June 29-July 11
MUSIC DE CAMARA REVIEWS
New York Concert Review; New York, NY
Posted on November 16, 2015
Review by Byron Marc Sean
Writing a review for an organization that one has physical ties to can be quite challenging. [Mr. Sean appeared in performance with Musica de Camara on February 18, 2014- Editor’s note] This is not the case here. Eva de La O, founder and director of Musica de Camara, presented a group of musicians tonight that would make even the most discerning listener’s job difficult. This concert, under the direction of Maestro Roselin Pabón, was like a mosaic ribbon attached to thirty-four years of continuous gift-giving. To see and hear such youthful vibrancy tied together with professionalism of the highest order, I can think of no better way to say ‘thank you’ than a program of newly premiered works by talented young composers.
The featured soloist for the evening, Christian Colberg, performed a single movement from his Viola Concerto. Mr. Colberg offered the first movement, entitled Alonso, which depicts a scene from Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote as Alonso Quixano styles himself Don Quixote. Mr. Colberg’s impeccable intonation and clarity of sound allowed me to focus on the structure of the piece, which would have not been possible if the soloist were not of his caliber. This is a Twenty-First-Century work unmistakably written in the great Nineteenth-Century Romantic tradition, with broad, recurring themes, and fiendishly difficult passages. Mr. Colberg masterfully eschews that tradition at the climax and culmination of the piece by ending with a non-traditional cadence. It reminded me of a bullfighter tossing his sword to the ground and kneeling in triumph at the end of a long and bloody match.
Another composer/performer of note is principal bassist Pedro Giraudo (b. 1977). His Suite for String Orchestra, which was commissioned by Musica de Camara, is a delightful work written by a jazz master, who also is a fine classical player as well (reminiscent of the Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla). Solos were tossed from section leader to section leader with the highest sophistication and skill. Diego Sanchez Haase’s (b. 1970) Sonata Paraguaya, which was premiered in the U.S. this concert, was a gift to Musica de Camara by the composer. While listening, it occurred to me that the nationality of each composer was integral to their compositions. Whether this was planned or not, it made for an interesting mix of sounds and rhythms from near and far. Dominican composer Angel Herdz (b. 1968) in his Serenata para Arcos, Op. 4, presented a work that was not as easy to place geographically, but the jagged lines in the third movement served as a nice diversion from the slowness of the piece. The youngest composer, Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981), favored the audience with her work for strings entitled Strum. This thirty-three-year-old violinist of the highly acclaimed Catalyst Quartet is one to watch, as she is a composer of film, theater, and concert music-a triple threat talent! Ironically, the oldest work on tonight’s program, Tiepmo Sereno, by Hector Campos Parsi (1922-1998), sounded the most modern to my ears. This work uses alternating major/minor modes, and repetitious phrases that build from nothing until they seem to nag at your soul. He paints a picture of stars and galaxies, and of our ability to visit such places in the very distant future.
Finally, how does one take a program of new music and in three days give a performance worthy of any stage in the world? You give it to Maestro Pabón. Here is a master who understands rhythm so well that it never becomes a distraction. I can tell he does his homework-nothing is left to chance, even though he has first-rate soloists under his baton. Maestro Pabón’s unspoken insight (he doesn’t speak much during rehearsals) landed on the ear of every listener that night. It is no small feat holding together an entire program of unfamiliar and difficult works. As I greeted the conductor backstage several moments after the concert, I couldn’t help but notice that he was the only one still perspiring.
As Musica de Camara brings thirty-four seasons of wonderful music making to a close, I look forward to the start of a new season, and that year thirty-five will be as generously rewarding as what I witnessed tonight.
Originally posted in New York Concert Review
Posted on November 16, 2015
Review by Anthony Aibel
Musica De Camera String Ensemble
Christian Colberg – conductor
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
January 17, 2008
The January 17th Musica de Camera concert was one of the best in memory; every work on this well-balanced program was top tier, stylistically different, and highlighted with superb performances. St. Patrick’s glorious Cathedral can be painfully echo-filled but my seat close to the stage gave me some sonic clarity. The conductor was the very efficient and talented Christian Colberg. I heard through the grapevine that the ensemble had only two rehearsals, and I was amazed because they played with such polish, spirit and stylistic unity. For one, Colberg conducted with a clear downbeat that never delayed, and this precision led to extremely tight, pulsating ensemble-work. Additionally, the program was imaginative and challenging, yet tailored to this group’s strengths.
Colberg also had insight into each style: Telemann’s “Don Quichotte” was Baroque-clean, but was played with exaggeration of its inventive effects, which gave this pioneering work the sense of adventure it needed. Grieg’s Holberg Suite is a great choice because of its similarity to the structure of the Baroque world, but also its great Romantic contrast. The boomy acoustics of the cathedral enhanced the sound to the point where the ensemble of just 14 sounded like a full string orchestra in the Air movement, the work’s most emotional. Only the two violas sounded thin, as the section should have had one more player to match the three cellos and bass on the bottom. The last movement’s solo viola played by Samuel Marchan – while extremely energetic – was sometimes distant or out-of-sync with the admirable violin solos of Maria Conti.
The two major soloists were well contrasted: vocal classical and contemporary guitar. Eva De La O, the energetic organizer behind these concerts proved that she is also a talented singer. In Haydn’s “With Verdure Clad” from “The Creation,” she sang with clear diction throughout, musically thoughtful ideas and lovely peaks. Only a few notes were on the dry side, and resolutions after suspensions were sometimes unclear. Guitarist Jorge Caballero was as cool as Ms. O was charming. And his approach worked for Leo Brouwer’s hypnotic, sometimes minimalistic-like Concierto Elegiaco. Caballero’s no-nonsense manner created a smart pace with riveting tension, and he handled the virtuosity with innate ease. The concert concluded with a stylistic hallmark of De Camera: music from Puerto Rico. Simon Madera’s spirited “Mis Amores” was played with the requisite “danza” tempo and character.