Monday, January 12, 2015

A lovely way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon

Johannes Brahms,
before his Santa Claus phase
Yesterday, while the rest of America was glued to the NFL playoffs, I and about 500 other people crammed into the Warden Theater at the Academy of Vocal Arts for a free all-Brahms program. (I like Brahms, and I like free, so I figured it was the perfect excuse to leave the apartments.) Students, faculty and guests of the AVA performed nine vocal quartets and the two songs with viola Op. 91. The concert ended with an instrumental work — the F minor Clarinet Sonata Op. 120, performed with modest grace by 22-year-old Robert Kahn.

Not much to say about this event, except that it’s fun to see the stars of tomorrow today, and it’s always a thrill to hear big voices in an intimate setting. There is a physical jolt, a sense of being enveloped in sound, that doesn’t occur in the balcony at the Met, even when the largest of forces are trotted out. One of the reasons I love Brahms because, unlike Wagner, say, he fits into a small room. And his knowledge of Renaissance counterpoint is on full display in his vocal music.

Interesting footnote about the singers in training at the AVA: Reading the bios in the program, I noticed that not a single one was from the Philadelphia area, or even the East Coast. They were all from the Midwest, the Southwest, California, China and Mexico. Maybe the local talent likes to leave home to study. 

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