Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jacaranda Music presents The Little Match Girl Passion

------------Cedric Berry, 
Grant Gershon, Adriana Manfredi, Elissa Johnston -- Photo: jacarandamusic

Short Take Review by Rodney Punt

Composer/Librettist David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion (2007) is a winter’s tale without a happy ending. Based on the H.C. Andersen tearjerker, a beggar girl is forced to sell matches in the snow, lighting them one by one in a losing battle to keep warm. The setting elevates the story to a universal secular passion, with music of pointillistic brightness and mesmerizing grace. The music has traces of minimalism and chant; its utmost economy of motifs treads an inexorable path from the dread of a flickering heartbeat to a death in frozen stillness.

Its cast of four singing narrators did double duty as eerie trance-inducers and light-as-a-feather percussionists: Elissa Johnston, soprano; Adriana Manfredi, mezzo-soprano; 
Grant Gershon, tenor
; Cedric Berry, bass baritone.

The concert also had other genre-bending works: Elliott Carter’s spidery Sonata for flute, oboe, cello & harpsichord, Sofia Gubaidulina’s oddly-registered pulsing sonics for organ in Light & Darkness, Joan Tower’s big-boned Night Fields for string quartet, and Alfred Schnittke’s goofy-glorious Sound & Resound for organ and trombone.

Performers in other works above: Pamela Vliek-Martchev, flute; Leslie Reed, oboe; Timothy Loo, cello; Gloria Cheng, harpsichord; Mark Alan Hilt, organ; Lyris Quartet (strings), Steve Suminski, trombone

Concert Title: Perilous Balance
Date: January 22, 2011
Venue: First Presbyterian, Santa Monica
Future concerts: Jacaranda Music

Rodney Punt can be contacted at

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