for changing our journey's departure from 5:30pm. No problem, plenty of time for the chimes of the 8pm bells marking the start of the concert, I thought. Wrong!

"Young John Williams"
Literally inching our way, what I will call, the third leg of the trip, Plus 1 said, "By the time we get there it will be John Williams' 91st birthday." The fourth and last leg of the trip took place on the Tanglewood property itself. As joyful as it was to finally see the driveway with the hanging sign "Tanglewood Main Gate," that was a tease that we still weren't at the end of the trip. I will admit, that being a member of the press, yet by no means anything even remotely important as the New York Times, or the like, I had the benefit of a yellow piece of paper.

It was like magic when the numerous teens and twenty-something ushers each wearing a day-glow colored jacket so that they can been seen in the dark, looked at the yellow placard in the car window. The Tanglewood driveways were gravel and stone with some pavement; definitely not a yellow brick road, however more exciting to me. It was now 7:55pm. We took the tickets, responding with huge THANK YOUS, realizing we weren't quite at our destination yet. The next step was the walk to one of the entrances to the huge, acoustically perfect green shed. A stroke of luck or serendipity befell us; a large white golf cart awaited as if this rendezvous had been planned. I had seen small carts in the past, strictly for use by audience members in need of mobile help. New and improved policies by Tanglewood management, I would guess, added far more small vans for use by anyone in a lot far from the concert tent. We hopped on, again with huge THANK YOUS to the driver.

Having been to Tanglewood since I was a young adult, I knew that the property was fields and slopes of gorgeous green grass, pristinely mowed with twisted tree trunks, trimmed shrubs, and grapevines strewn about. I don't know the number of patrons, but my guess is that 15,000 parked themselves, folding chairs, blankets, table clothes, and coolers on the lawn. It was almost impossible to envision the grassy hills underneath. By adding the numbers seated in the tent to those on the lawn, I find it amazing and wonderful that a composer, in this case, John Williams, likely has a larger draw than a Harrison Ford + a Steven Spielberg + a tent full of Wookies together.

Wiliams and ET, 1983

I hadn't realized until I returned home and read the evening's program that all of the music had been composed by Williams, except for a piece from Rodgers & Hammerstein and one by James Taylor. Speaking of Taylor, who is one of Tanglewood's biggest fans and benefactors, his on-stage tribute to Williams was personal and endearing. One might think that a music piece coupling Taylor's voice and guitar with Yo Yo Ma cello strings would be atypical, that would be correct; atypical and exquisite. Another unexpected duo was Williams' "Highwood's Ghost," again featuring the incomparable and always-smiling Ma with harpist Jessica Zhou. Seated by the most aesthetically constructed instrument in any orchestra, Zhou dipped her harp toward her body, arms stretched across the strings. Wearing a deep red ballroom dress, Zhou came to Williams' party to honor him. 

Guest conductor Ken-David Masur and the BSO performance also included Branford Marsalis (saxophone), J. William Hudgins (vibraphone), and Eric Revis (bass). My bet is that most in the audience, especially myself, were unfamiliar with the music: "Just Down West Street," "Pickin'," "To Lenny! To Lenny!" None had the distinguishable refrains and epic finales of Williams' cadre of movie music. Yet each of these selections were all works of the maestro, from the first note to the last.

Williams and Spielberg

The concert, audience, weather, and the fact that John Williams sat only six rows in front of me, made the night perfect. But there was a tad missing. At a point later in the evening, when Masur pointed his baton, leading the BSO to strike the first six notes of "Star Wars," the audience cheered so that all of Lenox could probably hear. The two pieces were from "Star Wars: A New Hope," but identifying the correct episode didn't matter.

How many more standing ovations was the audience up to? I certainly lost count. Of course, Williams had to be coaxed out of his seat to the stage to receive the audience's "Happy Birthday". I do not know Mr. Williams personally and have only seen him on TV and in a shed with thousands of others, but he seems to be a shy, self-effacing genius. Masur handed the baton to Williams to conduct the trademark music from "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It is safe to say that not even fireworks could have topped off John Williams -- The Tanglewood 90th Birthday Celebration with more splendor.

