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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 19, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 16
Musical minds - Seattle U concert is a lesson in what makes an artist
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Musical minds - Seattle U concert is a lesson in what makes an artist

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

BRAHMS MUSIC SERIES
SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
April 13


'When faculty professionals perform alongside gifted students, there are three happy outcomes: new inspiration for the faculty, great experience for the students, and fresh perspectives for the audience.' So wrote Melinda Bargreen in a foreword to the printed program for the opening concert of Seattle University's Brahms Music Series. One valuable 'fresh perspective' is the chance to experience what constitutes the difference between true artists and those who think they might want to be artists.

The most extreme difference showed up in the first two performances. Tenor Ross Hauck, from the voice faculty, sang six lieder by Brahms, ending with the famous 'Brahms' Lullaby,' which Hauck dedicated to his children. While this tenor's vocal technique is, to my ears, more suited to a heldentenor (think a smaller-voiced Jon Vickers), Hauck nonetheless managed fine artistry and a sensitive rendering of each song. He showed in his concentration and fine phrasing how much he enjoys sharing his love of this music with his audience.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?
By contrast, student Anne Marie Jones, perhaps because of nerves, showed no involvement in her two songs that followed. She displayed a lovely voice, effortlessly produced but utterly lacking in energy or expression. If she loves to sing and loves to sing for an audience, she needs to learn how to express that love. Hiding behind a music stand, she seemed physically and emotionally dead. I hope she sees and learns from the video someone was shooting from the audience.

In all Brahms' music involving the piano, that part is no mere accompaniment. Rhonda Kline was the able partner for both Hauck and Jones.

The last piece before intermission was the Horn Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 40, which introduced us to two more faculty members, violinist Quinton Morris and pianist Erin Chung. The horn was played by Jeffrey Boersema. Even the best professional horn players have occasional notes that 'split' or otherwise don't come out right, but in this admittedly difficult work we heard dozens of flubs and a serious problem with intonation. Boersema seemed a little out of his depth.

Morris, who is faculty director of chamber and instrumental music at SU, quickly established his mastery and supreme musicianship. His whole body was engaged, while a passionate energy informed every phrase. No question here of his love for this music nor of his consummate communication skills. We understood his intent behind every line. Likewise, Chung, of the piano and music theory faculty, was more than up to every challenge of this difficult score. Both the piano and violin sang their parts with soaring vitality.

A FINE FINISH
Certainly the best was saved for last. Faculty members Lee Peterson (piano), Marcus Talley (violin I), Quinton Morris (violin II), and Kevin Krentz (cello) joined Amber Archibald (viola) for the Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. This was a performance that would shine on any stage. One would think this ensemble had been performing together for many years. The quintet, one of Brahms' most inspired works, swept the audience up in waves of musical intensity, warmth, and power. Everyone was totally together, with Kevin Krentz especially expressive with his gorgeous cello lines. Again, Quinton Morris impressed with his focused and intensely etched phrasing, as well as with his ready communication with his partners, often with a glancing smile, as they dug into particularly juicy bits.

Fresh perspective, indeed! Seeing the difference between not only technically competent but fully involved and communicative artists and students who have yet to find their way to that level makes one all the more aware of the complexity of musical expression. It takes far more than the world's biggest and most beautiful voice to make a great singer. Likewise, making a musical instrument sing goes way beyond playing the notes perfectly.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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