Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 28, 2023

Review: UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center, "Martha Graham Dance Company"

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
March 25, 2023
by Suzanne Wells

Even if one does not fully understand the abstract nuances of modern dance, the power and fluid grace of a Martha Graham Dance Company production is an experience to be appreciated. Presenting one and 1/8th of Martha Graham’s original choreographies, the Company returned to UMass for the first time in seven years to perform “Canticle for Innocent Comedians” along with highlights of the “Dark Meadow Suite,” and the debut of “Get Up, My Daughter.”

"The Canticle..." is a representation of nature. Eight vignettes representing the Sun, Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Moon, Stars, and Death/Rebirth effortlessly flow one into the next. Originally choreographed by Martha Graham in 1952, inspired by a 1938 poem of the same name by Ben Belitt, the work has all been lost with the exception of Moon. The remaining vignettes, each choreographed individually by Sonya Tayeh, Alleyne Dance, Sir Robert Cohan, Juliano Nunes, Yue Yin, Micaela Taylor, and Jenn Freeman, incorporate the technically precise, natural movements for which Graham was known. The production is a remarkable display of the human body’s ability to move individually, as well as a melding of multiple bodies evoking images of the Hindu gods for creation and destruction, Brahma and Shiva. 

"The Dark Meadow Suite," also choreographed by Graham, was inspired by her study of Native American rituals. The dance is made up of tribal steps, with hints of kabuki and flamenco influences, as well as percussive sounds with the stamping of feet and the beating of thighs. Impressive for the strength and endurance required to produce and maintain the various poses, this dance is a sensual exploration to identify with oneself, one’s lover, and one’s community.

The debut of "Get Up, My Daughter," choreographed by Annie Rigney, was the unexpected highlight of the evening for both the audience and the performers, who literally finished the production hours before the curtain opened. This frenzied, passionate display of the universal struggle of woman to overcome hardship and prosper despite being shackled by themselves, and the men and women in their lives, is both historically disheartening and imminently optimistic. 

March 27, 2023

REVIEW: Playhouse on Park, "stop/TIME dance MACHINE"

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
March 24-April 2, 2023
by C. L. Blacke

photo by Zee Rubin
Stop/TIME Dance MACHINE is not just a string of hit-and-run dance routines; it’s a time-
travelling extravaganza. With its cohesive and imaginative storyline, the 18th annual all-original stop/time dance theater production features comedy, singing, and of course, dancing as award-winning choreographer Darlene Zoller disappears into a time machine seeking inspiration. Left behind, her dancers are forced to send delegate parties into the space-time continuum to find their fearless leader.

As the resident dance company of Playhouse on Park, stop/time dance theater is made up of 15 dancers and singers with full-time jobs and families, who dedicate their free time to doing what they love. And it shows in a big way. Each member commits to their role not only in nailing their steps but in their facial expressions as well. It’s hard to tell who’s having more fun—the dancers or the audience.

The program opens in a flurry of pirouettes with two numbers both before and after Darlene’s disappearance. David Lewis’s science lab set design features a backdrop of buttons, keyboards, junction boxes, and, of course, the time machine door. With delegates off on adventure, singer/dancer Victoria (Tori) Mooney stays behind to figure out a way to bring them all home safely. Visible at all times, the set anchors the storyline to the present day and creates a sense of urgency as scenes with Tori manning the controls are interspersed throughout, including one with her hilarious rendition of “Baby One More Time”.

Dance styles run a nonlinear gamut from a turn of the (20th) century synchronized swimming routine to a prehistoric tribal rhythm dance, from the 1920s Charleston to a futuristic “Dance Apocalyptic”.

Audience favorites include the foot-stomping, hand clapping, finger-snapping tap routines to “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “In the Mood”, as well as the heartfelt Act II opening duet, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”, sung by Amanda Forker and Rick Fountain. But by far, the standout full-group number, complete with MTV theme song and astronaut, is the Act I closer “Smooth Criminal”, a dance tribute to Michael Jackson performed in 1930s gangster suits and fedoras.

Will Darlene reunite with her dancers? Does she find inspiration? Or is she just out of time? These answers will only be revealed by attending this annual production worthy of many standing ovations.

March 22, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Balourdet String Quartet"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT 
March 19, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Formed in 2018 and named after a “chef extraordinaire” at the Taos School of Music, where they met, the Boston-based Balourdet Quartet – violinists Angela Bae and Justin DeFilippis, violist Benjamin Zannoni, and cellist Russell Houston - explained their South Windsor program as showcasing how they “sing together.” It featured three contrasting works by 19th-century German composers. 

The program began with a sparkling account of Hugo Wolf’s sprightly 1887 “Italian Serenade,” which DeFilippis, in lively, engaging remarks (“He knows how to use a microphone,” one listener enthused), called a “delightful little appetizer” for the two quartets to follow. 

Next came a passionate reading of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1837 Quartet #4 in E Minor, Op. 44/2, written when he was 28 years old, “the median age,” DeFilippis noted, “of Balourdet Quartet members.” From a mercurial opening “Allegro assai appassionato,” a fleet “Scherzo: Allegro di molto,” and a ravishing “Andante,” to a fast and furious “Presto agitato” finale, they captured all the “emotional turbulence of the Romantic era” that DeFilippis had described.   

The concert closed with a powerful performance of Ludvig van Beethoven’s groundbreaking 1825-26 Quartet #13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130, one of the last pieces he wrote before his death in 1827. In six rather than the usual four movements, DeFilippis saw this as a “transformative” work far ahead of its time. 

A fiery “Adagio ma non troppo-Allegro” led into three shorter movements with dance tempos – a whirlwind “Presto,” a pungent “Andante con moto ma non troppo,” and an ingratiating “Alla danza tedesca: Allegro assai” – and a sublime, lyrical “Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo.” Then it abruptly shifted moods with the challenging “Grosse Fuge” (“Great Fugue”), which DeFilippis heard as ending the quartet (and which the Balourdets played) with “resounding joy.”   