August 22, 2022

REVIEW: Berkshire Opera Festival, “Don Giovanni"

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Through August 26, 2022
by Michael J. Moran

While Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is considered among the world’s greatest operas, its title
character may be the world’s greatest sexual predator. But Jonathan Loy’s reimagining makes this tragic 18th-century morality tale compelling to modern audiences through character and comedy.

Set in Seville and drawing on the legendary Spanish cad Don Juan, Lorenzo da Ponte’s Italian libretto features: dissolute nobleman Don Giovanni (bass-baritone Andre Courville); his groveling servant Leporello (bass Christian Zaremba); Donna Anna (soprano Laura Wilde), betrothed to Don Ottavio (tenor Joshua Blue); her father, the Commendatore (bass-baritone John Cheek); Donna Elvira (mezzo-soprano Megan Moore), abandoned by Giovanni; and engaged peasants Zerlina (soprano Natalia Santaliz) and Masetto (baritone Bryan James Myer). 

Even before the opening scene, when a masked Giovanni kills the Commendatore while escaping after assaulting Donna Anna, Loy introduces a male dancer (Edoardo Torresin) during the overture portraying Giovanni’s id, unchecked by superego, as the Don seduces another victim (dancer Katie Harding). Torresin reappears periodically in later scenes, while Giovanni self-medicates with drugs and alcohol. His inability to change is thus heightened, setting him apart from other characters and foreshadowing his fate.

Each member of this diverse ensemble cast is outstanding. A master of physical comedy, Zaremba’s Leporello sings his “Catalogue” aria, listing Giovanni’s thousands of amorous conquests to a horrified Donna Elvira, with nimble glee. Wilde invests Donna Anna with a mix of anguish over her father’s murder and tender love for Don Ottavio, whose longing for his beloved is palpable in Blue’s sensitive depiction. Moore brings a moving sense of injured dignity to Donna Elvira, while Santaliz and Myer make an attractively volatile couple. 

In a sensational role and BOF debut as Giovanni, Courville finds nuance in the Don’s single-mindedness, delivering both a melting “La ci darem lo mano” (“We’ll hold hands”) proposal aria to Zerlina and a defiant refusal of the summons by ageless Cheek’s ghostly Commendatore in “A cenar teco” (“You are invited”) to repent or face a fiery death.  

BOF Artistic Director and co-founder (with Loy) Brian Garman leads the chorus and 30-member orchestra in a taut rendition of Mozart’s dramatic score, while also playing harpsichord continuo. Cori Ellison’s projected English translations are often amusingly colloquial, and Stephen Dobay’s resourceful scenic design seamlessly repurposes the same stark set. Alex Jainchill’s dark lighting design gives the orange lights at Giovanni’s death a blazing effect. Stephen Agisilaou’s deft choreography ranges from staid for the nobility to sensual for the dancers, especially Torresin. 

This powerfully daring production is a must-see for area opera fans.

August 16, 2022

REVIEW: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Clyne/Elgar/Debussy/Enescu"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
August 14, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Yo-Yo Ma and Cristian Macelaru
Besides James Taylor, no performer attracts larger audiences to Tanglewood than the world’s favorite cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. But other attractions to Sunday’s BSO concert included a stimulating musical program, a dynamic guest conductor, and spectacular Berkshire weather. 

It opened with Anna Clyne’s five-minute 2013 “Masquerade,” introduced by the London-born, New York-based composer, who briefly explained the piece’s roots in London’s pops-like “promenade concerts” and the old English drinking song “Juice of Barley.” Cristian Macelaru drew spirited playing from the BSO in a rousing take on this high-energy score; Clyne joined them in a well-earned curtain call. 

Next came Sir Edward Elgar’s 1920 cello concerto, which Ma played with exactly the “very full, sweet and sonorous” tone the composer called for. Still exuding the youthful ardor of his 1985 recording, he added the gravitas of his maturity to the wide emotional range of this autumnal masterpiece, from a wistful “Adagio-Moderato,” an exuberant “Allegro molto,” and a serene, reflective “Adagio,” to a bold, thrusting “Allegro ma non troppo” finale, with an achingly poignant interlude before an abrupt closing outburst. 

