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May 09, 1986 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1986-05-09

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, May 9, 1986- Page 9
Festival continues classic tradition

By Rebecca Chung
and Sean Oslin
The Ann Arbor May Festival
opened last Wednesday night,
April 30th, at Hill Auditorium and
ran through Saturday, May 3rd.
The Pittsburgh Symphony was the
orchestra-in-residence, joined by
Ann Arbor's own Festival Chorus
on the opening night, and other in-
ternationally recognized guest ar-
tists each evening.
Wednesday's opening concert
was a provocative performance of
Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem Mass.
Featuring in this presentation was
the Pittsburgh Symphony Or-
chestra, the Festival Chorus, and
soloists Carmen Lavani, Seth Mc-
Coy, John Cheek, and Janice
Taylor. Czech-born Zdenek Macal
was conductor.
The Requiem, a mass for the
dead, is Verdi's most popular non-
operatic work and has a long
history with the May Festival.
This was the twelfth presentation
of the piece, which was first per-
formed in Ann Arbor at the first
May Festival in 1894.
The performance itself was
good. The Pittsburgh Symphony
showed themselves to be an ex-
cellent ensemble, handling the dif-
ficult music with seeming ease
and grace. Especially notable was
the string section in the Dies Irae
- the quick descending passages
were a Dantesque trip to Hell. The
Festival Chorus also glittered,
blending well and displaying a
rich sensuous sound. But one of
the best moments in the piece
was the choral entrance in the first
section. It was dark and quiet, yet
very. intense.
Maestro Macal did a

reasonable job of pulling the or-
chestra, chorus, and soloists
together. His direction was
dramatic and interesting to watch.
But he really did not appear to
communicate with the players.
The soloists were the weakest
part of the performance. The
soprano, Carmen Lavani, had oc-
casional pitch problems, an un-
controlled verbrato, and she
lacked any rapport with the
audience.ThetenorSeth McCoy
had intonation problems. He
also swallowed his voice at times,
rendering himself inaudible. The
bass, John Cheek, was better. He
sang to the audience with a
beautiful, strong voice. But he
could not match the mezzo-
soprano Janice Taylor.Her solo in
the Liber Scriptus was elegant
and expressive. She had wonderful
control of her voice and beautiful
tone and expression. She also left
one with the feeling that she was
singing the Requiem for someone.
Thursday night's performance,
Chris Eschenbach conducting Pit-
tsburgh, was a mixed success. On
the one hand, there was Eschen-
bach the pianist, obviously talen-
ted, and full of music. During the
first part of the program, which
consisted of Mozart's Piano Con-
certo in C minor (K. 491), he
played solos full of expression that
displayed a remarkable, if not
astounding, degree of control.
Particularly beautiful was the
candenza at the end of the first
movement and the slow, lyrical
opening of the second.
Then there was Eschenbach the
conductor who, somehow, could
not get the orchestra to create the
sounds he must have been
imagining. The orchestra respon-
ded sluggishly to the cues they
were given from the piano during

the Mozart piece, As a matter of
fact, the entire concerto seemed to
drag, either from lack of tempo or,
more likely, lack of life. The Sym-
phony No. 2 by Johannes Brahms
went somewhat better; the direct
rapport between conductor and
orchestra seemed to help.
Eschenbach's musicality sparked
occasionally, such as during the
strong, lyrical cello opening in the
second movement. But even so,
the result was less than outstan-
It was not entirely Eschenbach's
fault. Unfortunately, the or-
chestra's upper winds and horns
were habitually out of tune.
There was also the distraction of
people wandering into the
auditorium after the performance
had started. But these things do
not explain the inability of a talen-
ted musician to communicate his
ideas to other talented musicians.
But the obvious breakdown unfor-
tunately marred what could have
been a tremendous performance.
On Friday, the Symphony was
accompanied by international star
Jean-Pierre Rampal. For this per-
formance Rampal served a dual
role, a conductor and flutist, and
did a commendable job as both
soloist and conductor ina program
of Rossini, Bach, Mozart, and
The first piece of the program
was an overture by Rossini, The
Silken Ladder. It was a delightful
piece, very up-beat, and it set the
mood for the remainder of the
concert. In the overture the wood-
wind section figured prominently,
the Symphony's winds giving a
rich, warm, and pleasing sound to
the music. Rampal's conducting
was elegant and he kept control of
the orchestra.
The second piece of the program
was the Concerto in C major for
Flute and Orchestra by Bach. This