The warm acoustics of the theater in this suburban Connecticut venue amplified the youthful exuberance of this foursome’s seamless musicmaking. It will be interesting to hear how their performance style evolves in coming decades beyond its current astonishing excellence. 

SWCA, a nonprofit, volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for over 40 years. All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm, and seating on a first-come, first-served basis begins at 1:30 pm. Next up is cellist Jacqueline Choi on April 2.

March 14, 2023

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, "Symphonie Fantastique"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT 
March 10-12, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

For the fifth program of the HSO’s 2022-2023 “Masterworks” series, Music Director Carolyn Kuan selected contrasting repertoire, including two popular short pieces by a path-breaking African-American composer, a new cello concerto by a leading woman composer, and a one-of-a-kind Romantic symphony by a one-of-a-kind 19th-century composer. 

It opened with two rags by Scott Joplin: “Rag-Time Dance, A Stop-Time Two Step” (1899); and “The Entertainer” (1902) – in orchestral arrangements by composer-conductor-educator Gunther Schuller. The first was excerpted from a ballet, while the second became famous in the score for the 1973 film “The Sting.” Kuan and the HSO’s affable first-ever performances of this music got the concert off to a relaxed, swinging start. 

Inbal Segev
The orchestra extended the dance rhythm theme with Anna Clyne’s 2019 “Dance, Concertofor Cello and Orchestra,” in which Israeli cellist Inbal Segev made her stunning HSO debut. Clyne named its five short movements after lines from a poem by 13
th-century Persian mystic Rumi in which she felt a strong “sense of urgency.” 

Her use of electronic, folk-style, and “Baroque-like” elements - and Segev’s skill in pivoting from dark, rich tone in the opening “when you’re broken open” movement to more abrasive sounds in the next movement, “if you’ve torn the bandage off” - made the attractive musical setting feel timeless. Conductor and orchestra were committed partners. Segev’s heartfelt encore, the “Sarabande” from Bach’s third suite for solo cello, reinforced the calm simplicity of Clyne’s “when you’re perfectly free” finale. 

No composer who preceded or followed him ever wrote music that sounded quite like that of French composer Hector Berlioz. In 1827 Berlioz fell in love with English actress Harriet Smithson on seeing her in Paris as Shakespeare’s Juliet and Ophelia. In 1830, he chronicled his unrequited love for her (they eventually wed, but the marriage failed) in his five-movement “Symphonie Fantastique.” 

Kuan and the HSO gave the  a thrilling ride, from a dramatic “Reveries [and] Passions,” a light, graceful “Ball,” a ravishing “Scene in the Country,” an exuberant “March to the Scaffold” (after the lover hallucinates that he’s killed his beloved), to a riotous closing “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” (the lover’s own funeral rites) – a sacred/profane mix that still galvanizes audiences two centuries later. 

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, "Fearless Women"

Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
March 11, 2023
by Michael J. Moran

The fourth classical concert of the SSO’s 2022-2023 season not only featured music by three women composers during Women’s History Month, but also honored ten local women, eight of whom appeared on stage before the concert, with “Fearless Women Awards” for their professional contributions to the greater Springfield community.

Led by Mark Russell Smith, Music Director from 1995 to 2000 of the SSO and, since 2008, of the Quad City (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra, the musical program opened with a gripping account of Joan Tower’s 1986 “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” who is “much more active than the common man,” Smith wryly noted in brief remarks. He was referring to Tower’s inspiration, Aaron Copland’s 1942 “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which has far fewer notes to play. This was followed without pause by an evocative rendering of the finale from Florence Price’s 1934 “Mississippi River Suite,” which quotes the Negro spirituals “Deep River” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” in imaginative scoring that draws on her African-American heritage.

Next came a blazing performance of French composer Louise Farrenc’s 1847 third symphony, in G Minor. Its four movements, while occasionally reminiscent of her contemporary, Felix Mendelssohn, sounded mostly like her own original voice, with many distinctive instrumental touches and memorable tunes that often took unpredictable turns. From a dramatic opening “Allegro,” a warmly affectionate “Adagio,” and a mischievous “Scherzo,” showcasing a playful woodwind section, to a daringly intense “Finale,” conductor and orchestra captured every shifting nuance of this treasurable score. 

But no woman on the program was more fearless than rising Chinese-born pianist Wei Luo, who made a sensational SSO debut in Sergei Prokofiev’s rarely heard 1913 second piano concerto, also in the key of G Minor. She launched into the wild, dissonant opening “Andantino” with total confidence. Luo brought technical precision and interpretive finesse to the piece's clashing loud and lyrical passages, and to the fleet “Scherzo: Vivace,” darkly menacing “Moderato,” and turbulent “Finale: Allegro tempestoso,” dispatching the bravura solo cadenzas in the outer movements with apparent ease. Smith and the SSO offered nimble support.  

Luo rewarded her enthusiastic audience with the perfect encore, a thunderous reading of the “Precipitato” finale of Prokofiev’s seventh piano sonata, which capped an evening of rediscoveries with bold contemporary flair. 

March 9, 2023

REVIEW: The Bushnell, "Hadestown"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through March 12, 2023
by Jarice Hanson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson
In 2019, “Hadestown” took Broadway by storm, winning eight Tony Awards, including best musical and best original score. Anais Mitchell, who wrote the music, lyrics and book, and director Rachel Chavkin worked on crafting the piece for years, and the touring company at the Bushnell delivers a production that honors the blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating a ground-breaking piece of musical theatre.

The story is based on intertwined Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. A brilliant chorus of three “fates” weave the stories together as seven musicians on stage, with the exception of the drummer, who performs backstage, and a talented chorus of singer/dancers perform a total of 32 songs. Nathan Lee Graham plays the MC is as charming and seductive in the role of Hermes, who oversees the developments with a wink and a nod to the audience.   

The cast is first-rate, with special kudos due to the deep-voiced Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades; Lindsey Hailes, as the hard-drinking, fun loving Persephone; Hannah Whitley as the ingénue Eurydice; and on opening night, J. Antonio Rodriguez as the sweet-voiced, love-struck Orpheus. Because this is a company with such difficult vocal demands, audiences might see different performers on different nights, but the production is of such high-quality there is not a weak performer in the troupe.

