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New York Festival of Song Presents "From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
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New York Festival of Song Presents "From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"

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Kaufman Music Center
www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org
And
New York Festival of Song
www.nyfos.org
Steven Blier, Artistic Director, Co-Founder
Michael Barrett, Assoc. Artistic Director, Co-Founder

Present:
From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends

Featuring:
Dina Kuznetsova, Soprano
Shea Owens, Baritone
Dalit Warshaw, Theremin
Steven Blier, Arranger and Piano
Michael Barrett, Piano

At Merkin Concert Hall

Press: Aleba Gartner: aleba@alebaco.com


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 10, 2015


Once again, New York Festival of Song created a stunning, musical program, “From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends”, with NYFOS’ Co-Founders, Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, at duo, facing pianos. This is always their best format, as the pianists take turns accompanying the vocal performances, or perform a dazzling four-handed duo, as they did tonight. Adding to the luminous evening’s soirée ambiance, a retro musical instrument, which I had never known, the theremin, was introduced. According to OddMusic.com, “Outfitted with two antennas, a magnetic field surrounds the instrument, and when the hands of the player enter the field, changes in pitch and volume occur. The left side controls the volume, and the right controls the pitch.” Tonight, Dalit Warshaw masterfully brought the unique eerie intonation of the theremin center stage, with her exquisite mastery and poise. On vocals, Dina Kuznetsova, soprano, and Sean Owens, baritone, created spellbinding musicality with Rachmaninoff’s songs, presented in chronological order, divided in the program within “Home” and “Escape”.

Steven Blier, a true Renaissance man, translated Rachmaninoff’s songs, as derived from poetry, into English, noting the original poets and opus/date of the song’s composition. In addition to Rachmaninoff, there was an interlude of songs by Joseph Schillinger, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, and Thurlow Lieurance (“By the Waters of Minnetonka”, in vocal and duo piano versions). Mr. Blier also, as is the custom, educated the audience about Rachmaninoff the man, his 6’6” stature, his enormous hands that spread across the keyboard, his career-related depressions, his rumored lovers, and his passion for composition, specifically creating songs from romantic, Russian poems. Mr. Blier also commented on the Russian, Léon Theremin, the inventor of his namesake, 1921 instrumental phenomenon, and the Russian, Joseph Schillinger, who composed electronic music for the theremin. Duke Ellington’s “On a Turquoise Cloud”, performed by Ms. Warshaw on thermin, Mr. Blier on piano, and Ms. Kuznetsova, and George Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” from Lady Be Good, sung by Mr. Owens with Mr. Blier on piano, were both remarkably similar in composition to the Rachmaninoff songs.

Among tonight’s spellbinding gems, eloquently accompanied on piano and sung by Ms. Kuznetsova, were three by Rachmaninoff, “Melody” (Poem by Semyon Nadson), resonantly sung in Russian, transl. “I would like to die on the wings of rapture…”, “Sleep” (Poem by Feodor Sologub), sung so sensitively like a songbird, transl. “Nothing in the world is more longed for than sleep…”, and “A-oo!” (Poem by Konstantin Balmont), sung with operatic, urgent strength, transl. “Your gentle laughter was like a capricious fairy tale…”. Among Mr. Owens’ compelling, showcased solos, accompanied on piano, were three by Rachmaninoff, “She is as lovely as the moon” (Poem by Nicolai Minsky), sung with deep yearning, transl. “Her eyes have never been stained with tears”, “In the Silence of the Secret Night” (Poem by Afanasy Fet), sung with tone-poem etherealness, transl. “…Cry out your beloved name, awakening night’s darkness,,,”, and “Beloved, let us fly” (Poem by Arsenii Golenishchev-Kutusov), sung in Russian with longing rapture, transl. “Let us leave, my beloved, The noisy bustle of the city…”.

Ellington’s “On a Turquoise Cloud” was performed by Ms. Kuznetsova, soprano, Ms. Warshaw on theremin, and Mr. Blier on piano, with the music contrasting and combining in vast, tonal range and exotic, magnetic mystery. Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” was performed by Mr. Owens, accompanied by Mr. Blier, each half in a unique style, one lyrically and one jazzily (with sunglasses). “By the Waters of Minnetonka”, by Lieurance, was spectacularly performed in two versions, first sung romantically by Mr. Owens with one-piano support, then played vibrantly on duo pianos by Mr. Barrett and Mr. Blier, in the Paul Whiteman arrangement. Joseph Schillinger’s “Two Vocalises”, performed by Ms. Warshaw on theremin and Mr. Barrett on piano, in Ms. Warshaw’s first introduction, left the audience breathless and transfixed. The final “Vocalise”, by Rachmaninoff, with both pianists, both vocalists, and Ms. Warshaw and her theremin onstage, brought the audience to fervent accolades. The encore, “Full Moon and Empty Arms”, also performed by the full ensemble, to the theme from Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”, made me wish we could start this extraordinary concert all over again.



Shea Owens, Baritone Performs
In New York Festival of Song's Presentation of
"From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
Courtesy of Karli Cadel Photography



Dina Kuznetsova, Soprano Performs
In New York Festival of Song's Presentation of
"From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
Courtesy of Karli Cadel Photography



Dina Kuznetsova and Shea Owens Perform
In New York Festival of Song's Presentation of
"From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
Courtesy of Karli Cadel Photography



Dalit Warshaw Plays the Theremin
In New York Festival of Song's Presentation of
"From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
Courtesy of Karli Cadel Photography



Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, NYFOS Pianists and Co-Founders
In New York Festival of Song's Presentation of
"From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and Friends"
Courtesy of Karli Cadel Photography



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net