In his tradition of unconventional encores, Ma praised the “enduring human spirit” of Elgar and recently bereaved friends before reading the lyrics of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and joining the orchestra’s cello section in a tender yet jaunty arrangement of that uplifting song by Sébastien Walnier, principal cello of Belgium’s La Monnaie Opera Orchestra. 

This was followed by a thrilling account of Claude Debussy’s 1905 tone poem “La Mer” (“The Sea”), which he subtitled “three symphonic sketches.” Marcelanu highlighted the iridescent colors of this path-breaking work, with a scintillating “From Dawn to Noon on the Sea,” a shimmering “Play of the Waves,” and a dramatic “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea.” Every detail emerged clearly through Debussy’s artful orchestration, none more welcome than the refreshing washes of sound by harpists Jessica Zhou and Krysten Keches. 

The concert ended with George Enescu’s first “Romanian Rhapsody,” which, as led with warmth and brio by the internationally acclaimed Marcelanu, felt like an homage to both his native country and its greatest composer. With dazzling solo turns by principal clarinet William R. Hudgins and principal flute Elizabeth Rowe, the brilliant climax of this popular classic brought the overflow audience joyously to its feet.   

August 15, 2022

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, “Hubbard Street Dance Chicago”

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August14, 2022
by Josephine Sarnelli

The program notes written by Maura Keefe, a Scholar-in-Residence at Jacob’s Pillow start off with: “Forty-four years ago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago gave its first performance at a senior center home.”  In addition to reminding the reader of this incredible group’s humble roots, it offers hope to every aspiring local and regional dance troupe.  Although it has only been under the artistic direction of Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell since 2021, the extraordinary performance quality, innovation and energy that audiences have come to expect is clearly still there.

Photo by Danica Paulo
As The Wind Blows, a new choreography, started off the program set to four pieces of music, varying from Copeland’s piano to Debussy’s flute to Tristano’s contemporary piano music.  In addition to being disjunct in its musicality, there was an awkward emotional solo amid the high-energy segments that seemed out of place.  The subtle off-stage change in the dancers’ jazz pants and footwear from red to grey midway during the production seemed without explanation.  The 14 dancers performed very well as a group, in solos and as couples.  The backlighting to the stage was very effective in highlighting each dancer’s form without being distractive.

The B/olero duet was executed with precision by Jacqueline Burnett and Simone Stevens.  It can best be described as “quirky,” from Isao Tomita’s electronic version of Ravel’s work to the dancers’ repetitive and somewhat mechanical movements.  Both the music and choreography became hypnotic until one dancer or the other would break away in an attempt at individuality

Schumann’s Symphonic Etude, Opus 13 was the catalyst for Little Rhapsodies.  The three male dancers offered outstanding solos and duets, in addition to performing as a trio.  This showcased their individual talents as well teamwork.  There was a comical element to the choreography; the dancers’ connectivity with each other and to the audience radiated this lightheartedness.  The stunning leaps and turns clearly expressed masculinity, yet never sacrificed grace and fluidness.

A dark street was the setting for BUSK, with the entire troupe garbed as hobos in hooded jackets and baggy pants.  “To busk” is to perform or entertain in the street for monetary donations and thus explains the clever name for this work.  The opening solo was almost mime-like with the addition of white gloves.  The soloist’s triple turns were magnificent and set a high benchmark for this piece.  The eight musical scores chosen for the routine were unique and outstanding in themselves. The Swedish Ett Bondbrollop (A Peasant Wedding) and Plume by Ljova were perfect for the group dances.  Amusements by Daniel Belanger, with it tap like percussive, was ideal for a solo.  Several times during this work the 14-member ensemble humorously metamorphosized into a single organism and seamlessly returned as individuals.