Visually, Hadestown is stunning. In the first act the scenes are played in a New Orleans-style nightclub. When the action goes “underground” to Hadestown, the set morphs into a semi-industrial factory reminiscent of the film, “Metropolis,” where the soul-sucking work reduces the workers to nameless miners. The critique of capitalism and the mining of the earth become metaphors that update the classic Greek myths and reinforce the timelessness of the stories of love, greed, corruption, and redemption.  

The technical aspects of the show, including lighting design by Bradley King, costume design by Michael Krass, and sound design by Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz are rendered perfectly on the Bushnell stage. A special mention should be given to Eric Kang, music director and David Lai, music coordinator, for creating an acoustic balance in the cavernous Bushnell that makes the words easy to hear, enhancing the lyrical nature of the prose and the very important subtleties of Mitchell’s text. 

While brushing up on your Greek mythology doesn’t hurt—it’s really not necessary in order to understand the unfolding story. One thing is obvious, “Hadestown” deserves all of the praise it received at the Tony Awards, and it is without a doubt, an extraordinary piece of musical theatre. This company works beautifully together to make the treatment of these stories unforgettable.

March 2, 2023

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, "The Glass Menagerie"

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through April 2, 2023
by C. L. Blacke

Reading this play in high school (or was it college?) did little to prepare me for the emotional response I experienced while watching Director Rand Foerster’s production of Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie. At the time, I hadn’t the life experiences nor the distance from them to fully appreciate how memories affect our lives in the present. But it’s this universal concept, what Foerster notes as “the impossibility of escaping our past”, that resonates with me.

Set in 1937 St. Louis, the story follows the bleak and tragic and sometimes humorous lives of Tom Wingfield, his physically and emotionally crippled sister Laura, and his deeply flawed mother Amanda. Williams drew on his own familial relationships in this deeply personal and autobiographical play to explore the blurred lines between illusion and truth, memory and reality, escape and freedom.

These blurred lines are reinforced by Foerster’s use of haunting, and often dissonant melodies played by violinist Ann-Marie Messbauer, shining glass figurines that contrast with a dark, heavy-set design, and timed lighting on an almost leering portrait of Mr. Wingfield, the man who abandoned his family nearly 16 years before.

However, it’s the ferocity with which Robbie Simpson (Tom) and Cate Damon (Amanda) attack their roles that brings this production to life. Tom’s long-suffering frustration and burning need to escape his hyper-critical mother is palpable. Damon’s portrayal of the faded Southern belle maddens, devastates, and even entertains the audience at every turn. Where Simpson excels at shouting, stomping, and slamming doors, Damon embodies the strength, poise, and humility of her genteel character.

Perhaps true to the notion that memory is not always reliable, I am somewhat disappointed in Abigail Milnor-Sweetser’s performance of Laura. Her simpering shyness and lumbering gait make the character appear clumsy and awkward, unlike the rare and fragile glass figurine Laura should be. Yet, audience members still hope Laura finds true love and happiness with the gentleman caller.

Tosh Foerster, the gentleman caller, conveys Jim’s good-nature, self-confidence, and relentless pursuit of personal development with a broad smile and affable charm in the brief time he is onstage. 

This production delivers what Williams himself once called the “need for understanding and tenderness and fortitude among individuals trapped by circumstance.” Through these characters, we recognize how our own memories shape reality and, because they are such a part of us, we can never truly be free from the past.

February 26, 2023

Review: UMass Amherst, "William Kanengiser: Diaspora"

UMass, Amherst, MA
February 25, 2023
by Suzanne Wells
The frigid February night was perfect for an intimate evening in the Great Hall of the Old Chapel listening to classical acoustic guitar performed by world-renowned artist, William Kanengiser. Successfully combining storytelling and music in his Diaspora Project, William Kanengiser is preserving the wins and losses of immigrants around the world. 
Starting off with “Fantasia Sevillana” by Juaquin Turina, who, after studying impressionism in France, returned to Spain to incorporate it into Classical Spanish music. The disjointed first notes with hints of flamenco music soon morph into a melodic competition between a man and a bull. The increasing tempo of the music coincides with the drama of the story. When the final strings reverberate through the hall, one can almost hear a shout of “Olé!”
Moving to North Carolina, the Diaspora Project showcases Bryan Johanson’s “The Bootlegger’s Tale”. Divided into two parts, “Lament for a Broken Still” and “Ode to Whiskey,” the music conveys the stories handed down by generations of Irish immigrants known for their whiskey making during Prohibition. The “Lament…” is a series of scales played in increasing octaves, then repeated, representing the setting up and dismantling of stills. An “Ode to Whiskey” is a jig meant to extol the virtues of alcohol, but in this listener’s mind became a game of hide and seek between the bootleggers and the law in the forests of the Appalachian Mountains.
Heading east, the second commissioned work, “Lost Land” by Golfam Khayam, an Iranian composer, presents the story of returning home after a long period away only to find that nothing is as remembered. The melodic variations alternatively fill one with the excitement of reliving happy memories and the disappointment of finding those memories forever changed. A sixth string in a lower octave provides the foundation of time always moving forward.
After a brief stop in Cuba for some light-hearted fun with Léo Brouwer’s “Afro-Cuban Lullaby” and “Danza Carecteristica,” we land in Tibet, with Andrea Clearfield’s “Reflections on the Dranyen,” also commissioned for the Diaspora Project. In an attempt to preserve Nepal’s musical heritage, Clearfield composed an ode to a three-stringed instrument, the Dranyen.  The music starts off slowly, then picks up speed as if in celebration’ adding some percussion the melody takes on the frenzy of a rock concert before calming to more reflective tones, and ultimately ending with a fading heartbeat. 
Kanengiser closed the program with “3 African Sketches” by Duśan Bogdanović and the “Brookland Boogie” by Brian Head sending the audience off into a dark snowy night with toe-tapping hope.

