REVIEW: MANOOKIAN MURALS PREMIERE
Three holiday concerts: Lyric Fest, Tempesta di Mare, and Dolce Suono, A musical holiday trio
In one six-day period, Lyric Fest, Tempesta di Mare, and Dolce Suono presented concerts that eased me into the spirit of our annual December bash. They all generated the right mix of warmth and good cheer, even when they weren’t presenting music directly related to any of our end-of-the-year holidays.
The Dolce Suono concert explored Spanish and Latin American music but with holiday touches. The finale was a "Granada" for flute, guitar, cello, and piano that was just as rousing as the big noël that ended Tempesta’s program. Company artistic director Mimi Stillman even invited the audience to join in on “Besame Mucho” in the same way audiences sing carols at Christmas concerts.
The show stealer was the whirlwind of sound Charles Abramovic produced playing a movement of a piano sonata by Alberto Ginastera. That came at the end of a group of three pieces that included a moving tribute to a sculptor who continued working after losing his right hand. Composer Manuel Ponce celebrated the sculptor’s resolution with a quietly forceful piece played by the pianist’s left hand.
Like Dolce Suono’s other Spanish-oriented concerts, this program included samples of Latin American popular music. Mimi Stillman and her partners kept the lighter pieces interesting with short arrangements that varied the orchestration and sometimes added extra flourishes. The final “Grenada” was cheerfully hyper-dramatic and ended while I still wanted to hear more.
The two novelties on the program were a premiere by a rising young composer, Michael-Thomas Foumai, and a trio for flute, guitar, and cello by Vivian Fine, a composer whose career spanned most of the 20th century.
Fine enjoyed a prolific, successful career lasting from 1929 until her death in a car accident in 2002. Dolce Suono played three selections from a group of pieces inspired by Spanish themes. They included a lament for the fall of a city during the Spanish Civil War; a charming dialogue between a senorita (Mimi Stillman’s flute) and a frog (Gideon Whitehead’s guitar); and a “Death’s Jig” that reflected the Spanish sense that death is a constant presence. If Fine’s other music is this good, she should be better known.
Foumai’s premiere was another piece founded on stories and images. A Hawaii-born composer, his Manookian Murals is a trio for flute, cello, and piano that presents musical depictions of four paintings by Hawaiian artist Arman Manookian. The relationship between paintings and music is consistently clear and unambiguous. You can feel the wind in the section called “Red Sails” and “Hawaiian Boy and Girl” is a romantic Garden of Eden idyll.
The composer compared his finale to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” but The Flight of the Flamingo was more erratic than the compulsive, straight-line charge of the bumblebee. And the flamingo obviously had more fun.