The lengthy standing ovation was very well deserved.  So ended another evening with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to be remembered and savored. With that came the anticipatory longing to see them again … very soon.

REVIEW: Berkshire Theater Group, "Dracula"

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
August 11 - 27, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
Berkshire Theatre group is billing its production of "Dracula" as magical. Indeed, it is in many respects, particularly the multitude of technical, almost magical, tasks. The backstage work of true masters in their fields of direction, sound, costumes, scene design, and lighting, together make "Dracula" a worthy production.

There is no point rehashing Bram Stoker's gothic tale of a macabre and mysterious character at the center of the plot; he sleeps by day, awakens at night, slinks around dusty mansions, dresses in black, and has a fear of mirrors and crucifixes. What to do about Count Dracula? There it is -- the entire plot.

The play is very much an ensemble piece. Dracula is not the star, although young actor Mitchell Winter gives life (death?) to his portrayal of this creepy, dark creature. For the most part, those actors who carry the story are BTG "regulars". David Adkins plays Dr. Seward as an intelligent man at odds with himself between what is real and unreal. Jennifer Van Dyke comes on strong as Professor Van Helsing. She is a fine actor however a bit of advice would be to tone down her character's physical and vocal exuberance. Matt Sullivan presents his Renfield as a crazed man muddled in a mixture of sanity and insanity. More and more theatres choose color-blind and gender-blind casting. I first noted this in the theatres in the Berkshires. Bravo to them.  

Let's get back to the magic which hits the audience smack in their faces before the play begins. Sound Designer Scott Killian rings dark jangly whispering music as the audience is seated, during intermission, and throughout several moments in the play. One would expect that a Lighting Designer would have the task of creating a lightning bolt on occasion. But Daniel J. Kotlowitz is a genius, again from the first moment the curtain opens to the last seconds. No cartoon-like shadows here, Kotlowitz develops drama with a capital D through slivers of lighting on a very dark set. Oh yes, the set. Bill Clarke, Scenic Designer, does wonders on a two-level stage, as well as indoors and outdoors; it's haunting. Of course, a director has his thumb on every aspect, backstage and onstage; in this case the keen work of David Auburn.

For all of its excellent points, I wonder why "Dracula" was mounted by BTG during a summer month. Yes, BTG productions are primarily in July and August. Yet, the Colonial continues up to December.

August 12, 2022

REVIEW: BSO, "Festival of Contemporary Music+"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
July 31, August 4-8, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Ellen Highstein
Co-curated by four Tanglewood Music Center faculty to celebrate Ellen Highstein, retiring after 25 years as TMC Director, the typically wide-ranging 2022 edition of this annual festival, featuring the TMC fellows she loves to nurture, was a fitting sendoff for their beloved colleague. 

It opened with a program of music for mixed ensembles by five composers with deep Tanglewood connections, including TMC alumni Oliver Knussen, Lee Hyla, and Alvin Singleton. Two standouts were: Boston Symphony Orchestra Artistic Partner Thomas Ades’s meticulous accounts of his own rhapsodic but challenging “Three Mazurkas,” written in 2009 for pianist Emanuel Ax; and Christopher Trapani’s colorful, blues-based “Waterlines,” inspired by Hurricane Katrina’s flooding of his native New Orleans, sensitively led by TMC conducting fellow Rita Castro Blanco, with heroic speech-singing by TMC faculty soprano Tony Arnold and haunting guitar work by Dieter Hennings. 
The festival closed with the American premiere of George Benjamin’s 2018 opera “Lessons in Love and Violence” in a shattering concert performance by the TMC orchestra and eight singers conducted by the composer. The libretto by English playwright Martin Crisp is based on Christopher Marlowe’s 1593 play “Edward II.” Consisting of seven scenes separated by brief, surging orchestral interludes in two parts presented without intermission, the inventively modernist 80-minute score makes substantial demands on its vocal and instrumental forces, all of which were met with stunning success by these well-prepared musicians. 