February 24, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Einav Yarden"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT 
February 19, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Internationally acclaimed Israeli-born pianist Einav Yarden, now based in Berlin, Germany, brought an innovative program to South Windsor of lesser-known repertoire by composers with familiar last names, including Bach -- Carl Philipp Emanuel (the son) and Johann Sebastian (the father) Brahms. 

C.P.E. Bach, one of four sons of J.S. Bach who became composers, was both more prolific than his father and more popular until at least the mid-19th century. Yarden opened her concert with three short examples of what she described in brief remarks as the “sensitive style” of his music from the 1770s: two playful Rondos (in C minor and G major); and a mercurial Fantasy in E-flat major. The sharp-edged clarity of her playing recalled that of her teacher, legendary pianist Leon Fleischer. 

This was followed by a dramatic reading of the second of J.S. Bach’s six 1714 English suites, with a vigorous Prelude, a graceful Allemande, a stately Courante, a heartfelt Sarabande, a fleet pair of Bourrees, and an explosive “Gigue.” Next came C.P.E. Bach’s 1745 “Arioso with 7 Variations” in F major, which Yarden saw as foreshadowing Mendelssohn (who revived interest in J.S. Bach) almost a century later, and her buoyant performance made a powerful showcase for this imaginative score. 
Both the classical rigor of Bach the father and the emotional force of Bach the son were evident in Yarden’s protean rendition of Johannes Brahms’ 1892 set of seven Fantasies, Op. 116, concluding her program in the late Romantic era. She accordingly deepened her touch on the keyboard for a commanding Capriccio in D minor, a solemn Intermezzo in A minor, an intense Capriccio in G minor, a deeply felt Intermezzo in E Major, a glowing Intermezzo in E minor, a delicate second Intermezzo in E major, and a turbulent final Capriccio in D minor. 

Yarden displays enormous technical proficiency, unerring interpretive mastery, and a winning stage presence which clearly engaged her capacity audience. The theater in this suburban Connecticut venue offers warm acoustics and comfortable, accessible seating. 

SWCA, a nonprofit, volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for 40 years. All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm at 1:30 pm. Next up is the Boston-based Balourdet Quartet on March 19.

REVIEW: The Bushnell, “Tootsie”

The Bushnell, Hartford CT
through February 26, 2023
by R.E. Smith

Photo by Evan Zimmerman
Like so many recent Broadway shows, “Tootsie” is part of the “you’ve seen the old movie, now see the new musical” genre. The show’s creators, clearly recognizing that gender inequity issues have changed drastically since the 1980’s, have decided to re-focus the original story on to the world of theatre. Self-absorbed actors, ditzy showgirls, arrogant directors, down on their luck writers. . .all are fair game for this pleasantly entertaining comedy. 

And by the way, one fellow dresses up as a woman to get a part!

Drew Becker plays the Dustin Hoffman role of Michael Dorsey, an actor so dedicated to his craft that it has actually become a detriment. He saves his career (kind of), finds love, helps his friends, rights wrongs and learns important life lessons while posing as “Dorothy Michaels”.  There’s plenty of humor and energy in Becker’s performance and his vocal range and ability is impressive. We believe his performance, but the script itself does require some suspension of disbelief.

Ashley Alexandra as Julie Nichols, our “other” leading lady, has the most relatable and grounded character in the cast. She uses delicate brush strokes, in stark contrast to the broadly drawn characters surrounding her. She’s given the most “real” emotional motivation to work with and delivers on that potential through her subtle, confident presence and powerful singing voice.

They are ably assisted by 2 audience favorite characters who just happen to have the 2 most memorable songs. Payton Reilly as Michael’s frantic ex-girlfriend Stacy delivers rat-a-tat-tat comic relief in the form of “What’s Gonna Happen”, while “Jeff Sums it Up” is delivered with droll affability by Jared Michael David Grant.

David Yazbek, who did the music for “The Band’s Visit”, takes the score for an impressive musical tour across multiple styles, from the Sondheim-esk “Whaddaya Do”, the Webber-like “I Won’t Let you Down”, all helping to add fuel to the parody fire that is the “show within a show”. “Opening Number” is works equally well as a truly hummable tune and a spot-on spoof.

The whole ensemble delivers palpable high energy in their group numbers. Often acting as a snarky Greek-chorus and clearly enjoying the self-parodying choreography, one of the show's truly delightful highlights. Matthew Rella and Adam DuPlessis make the most of their smaller parts with superb comic timing and delivery. The show is rife with both clever wordplay and broad physical humor.

“Tootsie”’s parts are greater than the sum of the whole. The performances, songs, choreography, and humor are all wonderful, and make for an entertaining experience, but just like Michael Dorsey’s five o’clock shadow, the underlying narrative structure and turns don’t quite hold up to close scrutiny. But if you just sit back and enjoy the hi-jinks, you won’t be disappointed!

February 21, 2023

Review: Barrington Stage, "10x10"

Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, MA
February 19-March 5, 2023
by Jarice Hanson & Shera Cohen

Credit should be given to both Barrington Stage Company and the City of Pittsfield for this year's presentation of "10X10". Now in its 12th year, "10X10" offers audiences a reminder that BSC's full season is not far away. Appreciating these mini-plays is a pleasant dose of the talents of a theatre troupe regularly seen in July/August. "10X10" is a little bit of summer in February.

An overall observation which we didn't think about in the past 11 years is the range of skills of each actor. My guess is that the three men and three women present at least four diverse characters over the course of 90-minutes. Some roles are comic, some dramatic, others portray children or seniors far beyond their years. The range of actors (a few of whom are BSC "regulars") is admirable especially when the fast-paced vignettes offer about 30-second intervals from one play to the next.

The plays themselves are chosen competitively from a variety of submissions; each written by a different playwright. However, the directors of five plays each are BSC's new artistic director Alan Paul, the balance by noted playwright Matthew Penn.

Two of my favorite plays are: "Right Field of Dreams" written by Stephen Kaplan and "Gimme Shelter" by Robert Weibezahl.

Particularly impressive are the three male actors; young Skyler Gallun has great energy and is consistently present in every play he was in; Matt Neely, the middle-aged actor, excels at vocal work in each vignette; and Robert Zukerman, the older man, differentiates his characters best out of all of the players (women and men).  

