In a night of clarinet chamber standards, the audience heard classical masterpieces ranging from Mozart to Mandat. Master Sergeant Reis McCullough opened the concert with Spohr’s Fantasy and Variations on a Theme of Danzi, Op. 81. His lively and bubbly tone invigorated
the air, filling us with anticipation for the upcoming works. Starkly contrasting in every way, Chris Pell and the Ritz Chamber Players changed the tone of the evening with Eric Mandat’s 2 teez. The energy in this piece captured the audience’s attention in a way that changed how one would experience the rest of the concert. The fragmented lines danced through the ensemble with all musicians playing with excitement and vigor. Bravo indeed to Mr. Pell on his excellent execution of this incredible work.
Ending the first half of the evening, D. Ray McClellan performed Brahms’s Quintet in B Minor for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 115 bringing the night’s attention back to more familiar standards. His tone and legato was smooth and seamless, and with sensitivity to match, the intimacy of the performance lingered throughout the night. Next, Jon Manasse performed Crusell’s Quartet for Clarinet and Strings in E-flat Major, Op.2, No. 1. With frequent quips and laughter between Manasse and the Ritz Chamber Players, the audience eased into their seats to enjoy a performance from a clarinetist who never disappoints.
In a world premiere, Piero Vincenti performed Claudio De Siena’s Italian Movies for Clarinets (E-flat, B-flat and G Clarinet). With quotes from The Godfather and rich Italian harmonies, the sweetness of Vincenti’s playing provided another splendid taste of newness to a concert of established standards. Continuing with Italian works, Henry Jones (piano) and Philippe Cuper (clarinet) gave a superb performance of Carlo Della Giacoma’s Cavaleria Rusticana Fantasia. Cuper played with excitement and fire, inspiring technical facility, and with a sweet thickness to his tone.
Ending the concert with Mozart’s Quintet for Strings in A Major, K. 581, Pascul Martinez Forteza gave a sensitive and evocative performance. His personality sparkled with each phrase leading the audience through Mozart with ease. In a day filled with excellence in abundance, this was one of yesterday’s highlights.
–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs. She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.