Music Institute of Chicago Gala Anniversary Concert Review - For MIC Anniversary Concert, a Pleasant Triumph

Nichols Concert Hall

The Music Institute of Chicago’s faculty concerts from Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston have been a consistently enjoyable option on the local music scene, but they are too frequently under-attended. Fortunately, this was not the case for the MIC’s 85th anniversary Gala Concert held in Evanston on Saturday night, a well-patronized affair which showcased the Institute’s faculty in another eclectic program that featured a variety of musical formats.

Violinst Addison C. Teng

The opening number was a performance of the opening movement of Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet, one of the best works in the genre and a staple of the chamber repertoire. The performance was distinguished by fine cohesion, but the playing of the first violin, Addison C. Teng, must be singled out for an especially confident contribution. The quartet, which included Julie Fischer playing the other violin part, Aimee Biasello on viola, and Sophie Webber on cello, adhered fairly strictly to the opening movement’s allegro moderato-très doux tempo, though it’s regrettable they couldn’t perform the other three movements.

Soprano Rae-Myra Hillard

Next on the program was Brahms’s Sechs Lieder (Six Songs), another truncated performance which featured only four of the six songs mentioned in the title. Soprano Rae-Myra Hillard’s voice seemed hampered by poor acoustics (an ongoing problem for vocal performances), though her energy in the short songs made up for vocal deficiencies such as a reedy voice; her high notes were, however, impressively on target.

Guitarist James Baur

The Brahms songs were followed by a rarely-heard composition for guitar, Capriccio Diabolicoby the twentieth-century composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, played by James Baur, whose performance was distinguished by intimate, meditative playing of a seductive piece. Following Baur was pianist Akiko Koinishi, who played the two-part Lieder ohne Worte (Songs Without Words) by Felix Mendelssohn, the first part a plaintive but insubstantial piece; the second part a more fiery composition that ends abruptly.

Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem

The second part of the concert featured two slightly longer performances, the first from MIC stalwart four-hand piano specialists Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweemperformed Robert Schumann’s Twelve Character Pieces for Smaller and Larger Children, Schumann’s final major work for piano and a fitting choice for a concert attended by a large amount of the school-age MIC students. The six pieces chosen by the performers showcase an incredible range. Schumann’s pieces are not variations on the same theme, but, like the later, more well-known Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens, a series of musical portraits designed to capture and appeal to the wonderment of children, ranging from Bear Dance, which features Russian folk-like themes, to the surprisingly unsentimental treatment of a pastoral motif in By the Spring, to the haunting valedictory-like Evening Song, the duo’s playing, though fairly straightforward, demonstrated their unassailable chemistry.

The program closed with a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Octet, a 1923 composition for brass and winds. From its jazzy opening, the piece establishes itself as unmistakably Stravinskyian, with its playful melodies which bounce from bassoon to trumpet to trombone to clarinet, to its rhythms, which are percussive despite the absence of percussion, to its whirling, humorous phrasing. The piece was played by some of the younger faculty members and conducted by James Setapen, who kept things moving along without pausing to dwell on any of the details, completely unnecessary given Stravinsky’s lively writing, brilliant down to the smallest details.


For Information on other events see the Music Institue of Chicago Website


Photos:Courtesy of Music Institute of Chicago

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