While I do think some of the plays have fairly weak or no endings, all have a strong beginning. Maybe a few small rewrites are needed. 

It's always fair to give a shout out to the full cast in an opening number that welcomes people with a wink and a nod to musical theatre, this time with clever new lyrics. 

Preview: Holyoke Civic Symphony, "Such Sweet Sorrow"

Holyoke Civic Symphony, Holyoke, MA
March 12, 2023

Ronald Gorevic
The theme of Holyoke Civic Symphony's upcoming concert, “Such Sweet Sorrow,” will remind audience members of the sadness of parting yet with the joy of love and hope shining through March 12th at 3 pm as HCS continues its season’s theme. The performance is part of the symphony's series, “A World of Romance.” Doors open at 2:30pm. Admission is free with donations appreciated.

The program includes two works inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Romeo and Juliet: Wedding Procession by Charles Gounod and Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

There’s more romantic music with guest soloist Ronald Gorevic playing violin in Antonin Dvorák’s Romance, Op 11. Gorevic also performs on his viola in Romanze, Op. 85 by Max Bruch. Frederick Delius’ The Walk to the Paradise Garden adds to the program’s world of romance.

Ronald Gorevic’s performances have been enthusiastically heard by HCS audiences over several years. He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a performer and teacher, on both the violin and viola. He has been principal violinist with the Springfield  Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years and is currently on the faculty of Smith College.

February 13, 2023

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, "Romantic Rachmaninoff & Price"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT 
February 10-12, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

In the fourth program of the HSO’s 2022-2023 “Masterworks” series, Music Director Carolyn Kuan paired two works by African-American women composers with a beloved late Romantic piano concerto played by an African-American soloist for a dual celebration of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day weekend. 

It opened with Jessie Montgomery’s five-minute 2012 mini-rhapsody “Starburst,” in which, the composer-violinist-music educator says, “Exploding gestures are juxtaposed with gentle fleeting melodies…to create a multidimensional soundscape.” A nimble, full-bodied account by the HSO strings got the concert off to an exuberant start. 

Next came Florence Price’s first symphony, which largely disappeared after its well-received 1933 premiere by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until a recent renewal of interest in her work. A discursive, folk-inspired opening “Allegro [ma] non troppo” movement is followed by a hymn-like “Largo, maestoso,” a rollicking “Juba Dance: Allegro,” and a slapdash “Finale: Presto.” Interplay between a large percussion section, including bells, celesta, and a wider-than-usual array of drums, and the brass, string, and woodwind sections of the orchestra evoked both the call-and-response and body slapping techniques of Black traditional music in the HSO’s blazing performance.      

Terrance Wilson
The concert closed with a rapturous reading by Terrence Wilson of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, his 1901 breakthrough piece after three years of writer’s block cured by treatment with hypnosis and now a cornerstone of the standard repertoire. Wilson, a Bronx native with two decades of international acclaim to his credit, played the opening solo chords with immense power but varied his keyboard touch with tasteful nuance through an expansive, mercurial opening “Moderato” movement, a lush, serene “Adagio sostenuto,” and a vividly exciting “Allegro scherzando” finale, to capture all the music’s shifting moods. Kuan and the HSO offered impassioned support. 

As if this finale weren’t grand enough, Wilson rewarded the audience’s enthusiastic applause with a still more daring feat of digital dexterity in his encore, the pounding “Precipitato” finale of Sergei Prokofiev’s 1942 seventh piano sonata, which he seemed to toss off with disarmingly thunderous ease. Even without the Belding Theater’s overhead “piano cam,” the staggering virtuosity of Wilson’s furious finger work was abundantly clear to his enthralled listeners.

February 1, 2023

PREVIEW: Westfield Athenaeum, MOSSO Chamber Music Concert

MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra)
Westfield Athenaeum, Westfield, MA

The Westfield Athenaeum will present a three-concert chamber music series beginning Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 7:00PM with MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra) performing. This is the second year of this partnership with Westfield Athenaeum. A pre-performance talk starts 6PM, which is free to ticket holders.
Violinist Beth Welty, horn player Sarah Sutherland, and pianist Elizabeth Skavish will perform horn trios of Frédéric Duvernoy, Trygve Madsen, and Johannes Brahms. Beth Welty, Chair of MOSSO, is Acting Principal Second Violin of MOSSO and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Sarah Sutherland, MOSSO and SSO horn player, is also MOSSO’s finance director.
Champlain Trio
The series continues on Thursday, March 23, with a performance by the Vermont-based Champlain Trio, which includes MOSSO and SSO Principal Cello Emily Taubl. The Champlain Trio will perform Brilliant Colors, a program which features music by Tchaikovsky, Erik Neilsen (Trio No. 2 written for the ensemble), Jennifer Higdon, Amy Beach, and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. 
The series concludes on April 20, with MOSSO and SSO horn player Robert Hoyle’s quintet, the Connecticut-based Harmonia V. The quintet will celebrate April in Paris with an all-French program, featuring pieces by Barthe, Fauré, Ravel, Poulenc, Debussy, Pierné, and Lefebvre. 

January 31, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Liana Paniyeva"

Evergreen Crossings Retirement Community, South Windsor, CT 
January 29, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Liana Paniyeva
Although Ukrainian-born pianist Liana Paniyeva’s South Windsor program included no music written less than a century ago, her skillful choice of repertoire and the order in which she presented it made each selection sound new and fresh for contemporary audiences. 

Her opening set drew on her Slavic heritage, from a ravishingly warm Prelude, Op. 23/4, by Russian composer/pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, and a tender folk-based “Dreaming,” by early Ukrainian master Mykola Lysenko, to two charming but rhythmically daring etudes and two attractively Scriabinesque “Poemes-Legends” by later Ukrainian composer Victor Kosenko.   

