Marja Kaisla played an engaging if lightweight recital yesterday at the Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill. It was a cozy way to spend a dark, rainy afternoon. The program was split between Rachmaninov and Gershwin. The former was represented by the famous C# minor Prelude and the Corelli Variations, the latter by a selection of songs arrangements and the solo piano version of "Rhapsody in Blue." In her opening remarks, Marja drew a comparison between the two men, who were friends in the 20s, and played sections of the Rhapsody and Rachmaninov's Concerto No. 2 to illustrate the similarities in harmony and melodic treatment. Based on juxtaposition, one would guess there was no difference between the two except the one used jazz rhythms. Marja is an engaging personality and a sensitive interpreter with a mighty technique. I saw her perform the "Emperor" Concerto a couple of years ago, and last night's recital made me wish I could hear her in more substantive repertoire again very soon.
Just to catch up: I neglected to mention the wonderful American program at Arcadia University on Nov. 17. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra played music of Copland (the Clarinet Concerto), Ives (The Third Symphony), and Barber (Adagio for Strings, Knoxville: Summer 1915). The orchestra, under the direction of Allan Scott, seemed rather under-rehearsed in the Ives (and I didn't care for the synthesized church bells at the end), but it shined in "Knoxville" behind soprano Elizabeth Ann Murphy. The Copland was well-played by clarinetist Beth Vilsmeire, but again, the strings seemed a ragged. The concductor, Allan Scott, told me afterward the string writing is quite difficult, requiring a great deal of fast bowing off .
I was also told by the PR that Scott became rather nervous, knowing I would be in the audience. Apparently, he was afraid of what I'd find fault with the Ives Third. The musicians tried to reassure him, saying that most people don't know what to expect when it comes to Ives, but he said something like, "No, this guy knows things normal people don't know."
That pretty much says it all.