Sharp finale for Women Composers

May 17, 1994|By Kenneth Meltzer | Kenneth Meltzer,Special to The Sun

The Women Composers Orchestra concluded its ninth season with a Sunday concert at Shriver Hall, featuring vocal and instrumental works by contemporary and 19th-century female composers.

The vocal portion of the program, consisting of works by Baltimore-based composer Hillary Kruh and Diane Thome, was the highlight of the afternoon.

Ms. Kruh's "The Voice of Your Eyes" is a song cycle based on poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and e.e. cummings that deal with different aspects of love. Unlike some modern composers, Ms. Kruh understands the beauties and limitations of the human voice. The writing is expressive and pleasing to the ear.

Her evocative sense of instrumental coloration in the accompanying flute, clarinet and harp added to the work's positive effect.

Diane Thome's "Levadi" for solo voice and tape is inspired by a Ladino poem of Chaim Nachman Bialik that deals with a crisis of faith. The vocal line makes effective use of Sephardic melody, and the taped synthesizer accompaniment complements the mystical nature of the text.

Both works benefited tremendously from the artistry of soprano Pamela Jordan.

Ms. Jordan is one of the foremost exponents of contemporary vocal music, and for good reason. She has always understood that modern music and the fundamentals of bel canto -- a beautiful tone, seamless legato and purity of diction -- are not mutually exclusive.

Ms. Jordan also displays a winning stage presence and a gripping sense of dramatic involvement. All of those attributes were in full display this past Sunday.

The instrumental portion of the concert proved somewhat less satisfying. The afternoon began with early-19th-century German composer Helene Riese Liebmann's Sonata for Cello and Piano. The composer's affinity for Mozart is evident throughout the work, with the finale consisting of a set of variations on the duet "La ci darem la mano" from the opera "Don Giovanni."

Cellist Lori Barnet encountered several moments of approximate intonation and less than ample tone. Mark Markham, a fine pianist, played accurately but with insufficient fire and drive, even for a work from the Classical era.

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