Next came an elegant account of Maurice Ravel’s 1905 “Sonatine,” with a lively opening “Modere,” a graceful “Mouvement de menuet,” and a vivid closing “Anime.” In sharp contrast was a pungent reading of Sergei Prokofiev’s five strikingly avant-garde 1914 “Sarcasms,” featuring a fiery “Tempestoso,” a harsh “Allegro rubata,” a furious “Allegro precipitato,” a turbulent “Smanioso” (“Frenzied”), and a hectic “Precipitosissimo” fading into a quiet “Andantino” close. 

Following the still cutting-edge “Sarcasms,” which could have been written yesterday, Paniyeva’s versatile treatment of Robert Schumann’s five 1839 “Carnival Scenes from Vienna” heightened their novelty, from her forceful opening “Allegro,” melancholy “Romanze,” fleet “Scherzino,” and dramatic “Intermezzo,” to her brilliantly exuberant “Finale.”

A leap forward in time brought a rhapsodic take on George Gershwin’s 1924 standard “The Man I Love,” in a knuckle-busting transcription by pianist Earl Wild, written in the spirit of 19th-century composer-pianist Franz Liszt, whose own arrangements for solo piano of two songs by Franz Schubert brought the concert to a nontraditional close: a lush, reflective 1826 “Serenade,” and a somber, even harrowing 1814 “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel.”  

Her unassuming stage presence belied the power of Paniyeva’s nimble fingers, which didn’t hit a wrong note throughout this technically challenging program, and the unfailing sensitivity of her interpretations through such widely varied repertoire. The theater in this northern Connecticut venue offers warm acoustics and comfortable, accessible seating. 

SWCA, a nonprofit, volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for 40 years. All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm, and seating on a first-come, first-served basis begins a half-hour earlier. Next up is Israeli pianist Einav Yarden on February 19.

January 29, 2023

Preview: TheaterWorks, "Queen of Basel"

TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
Feb. 3-26 and steaming Feb. 19-26

Cast members of "Queen of Basal"
TheaterWorks Hartford, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, is proud to present the New England Premiere of "Queen of Basel" by Hilary Bettis. Directed by Cristina Angeles, Queen of Basel is a bold adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie set within the Latinx community during Miami’s Art Basel. The production features an all Latinx cast and creative team.

It’s Miami’s Art Basel, where real estate heiress Julie reigns over the blowout her mogul father is throwing at his South Beach hotel. But after tangling with him and a tray of drinks, Julie plots her next move in the hotel’s storage kitchen with Christine, a waitress who recently fled violence in Venezuela, and Christine’s fiancé John, an Uber driver with ambitions. This explosive elixir of power, class, and race within the Latinx community examines the timelessness of love and betrayal in this bold new play.

Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero commented, “Queen of Basel" is a play that has excited me since I first read it a couple of years ago. When planning the 2022-2023 season, I felt it was essential to include a story that speaks to our Latin community. 

The cast includes Silvia Dionicio as Christine, Kelvin Grullon as John, and Christine Spang as Julie.

The running time is 80-minutes with no intermission.

Note: The play contains strong language and adult content. It is not recommended for persons under the age of 18. 

Preview: Playhouse on Park, "Indecent"

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
January 23-February 26, 2023

Photo by Meredith Longo
"Indecent" by Paula Vogel will run at Playhouse on Park for one month this winter.

This production will be directed by Kelly O’Donnell, with music direction by Alexander Sovronsky and choreography by Katie Stevinson-Nollet. The theme of "Indecent" and the other plays featured in POP's 14th season is Perseverance. This season highlights stories of fighters and survivors, to coincide with the Playhouse’s journey of persevering through the pandemic. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel tells the explosive and deeply moving story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Jewish playwright Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance—a play about a forbidden lesbian romance that enchanted and outraged audiences. We follow the path of the artists who risked their careers in order to perform it. It actively pays tribute to the Yiddish, immigrant families, Jews, theater makers, and the women, specifically the queer women, who are erased from historical narratives. "Indecent" is a riveting backstage drama filled with music, movement, groundbreaking theater, and stage magic. 

Director Kelly O’Donnell is a theater and film director based in New York City who believes that theater can be a powerful tool for fostering peace. Kelly is returning to POP, after having directed last season. A co-founder of the critically acclaimed and nationally recognized Flux Theatre Ensemble, she has directed throughout New York City in numerous venues.

About Playhouse on Park: Managed under the direction of Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc., Playhouse on Park is Greater Hartford’s award-winning destination for the performing arts. Playhouse on Park offers a wide range of thought-provoking, inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable professional theatre productions that leave audiences often smiling, sometimes crying, and always talking about what they have just experienced. 

There will be a talk back with the cast after each Sunday matinee. COVID-19 Policy: Vaccination card checks and masks are not required. However, masks are strongly recommended. 

The Presenting Sponsor of Playhouse on Park’s 2022-23 Season is The Richard P. Garmany Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. 

Preview: Hartford Stage, "Espejos: Clean"

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
January 12 - February 5, 2023

"Espejos: Clean" is a groundbreaking bilingual tour de force presented at Hartford Stage.

Two worlds collide one evening at a high-end resort in Mexico, igniting a series of misunderstandings, miscalculations, and internal reckonings. Told entirely in English and Spanish — with respective supertitles — Espejos: Clean offers an eye-opening story of unlikely and meaningful connection.

Spanish translator/adapter Paula Zelaya Cervantes has molded Christine Quintana's play to appeal to speakers and/or listeners of either language. Melissa Crespo directs. These performances are in association with Syracuse Stage.

In order for those whose first language is Spanish, accommodations include: open captioned performance on January 29 and audio described performance (in English) on February 4 at 2pm.

Preview: Exit 7 Players, "Clue"

Exit 7 Players, Ludlow, MA
February 10-12, 17-19, 2023

The classic board game is brought to life in Clue! Six guests are invited to a dinner party thrown by an anonymous host. They are given aliases -- Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet. Though discouraged from revealing personal information, it is soon discovered that all of them have fallen victim to the same blackmailer, they're very host of the evening. Each is presented with a weapon and an option: pay their extortionist double or kill the innocent butler. What follows is a madcap, slapstick evening full of murder, mystery, and laughs as they seek to puzzle out the culprit amongst criminals.

