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Monday, Feb. 15, 2010

Chamber Music Beautifully Phrased

Classical Review

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Chamber Music Milwaukee presented an engaging concert last Thursday evening at the Zelazo Center at UW-Milwaukee. As is usually the case with CMM, the program was a potpourri of various works and UWM faculty performers, enlivened by the presence of soprano Susanna Phillips, a guest artist.


Phillips has a captivating, creamy, clear lyric voice. She is currently singing a leading role in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago. A highlight was Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (Shepherd on the Rock) with Todd Levy on clarinet and Jeffrey Peterson on piano. This was the best performance I’ve encountered in 30 years of hearing this standard chamber work. Levy and Phillips gracefully and playfully passing phrases to one another was high pleasure. Earlier in the program Phillips’ tender, gleaming vocal tone was heard in an arrangement of a song by Jules Massenet, “Amours Benis.” Originally for voice, piano and cello, this new arrangement featured Gregory Flint on horn (a transcription of the cello part).

It was not until this season that I discovered the rich talents of René Izquierdo, who accompanied Phillips in four songs transcribed for voice and guitar. The most successful was the sensual lyricism of Bellini’s “Ma rendi pur contento.” Dowland’s “Come again, sweet love” and Martini’s “Plaisir d’amour” were lovely, even if the keys seemed a little low for this soprano. Mozart’s “Komm, liebe Zither” had great charm.

I had never before heard Judit Jaimes perform with her daughter, Elena Abend. Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor is one of the few masterpieces for four-hand piano. The two pianists seemed to speak with one voice in this grand statement of melancholy, playing with refined touch and elegant restraint.  

The new violist of the Fine Arts Quartet, Nicol Eugelmi, joined Levy and Jaimes in Schumann’s Mrchenerzhlungen (Fairy Tales). Phrasing was paramount, which would not surprise anyone familiar with performances by Jaimes and Levy. Eugelmi phrased just as beautifully but played with a light tone, sometimes a little pale in response to the statements handed to him by the other two musicians. The soulful viola and clarinet duet writing of the third movement best captured the romantic spirit of the evening.