Variety, Color and Fine Performances in Beethoven Concert

... Review of Beethoven Society Recital

Jackie Wattenberg

The Beethoven Society put its very best foot forward at the final winter meeting and recital last Friday evening in Melrose's Unitarian Universalist Church.
There was not a lackluster performer or piece of music in the program that included soprano Susan Sloan; pianists John Montanus, Philip Pendleton and Patrick Shamberger; oboeist Jean Allen, cellist William Raper, and a superb clarinetist, Anthony Fulginiti.

A little something for everybody.

The major fireworks for the audience was the familiar Brahms variations on a theme of Haydn in its original, though lesser heard, version--for two pianos.  John Montanus, a pianist of impeccable artistry, was paired with a tall, talented young pianist, Patrick Shamberger, a senior at Melrose High School.  The familiar themes--the demanding, rhythmic early one and the graceful turn of the latter--were compeling in this seldom-performed form.

Both pianists forged with bravura spirit through the heavy-textured score, dense sonorities and a panoply of great chords to a triumphant climax.  The audience of about 60 gave them a rousing standing ovation.

But there were many notable moments.  The clarinet is not the most prominent solo instrument; Bach wrote no works for unaccompanied clarinet, though there are chamber works that include it and it is an essential voice for symphonic pieces.  But in the experienced hands of Anthony Fulginiti it was enthralling.  A former member of the Minneapolis Symphony under Dorati and Haitink, he plays with rewarding technical assurance and musicality.  His very tone was lovely, each phrase exquisitly wrought, with sensitive and varied dynamics, remarkable expressive.

Adding to the richness of his performance was Philip Pendleton on the organ, providing unfailing support for each musical mode and mood.  The music played was borrowed from string literature of Pergolesi, Albinoni and William Babel.  Organ and clarinet are congenial; we can hope for more from this duo, both Melrosians and members of the Beethoven Society.

In answer to applause they received, Mr. Pendleton announced:  "We will sign autographs at the concert's end!"

Pendleton was also an excellent pianist for a group of Partitas, Die Kleine Kammermusik, by Telemann.  Jean Allen, a highly accomplished oboeist, carried the lead voice in these delightful pieces, sure of her instrument and attentive to phrasing, and William Raper's mellow cello added lower range warmth.  He knows his cello's capabilities well, since he actually made it himself, a rear talent.  The trio offered a frolicsome encore by Klingel, a composer-cellist who had studied with the great Piatigorsky, and lived into this century.

Susan Sloan brought the human instrument--the singing voice--to the program with two songs by Brahms, Wiegenlied and Sacred Lullaby, accompanied by pianist Montanus with his usual artistry.  In Sacred Lullaby, the gentle strains were pampered by a viola obbligato by Patrick Shamberger, a versatile young musician.

Ms. Sloan's voice is a pure and warm soprano, and her manner is relaxed and appealing.  Her voice has a consistent flow, with no brake, and breath control is no problem.  Occasionally the pretty tone loses its clarity, becomes clouded, when her mouth is not open sufficiently for the tone to soar freely.

The Beethoven's next program will take place on Sunday afternoon, March 29, at 3 o'clock, in the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church.  The public is always invited to attend.

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