The director for the production is Krystle Bernier.

Understudy performance on Friday, February 17, 2023.

January 18, 2023

Review: The Bushnell, "Six"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through October 22, 2023
by Shera Cohen

So many superlatives can describe the musical "Six". For example, there's: energetic, enthusiastic, and exciting. Several more positive adjectives include vibrant and colorful, literally and figuratively. However, these accolades are balanced with some that are not necessarily praiseworthy: loud, sometimes inaudible, and confusing.

"Six" is a relatively new musical based on very old history of England's Henry VIII's six wives. One memorable and funny line, in essence, asks, Who was Henry IX's wife? Henry V? Henry VI, Henry VII? They don't know or care. Ah, but Henry VIII not only topped the head count of wives at six (although two lost their heads), history buffs in the audience at the Bushnell knew the who's who, when, where they were from, and most importantly, who succeeded whom. Indeed, it's fair to assume that most seated in the theatre were up on their history books, movies, and/or PBS Specials to be familiar with these true stories.

As a teen, I was taught, "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." Therein lies the plot. Six actors, boisterous singers, and dynamite dancers represent the sextet. For better or for worse, only two of the women are set apart from the others. Common are non-stop boisterous voices, most as ensemble pieces, and effervescent dance numbers throughout the production.

Separate reviews on backstage points of "Six" could easily accompany this broad stroke review; i.e. the campy metallic costumes, flashing light show, and band to "beat the bands". I'm sure it's no coincidence that all musicians were female.

At no point does the audience see Henry, just the wives. Overheard at the musical's end were comments that "Six" is a feminist musical. Others used the description "inspirational". Perhaps? No steadfast stance is necessary. A take-away for me was wannabe-feminists crushed by actual history of some 500+ years ago. 

Two comments are important to the audience:
  • Assuredly, it's fun to boot 'n holler, sing-along, wave your arms, etc. Yet, think about courtesy to those seated nearby.
  • Try to give 5 or so minutes to read the 2-page bios on each queen. Included are facts and fun commentary. Catherine's interests: religion, sewing, dancing, a bit more religion. Jane's was obedience. Anna of Cleves' was staying alive.

January 17, 2023

REVIEW: Valley Classical Concerts, "Orion Weiss, William Hagen, Nicholas Canellakis"

Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, Florence, MA 
January 15, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

This varied program by an ad hoc trio of soloists – pianist Orion Weiss, violinist William
Hagen, and cellist Nicholas Canellakis – could have been titled “A Century of Piano Trios,” as it moved from Haydn’s 1793 trio in A Major, the thirty-second of his forty-five works in that form, to Dvorak’s 1891 “Dumky” trio in E Minor, the last of his four such works, and back to Mendelssohn’s 1846 trio in C Minor, the second of his two piano trios. 

Haydn’s likeable music is a favorite concert opener to put audiences in a good mood, and, here, also to clarify the easy personal rapport and technical unanimity among these players, who all have extensive chamber music experience but are soloists in their primary careers. In their lively reading of his A Major trio, the “Allegro moderato” first movement was urgent and visceral; the “Andante,” a restful interlude; and the “Finale: Vivace assai,” a fast and furious race to the finish line. 

Dvorak’s “Dumky” trio derives its nickname from the Ukrainian word “dumka” (“thought,” plural “dumky”), which evolved into a Slavic folk ballad and, later, a classical music form depicting sudden happy-sad mood shifts. Like Haydn’s A Major trio, Dvorak’s E Minor defies the traditional four-movement structure, comprising six movements, all dumky. Introducing the piece, Weiss joked that it could almost be called “Six Slavonic Dances.” 

The Dumky’s open emotionalism gave each member of this world-class threesome a chance to shine. Hagen’s clear, silky tone thrived in the many upbeat, exuberant moments, while the warm, resonant timbre of Canellakis’ cello was most expressive in the darker, melancholy passages. Weiss provided a solid, steady underpinning for his flashier colleagues, while showing digital dexterity to spare.   

Hagen praised Mendelssohn’s C Minor trio for its “triumphant” finale (the silent Canellakis had temporarily “lost his voice”), which the ensemble rendered whole-heartedly, along with an animated opening “Allegro energico e con fuoco,” a graceful “Andante espressivo,” and an elfin “Scherzo: Molto allegro quasi presto.” The Bombyx's warm acoustic enhanced the drama of all three performances.

The next concert in Valley Classical’s season will present cellist Zlatomir Fung and pianist Janice Carissa on March 8, 2023 at Smith College, Northampton on March 8, 2023.

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, "Audacity of Hope"

Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA 
January 14, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Subtitled “Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.,” the third classical concert of the SSO’s 2022-2023 season offered a notably diverse audience a rare program of music and poetry created entirely, and performed in leading roles, by artists of color. 

It opened with a stirring rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem by James Weldon Johnson set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson, often called the “Black National Anthem,” and vividly arranged for large orchestra by Hale Smith, under the dynamic baton of guest conductor Kevin Scott. Next came Quinn Mason’s spirited 2021 tribute to a musical youth leader colleague, “Rise to the Occasion,” and the US premiere of Scott’s own brief but forceful elegy for civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, “Fannie’s Homecoming,” both in impassioned readings by orchestra and conductor.     

Artisan McCain
A stunning account followed, with soloist Artina McCain, of Florence Price’s 1934 Piano Concerto in D Minor. The first female African-American composer of national stature, much of Price’s music has only been rediscovered in recent decades. McCain’s technical and interpretive command equally showcased the mercurial opening and radiant slow sections and the rousing final juba, an African-American folk dance. The ensemble provided lush, full-blooded support. 

Then came a dramatic reading by charismatic activist and Springfield Poet Laureate Magdalena Gomez of a poem she wrote for this occasion called “The Metaphysics of Memory.” Reflecting on today’s program, she spoke in rhythmic cadences and spontaneous song-and-dance moments which evoked Dr. King’s rhetorical style and showed how music can advance his beloved community. 

