Monday, December 22, 2008

Pianist Loren Fishman performs at Bexley public library auditorium.

Pianist Loren Fishman is a regular performer at the Bexley Public Library Auditorium and his Sunday afternoon (December 21) performance was a rewarding event.

Fishman is a 2003 graduate of Bexley High School who is now a student of Lydia Artymiw at the University of Minnesota Graduate School. Fishman is studying at Minnesota under a Berneking fellowship award.

The Bexley recital was well-attended for a cold windy Sunday afternoon in December. Sixty-five people attended and were warmed by hot tea and cookies before the performance began. The audience was typical for a Bexley musical performance. Some seniors, some middle aged, some in their twenties. The holiday visits of adult children and college students returning home accounted for most of the age groupings in attendance.

The audience was dressed for the outdoor weather. Ski coats. Wool overcoats. Gloves, caps and scarves. Colors were dark for the most part. Two members of the audience wore berets. One red, the other black. Only one man wore a tie, and that was a bow tie. Dapper.

Fishman wore a white, perhaps cream colored, blouse, loose at the waist and with a 60s Nehru collar. The fabric might have been pleated or with a stripe in the fabric.

The stage lighting in this auditorium is always inadequate and consequently it was difficult to see Fishman’s face and hands during the performance.

For listeners who have followed Fishman’s performances from year to year, Sunday’s pieces offered some familiar works and some new additions to his repertoire.

The Mozart and Rachmaninoff selections were familiar and both were performed with a maturing discipline. (W.A. Mozart (1756-1791) Sonata in C major, K 330, Allegro-moderato, Andante cantabile and Allegreto; followed by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Etude-tableaux in C minor, Op. 39, no. 1, Prelude in B minor, Op. 32, no. 10, Prelude in G sharp minor, Op. 32, no. 12, Prelude in B flat major, Op. 23, no. 2.).

The pauses between the three movements in the Mozart selection were brief, almost split seconds. Much too short for my ear. Was Fishman eager to conclude this Mozart piece that he has performed so often? That can’t be the explanation. The Allegro was aggressive but not hasty in its tempo. Except for the final cord, the Andante cantabile was reflective and well-paced, with a restraint that confirmed that Fishman was performing intentionally.

The Rachmaninoff piece was suitable for the weather but needed a tormented audience to fully appreciate its movements. As usual, a Bexley audience is much too restrained. Vodka and pirogi, not herbal tea and cookies, should have been served at this recital. Fishman’s calm and detached playing of the B minor prelude offered a solace reminiscent of ice cold vodka under a full moon.

The selections that followed intermission were examples of the best of Romantic music and also the most plebian. Chopin’s Scherzo that concluded the recital gave the audience a measure to compare the Gottschalk and Ponce compositions.

The Manuel M. Ponce (1882-1948) Intermezzo in E minor and Gavota in D flat major were enjoyable pieces but sounded like background music from Hollywood movies in the 1930s and 1940s.

In the program. the Gottschalk pieces are curious selections. These pieces were composed by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) Ricordati: Yearning romance, Op. 26, Valse poetique: The sigh, Op. 24 and Pasquinade: Caprice, Op. 59.

Gottschalk was a 19th century American composer and popular piano performer. My suspicion is that he performed in minstrel shows and early vaudeville. If he didn’t he should have.

Fishman who is usually reticent about his selections, took a moment to inform his audience that Gottschalk’s Ricordati: Yearning romance, Op. 26 has an inscription on the cover of the sheet music. For the inscription, Gottschalk (or perhaps some music publisher) selected a line from Dante’s Inferno to the effect that it is a pain to remember happy times when you are in misery.

Although Gottschalk is usually identified as an American Romantic composer, his work is largely sentimental without the intelligence of even the likes of Stephen Foster.

The best that can be said of Gottschalk is that some of his measures anticipate American Hip Hop rhythms.

What seems to have saved Gottschalk’s name from well-deserved oblivion is the general acceptance that Romantic music doesn’t need to make sense. Thus, the three Gottschalk pieces presented by Fishman are exercises well-performed that suffer from weak compositions, and even worse, compositions that bear no relationship whatsoever to their titles.

Ricordati? What does Ricordati even mean? The music that follows is certainly neither yearning nor romantic. The Valse poetique was closer to a snore than a sigh and it seemed to me that it was written in four-four time rather than the expected three-four of a waltz. Too much already said about Gottschalk, a name that deserves oblivion.

The final piece reminded all of us what excellence is in music, both composition and performance. Frederic Chopin (1829-1869) Scherzo no. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31.

Fishman gave his audience a gift with the Chopin piece.

One pleasure of living in Bexley is the culture available in the neighborhood. Having musicians like Loren Fishman perform here is something that makes this community a special place to live. Thank you Loren.


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Design is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Empire & Western Deposit Agency.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it's refreshing to have such rich social context in a review for this performance. I feel as though I was there. In my experience critics tend to have the performer's rendition of the music as the focus of the review but the editorial collective's approach is more reminiscent of a fireside reading of Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier which was heard on Bexley Public Radio on Christmas Day.