|Duo Apollon: Aaron Haas and Anastasia Malliaras.|
Duo Apollon, First Fridays at First!–fff, First Lutheran Church, Torrance
DAVID J BROWN
This review could equally well be entitled “New Sounds for a New Year,” as it would be difficult to imagine timbres fresher or brighter than those of Duo Apollon: soprano Anastasia Malliaras and guitarist Aaron Haas seated side-by-side to deliver 2020’s initial lunchtime First Fridays at First!–fff recital. This was the first voice/guitar concert I’d encountered since starting to review South Bay concerts and additionally, their opening item really was new, being a premiere public performance.
Anyone used to beefy, baritonal, backwoodsy performances of this familiar American folksong (anyone else remember Robert Horton's sonorous version of Shenandoah?), would have had quite a shock encountering Mr. Jordan’s setting. Underpinned only by hesitant, isolated notes on the guitar, Ms. Malliaras keened the melody so slowly that its shape was initially masked, the focused purity of her voice giving it a softly mournful, musing quality that carried no hint of the usual heroic striving. Only with the second stanza, ringing out thrillingly, did that “very clear shape” reveal itself.
The freshness of her voice and Mr. Haas’s discreet playing served well the remainder of the “reimagined” folksongs on the program: three each of Greek reworked by a French composer, English by an Englishman, and French refracted through the sensibilities of a Hungarian expatriate living and working in Britain for the latter half of his life.
|Benjamin Britten in 1954.|
The sixth volume of Benjamin Britten’s collected Folksong Arrangements is of English songs arranged for soprano and guitar, so no transcription was needed here. The haunting strains of I will give my love an apple were abruptly shattered by the aggressive strumming and dramatic declamation of The shooting of his Dear, which in turn contrasted with the jaunty Sailor boy.
For me, it somehow didn’t quite fit comfortably—after this international collection of mini-sagas of joy, passion, and loss—to conclude with the familiar pieties of Schubert’s Ave Maria, though I suppose its original status as Ellens Gesang III (Hymne an die Jungfrau) D 839, one of Schubert’s Sieben Gesänge aus Walter Scotts "Fräulein am See" (The Lady of the Lake) Op. 52, puts it within shouting distance of folksong territory.
|Manuel de Falla.|
The whole recital was an ideal aural palette cleanser after the holiday season. Upcoming 2020 concerts in Classical Crossroads' First Fridays at First!–fff and The Interludes series are listed in the feature "Looking Ahead in the South Bay", also on LA Opus.
“First Fridays at First! – fff”: First Lutheran Church, Torrance, 12.15pm, Friday, January 3, 2020. Images: The performers: Courtesy Classical Crossroads Inc.; Jordan Nelson: Dale Trumbore; Britten: Yousuf Karsh; Seiber: Zeneakadémie; Falla: Wikimedia Commons.
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