A brilliant rendering of Ozie Cargile’s short but powerful 2009 ode to Barack Obama, “The Audacity of Hope,” preceded “dean of African-American composers” William Grant Still’s 1947 fourth symphony. Celebrating, in Still’s words, “the fusion of musical cultures in North America,” its four movements were respectively energetic, tender, whimsical (“with a graceful lilt,” as Still requested), and exuberant in this affectionate performance. 

An encore, Florence Price’s piano etude “The Old Boatman,” arranged for string orchestra by Dana Paul Perna and played with glowing warmth by the ensemble, quietly closed this landmark evening. As heartening as its respect for the past was the audience’s enthusiastic applause for Mason and Cargile, both present, which suggests a strong future for Black traditions in American classical music.    

January 14, 2023

REVIEW: Cirque d'Soleil, "Corteo"

The DCU Center, Worcester, MA
through January 15, 2023
by Jarice Hanson

Cirque d’Soleil is an entertainment phenomenon in its own right. in the current show, “Corteo,” playing at the DCU Center in Worcester, audiences are treated to an immaculately choreographed combination of physical feats, music, lighting and mesmerizing acts that awaken senses and allow for a two-hour escape from the world outside. At the DCU Center, the stage is placed in the center of the arena, with audience members seated on two sides of the playing stage, simulating the experience of a center ring of a circus. 

Though Cirque d’Soleil represents traditions representative of the European circus, don’t expect a “traditional” circus experience. Every show in the Cirque repertoire tells a story. In “Corteo,” a former clown dies, but ascends to heaven with the aid of angels who guide him to his rest. The word, “corteo” references a funeral cortege—but this is anything but a sad parade. The show’s acts represent fun, friendship, human frailties, and even a little romance.   

The story loosely holds the show together and propels the action from one act to another, with multi-talented troupe members working in ensemble, solo, and duets to entertain every generation represented in the audience.

"Corteo” features Italian songs and music, beautifully and skillfully provided by cast members. Audiences will have no problem shifting their ears from Italian to English.  The performers are artists of the physical, and while older audience members may marvel at the artists’ sculpted bodies and total commitment to their art, children will undoubtedly find themselves enveloped in a fantasy that allows their minds to imagine escaping gravity. 

In addition to the mastery demonstrated by the performers, “Corteo” allows the riggers and roustabouts to take their own bow—as well they should.  

What becomes obvious as the show progresses, is that something interesting happens in the audience. The retiree seated next to me quietly gasped in some of the more death-defying moments, and an eight-year-old girl seated with her mother cheered the acts and held on to her mother in moments of wonder. When asked, at the end of the show, what her favorite part was, she didn’t pause to think. She blurted out “the robots!" I chuckled when I realized that though the show allows for a collective experience, every person seated could find a different “favorite moment.”  

For two hours, the audience at the DCU Center became a community. “Corteo” is first-rate entertainment that could only be successful when viewed live, and Cirque d’Soleil is a welcomed addition to live family entertainment.

January 13, 2023

PREVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, "I'll Be Thine, Valentine"

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
February 11, 2023

Photo by Katie McKellick
Shakespeare & Company will stage a special Valentine's presentation of Romeo and Juliet by
William Shakespeare for one performance only on February 11, 2023 at 7 p.m., featuring the cast of the Northeast Regional Tour of Shakespeare and directed by Kevin Coleman.

I'll Be Thine, Valentine: Romeo & Juliet will be staged at the Tina Packer Playhouse at Shakespeare & Company’s campus, featuring Travis Ascione, Cameron Davis, Ptah Garvin, JoJo McDonald, Stephanie Neuerburg, Savanna Padilla, and Naire Poole, with costume design by Shakespeare & Company Costume Director Govane Lohbauer and production design by Devon Drohan.

This production is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Discounted student rates apply to this production.

January 5, 2023

REVIEW: Berkshire Bach Society, "Bach at New Year’s"

Academy of Music, Northampton, MA 
January 2, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Eugene Drucker
The hope expressed by Eugene Drucker, Music Director of the 16-member Berkshire Bach Ensemble, that this concert of 12 pieces by five Baroque composers would inspire audience members “to enter the New Year with hope, joy, and a belief in the resilience of the human spirit” was brilliantly fulfilled by these distinguished musicians, many of whom have played together for years locally and beyond, Drucker is also a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet. 
Kenneth Weiss opened the concert with a lively account of Rameau’s “Overture to Dardanus” in his own transcription for harpsichord. Next, he soloed in an affectionate reading of Bach’s fifth concerto for harpsichord and orchestra. Drucker (otherwise leading from the concertmaster’s chair) then joined Laura Lutzke and Diane Bruce as vivid soloists in a concerto for three violins, strings, and continuo by Bach’s friend Telemann. 

After a perky “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s opera “Solomon” by the ensemble, Drucker and oboist Keve Wilson were featured in a soulful rendition of Bach’s violin and oboe concerto. Maximilian Morel’s clarion trumpet closed the program’s first half with a thrilling performance of Telemann’s trumpet concerto in D Major.    

Intermission included two brief “intermezzi:” arrangements of the “Courante” from Bach’s fourth cello suite and the first “Allegro” from his second viola da gamba sonata played with elan respectively by violist Ronald Gorevic, and violist Liuh-Wen Ting with harpsichordist Weiss.   

Vivaldi’s concerto for violin and two cellos next showcased violinist Michael Roth and cellists Roberta Cooper and Alistair MacRae as animated soloists. Drucker and violinist Emily Daggett Smith then soloed expressively in Bach’s “double violin concerto.” And oboist Jessica Warren brought vibrant color to Telemann’s D Major oboe concerto.

The concert closed with an elegant version of Bach’s second orchestral suite, with, in Drucker’s words, its “perfectly proportioned and highly characterized dance movements,” and staggering virtuosity by flute soloist Judith Mendenhall. 

This two-and-a-half-hour feast for the ears of Baroque music lovers was further enriched by the Academy’s warm acoustics and exemplary program notes by Berkshire Bach Interim Executive Director Terrill McDade. Their next concert on February 11 is an organ recital by Renee Anne Louprette at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Housatonic, MA.