Portrayals of deep conviction were given by baritone Nathaniel Sullivan as an anguished Edward II, TMC soprano Elizabeth Polese as a resourceful Isabel, his queen, baritone Dominik Belavy as an affecting Gaveston, his male lover, tenor Daniel McGrew as a conniving nobleman, Mortimer, and TMC tenor Edmond Rodriguez as Edward III, transforming convincingly from the king’s innocent young son to his ruthless successor.   

Other highlights of the 2022 FCM were African-American pioneer Julius Eastman’s legendary 1979 “Gay Guerrilla” and a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s silent film “The Kid” with newly composed live music by five TMC composition fellows. Several days earlier, the TMC orchestra proved its mettle in slightly older repertoire, with a program made up of an exhilarating Debussy “Printemps” under TMC conducting fellow Nicolo Foron, a prismatic Stravinsky “Agon” led by Ades, a shimmering “Lumina” by Olly Wilson under Castro Blanco, and a riotously entertaining Hindemith “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber” led by Buffalo Philharmonic Music Director JoAnn Falletta in her long-overdue Tanglewood debut.   

Yet to come at Ozawa Hall is the complete solo piano music of Johannes Brahms in four concerts by Garrick Ohlsson (August 16, 18, 23, and 25).   

August 11, 2022

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, "A Little Night Music"

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, Ma.
through August 28, 2022
by Jarice Hanson

Photo by Daniel Rader
What can be more perfect than a show about love, and the magic of a summer night on a
perfect summer night in the Berkshires?  Barrington Stage Company’s version of “A Little Night Music” now on the Boyd-Quinson stage is as close to perfection as a show can be. 

Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful music and lyrics deserve to be heard, and the talented cast of this production delivers with perfect articulation and pacing that gives the audience time to register the meaning of his clever word play, all set to variations of three-quarter musical time that makes you feel a part of the dance.   

Everything about the Barrington Stage production is beautiful—from Yoon Bae’s scene design to Sara Jean Tosetti’s costumes, which included some very clever wigs, to David Lander’s expert lighting design and Leon Rothenberg’s sound design.  Musical director Darren R. Cohen once again balances perfect accompaniment to the voices of the talented cast, and BSC's choreographer Robert La Fosse has the actors gliding seamlessly across the stage.

When the musical opened on Broadway it won six Tony Awards, and the brightness of Hugh Wheeler’s book and Sondheim’s quintessentially “Sondheimian” score has continued to be heralded as a masterpiece, but in this production, director Julianne Boyd has allowed the humor to really shine.   Some of the best repartee occurs between Charlotte (Sierra Boggess) and her husband, the pompous dragoon, Carl-Magnus (Cooper Grodin), and highlights the yin and yang of marriage and social mores.   Desiree (Emily Skinner) and Fredrik (Jason Danieley) flirt and bond with passion and the joy of young love that has been “seasoned” by the years and by desire and expectation.

“A Little Night Music” has some of Sondheim’s most well-known songs, and two of them are show-stoppers in this production.   In Act I, Madame Armfeldt’s, “Liasons” sung by the wonderful Mary Beth Piel is heartfelt and truly breathtaking.   In Act II, Emily Skinner’s interpretation of “Send in the Clowns” is masterful, haunting, and original.

For Julianne Boyd, this production caps an extraordinary 28 year tenure as both the founder and Artistic Director of Barrington Stage. In her brief curtain speech, she mentions how she has always loved this musical.  The love shows, and if this is her parting gift to her audiences, we can only return the love with the type of response the audience can be expected to give night after night.   A standing ovation, for sure.

August 9, 2022

REVIEW: Goodspeed Opera House, "Anne of Green Gables"

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
through September 4, 2022
By Samantha & Susan Choquette

Goodspeed’s world-premiere production of the musical "Anne of Green Gables" is a fun, light-hearted show perfect for children, not to mention their adult chaperones. Goodspeed's angle on the classic tale sustains the story's most essential parts while making it their own. The mix of modern elements, particularly the choreography and costume designs blend with the turn-of-the-19th century plot, creating a beautiful retelling of this loveable story. 