was the first selection that Ram-
pal performed as soloist. His flute
playing was basically good, but
not phenomenal.
Occasionally he sounded raspy
and at times his technique was
sloppy. This was especially
noticeable in quick, running
passages where the notes were not
crisp but blurry. The performance
of the Bach piece was, as a whole,
very reserved and too calculated.
It was the evening's biggest
The third piece performed was
the Concerto No. 1 for Flute and
Orchestra by Mozart. Rampal's
performance of the Mozart con-
certo was a definite improvement
over the Bach. The orchestra was
more relaxed and Rampal's
playing was as golden as his flute.
Especially impressive was the
cadenza in the third movement,
where he amazed the audience
with its flutter-tongued passages.
The final piece was Beethoven's
Symphony No. 2. The orchestra
played the symphony with ex-
citement and confidence, but not
at the peak of their potential. The
conductor was to blame for this.
Rampal, a flutist first and director
second, did not bring out the con-
trasting parts of the music. He
relied on melody (what he is used
to playing) to carry the symphony
along. But since it is the interac-
tion of each line of music which
gives the piece interest, the ab-
sence of the counterpoint caused
the music to lose much of its rich
texture and emotion. The result
was a less than complete perfor-
The finale of the May Festival,
with Chris Eschenbach again ap-
pearing as conductor of the Pit-
tsburgh Symphony, and
featuring Isaac Stern as violin
soloist for the Brahms concerto in
D major (op. 77), was a solid.

fulfilling, and undeniably fitting
conclusion to the four-day series.
The performance opened with
Hector Berlioz's Overture to
Benvenuto Ceilini. A tem-
pestuous work that depicts the
fiery, colorful character for whom
it is named, it was boldly, ex-
pressively performed by the or-
Then Isaac Stern played the
violin. That should say it all, but
for those who did not even get the
standing-room-only tickets
Saturday night, suffice it to say
that his performance of the Brah-
ms was unbelievably good. The
man has more control of his left
pinky than most people can exer-
cise over their entire bodies, and
he used this technical mastery to
express his exquisite musical
taste. The perfect execution of the
cadenza trill in the first movement
alone was worth the price of :a
ticket, not to mention the exquisite
color changes from dark and for-
ceful to intense yet lyrical (found
in the first and third movements).
The third movement showed Stern
at his best, the theme-and-
variations pattern giving him the
perfect opportunity to show the
depth and breadth of his ability. If
one ignored the orchestra's pitch
problems, then absolute satisfac-
tion was guaranteed.
The closing piece of the concert,
Ravel's Bolero, managed to over-
come the pitch problems of the in-
dividual soloists, finding life and
reaching a most satisfying con-
clusion. The gradual crescendo
was excellent, happening so im-
perceptibly that one did not notice
the increased volume until the full
orchestra was playing. The en-
ding, raucous by intent, brought
instantaneous applause as the
audience commended conductor
and orchestra for its major part in
this Ann Arbor tradition.


Let's Active-
Big Plans for
Everybody (I.R.S.)
Like its forerunners afoot and
Cypress, the songs on Let's Ac-
tive's Big Plans for Everyone all
pretty much resolve themselves
into nice little packages of
pop/rock glory. Unlike the
predecessors, though, Big Plans
capitalizes more completely on
Mitch Easter's weird talent for
encyclopedic collaging of sounds in
his songs. Where afoot was
minimal pretty-pop, and Cypress'
electicism was strongly defined
and directed, Big Plans pretty
much tosses in everything but the
kitchen sink - from metal to bu-
bblegum goo, neglecting few stops
in between. The fact that Easter
can orchestrate it all indicates Big
Plans to be a landmark Let's Ac-
tive record.
Big Plans' lead track, "In Little
Ways," disappoints a little in its
Srather overt attempt to dispel the
myth that Let's Active is a "jangle"
band. It's somewhat piano-heavy,

and the piano is not so transfixing
as to merit its prominence. It's
nice, but a little labored. Things
snap too quickly, though, as it
precedes three of the best Let's
Active songs yet committed to disc.
First is the mega-hooky Easter
guitar blitz, "Talking to Myself."
Following it is "Writing the Book
of Last Pages," which sounds a lot
like the Move and beats all the
nouveau-'60s goons at their own
game with its brazenly beautiful
psychedelia. "Last Chance Town"
proves Mitch can indeed ROCK
(with an umlaut over the "O" and
with tongue firmly in cheek). I'd
expect Aerosmith to cover itany
day now that they're back
"Won't Go Wrong" and
"Badger" pick up the vaguely
folky threads of Cypress and ease
the side down. Side two begins
with the excruciatingly sweet
"Fell." Easter's talent is
definitely musically and lyrically
with this kind of very sweet-
tempered, unaffected pop. Side
See RECORDS, Page 10

"There's no such
thing as a
free lunch.
Until now.
Get your free lunch
at the U-Club.
Have 9 lunches with
us, and we'll pickup the
tab for the 10th.
Pick up your coupon
today at the University
Club, located in the
Michigan Union.
Exnirae Aim a3 IQR98

Be A Part of It!
University of Michigan Gilbert & Sullivan Society
invites you to attend a
For our summer shows
Gilbert & Sullivan's
Singers, Dancers, Instrumentalists and any person
interested in all aspects of production are needed.
Everyone is welcome.
SUNDAY, MAY 11th 8:00 p.m.
Pendleton Room - Michigan Union
Call 761-7855 for information

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