Juliette Redden stars in the lead role of Anne Shirley; her impeccable voice, is particularly splendid in the songs "Waiting" and "A Different Kind of Girl". The lyrics and music certainly bring Anne to life. We see a stubborn, smart, and won’t take 'no' for an answer young girl in Act I. As Anne becomes more mature in Act II, Redden beautifully captures the essence of a young woman, grateful for what she learns about life. The direction of Act I seems to speed by yet with an even pace. The opposite is true in Act II.

Michelle Veintimilla as Diana Barry adds her beautiful voice and character to this story. Her is sure to be a fan favorite especially for the younger audience members. D.C. Anderson as Matthew Cuthbert adds a warm charm, unique to his role. "Honorable mentions" to Aurelia Williams (a spot-on comic), and Sharon Catherine Brown (a heart-wrenching singer) for their showstopping performances. 

With music by Matt Vinson and lyrics by Matte O’Brien, are light, witty, at times emotional, and contagious, like a worm in your head. Each actor has his/her moment to shine, whether it be a solo, duet, or a big showstopping number -- there are many. My personal favorites include "Different Kind of Girl," "Forever," and "Marilla’s Song". 

As a new production, there are a few aspects that I feel need some improvement. Although the relationship between Anne and Gil portrayed by a future star tenor Pierre Marais, are cute and develop throughout the production, it is never clear if this is meant to be a romantic connection or not.

For those who have yet to experience musicals at Goodspeed, its stage is quite small, and at some points feels unnecessarily crowded. Goodspeed's visually stunning house is a walk back in time, as is "Anne, the character and the actor, a vocal charm.

August 5, 2022

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, "Liana Paniyeva"

The Academy, Worthington, MA 
July 31, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

After studying, performing, and teaching in the United States for several years, Ukrainian-born Boston-based pianist Liana Paniyeva made a sensational Sevenars debut in a wide-ranging program of challenging and mostly unfamiliar repertoire. 

Liana Paniyeva
She opened with two of the sunniest preludes by Russian master composer/pianist Sergei
Rachmaninoff: a lush Op. 23/4 in D major; and a luminous Op. 23/6 in E-flat major. Then came a volatile “Fairy Tale,” Op. 20/1, by Rachmaninoff’s inventive but lesser-known fellow Russian composer/pianist and lifelong friend Nicolai Medtner. This was followed with two lovely miniatures by Ukrainian composers: a Chopinesque “Dream,” Op. 12, by “the father of Ukrainian classical music,” Mykola Lysenko; and a charming Etude, Op. 8/8, by Viktor Kosenko, which recalled early Scriabin.

Paniyeva’s next group began with two virtuosic Franz Liszt arrangements of songs by Franz Schubert: a haunted, flowing “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel;” and a pensive, caressing “Serenade.” It culminated in a dramatic fourth Ballade by Frederic Chopin, which epitomized the depth of keyboard sound, poetic sensibility, and talent for building climaxes that she had demonstrated in all the previous selections.

The first piano sonata by Robert Schumann was an unconventional choice to close her program, but this 1836 rarity gave Paniyeva a chance to champion a work she clearly believes in. Her total commitment found the unity in its sprawling structure, from a mercurial opening “Un poco adagio-Allegro vivace,” a ravishing slow “Aria,” based on an early song, and a lively “Scherzo: Allegrissimo,” with a surprise polonaise-like trio section, to a wildly discursive “Allegro un poco maestoso” finale, in which she wisely played down the “maestoso” (“majestic”) marking. 

With technical mastery to spare, a deep feeling for the grand Romantic tradition of piano playing, and a modest, all-business stage manner that focuses on the music rather than personal display, Liana Paniyeva has all the makings of a major solo career. 

Still to come at Sevenars are two more concerts: pianist Judith Lynn Stillman, flutist Rachel Braude, and violinist Charles Dimmick in music of mostly women composers (August 7); and the Bob Sparkman Trio, with clarinetist Sparkman and power couple pianist Jerry and bassist Kara Noble in their 20th Sevenars “glorious jazz collaboration” (August 14). 
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