Sunday, February 03, 2008

Riverside Choral Society Rachs

Last night, we went to see our blogosphere friend Matt perform in the Riverside Choral Society's presentation of Mariah Motets and Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, Opus 37, directed by Patrick Gardner. The performance was staged at the beautiful Holy Trinity R.C. Church, a testament to classic Catholic excess - it just makes one wonder if all the money spent on the building had been used for the proper...oh, never mind, back to the subject at hand. We were crammed into relatively tight and highly uncomfortable pews and were sitting in front of a row of old people. Old people who were having what Jess appropriately labeled a "phlegm convention". It was pretty disgusting. The only thing more disgusting was that every time they shifted around (which was fairly regularly), you'd get that delightful whiff of "old people smell".

Let me first say that I love Rachmaninoff. He was an incredible composer/pianist but many pianists consider him a sadistic bastard because his compositions are difficult to play unless you have phalanges that are freakishly long, like Rachmaninoff's were. (He had a hand span of more than a foot - now those are some big freaking hands.) I had a friend long ago in Wichita named Jerry who was a wonderful pianist and he was a big Rachmaninoff fan, in spite of the fact that his fingers weren't long enough to easily play the chords required...but I always thought he played the pieces beautifully.

So, when I heard that the Riverside Choral Society was going to be performing a selection of Rachmaninoff vespers and matins, I wanted to go. I was not familiar with this aspect of Rachmaninoff's work, and also, I wanted to hear the Choral Society perform since Matt is in it and is the Tenor section leader.

The first part of the performance wasn't Rachmaninoff, but was instead a selection of Eastern European hymns by Stravinsky, Biebl and Pärt, among others. To my surprise, the best piece of the entire evening was Biebl's Ave Maria, which was probably the finest performance of that piece that I have heard. I haven't heard many performances of this particular piece. There are many, many different hymns named Ave Maria (meaning Hail, Mary), and the one most people think of when they hear that name is Franz Schubert's version. But Biebl's version is much more intricate and delicate, and part of the reason this particular performance sounded so beautiful was separation of a semi-chorus (of which Matt was a part) from the main chorus, with the semi-chorus performing from the arched loft, making it positively angelic. This piece sent chills through me. Stunning.

My second favorite piece of the evening was the VOSKRES IZ GROBA from Rachmaninoff. It was lovely.

Overall, a beautiful performance, which Jess and I then capped with a visit to VYNL with Patrick, where we had some good food and even better drinks. I had a Pearis Hilton, which was Ketel One, pear liqeur and pineapple was a lot tastier than its namesake. Patrick and Jess each had the Purple Rain, which was Grey Goose, Chambord, raspberry puree and pineapple juice. It was also fabulous and unusual, like the composer of the song for which it's named. I also had a VYNL, which was Absolut, lemonade and watermelon juice, but it was only so-so. But I'll be making me some Purple Rains and Pearises at home!

A nice evening, but a late one: we got to Penn Station around 12:30 a.m. and our train didn't leave until 1:07. We finally made it home about 2:00 a.m., but didn't get to bed until almost 3:00. But it was a fun evening.


At 10:53 PM, February 03, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

Yes, it sure was!

At 11:35 PM, February 04, 2008, Blogger Shenida Weave said...

Oh, just give me a classic Manhattan any day... you know us southern boys: there was bourbon on our bottle nipples ;)

At 10:42 AM, February 06, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

The concert really sounds like it was fantastic (Phlegm notwithstanding...) . Personally, I love Stravinsky, so that might certainly have been a highlight for me. I've never heard Biebl's Ave Maria. I'll be looking that one up. And of course, Rachmaninoff is always so wonderfully intricate and dramatic.

Glad you enjoyed yourselves!

At 4:26 PM, February 07, 2008, Blogger Brooklyn Bitch said...

OMG! Music and then VYNL?! Awesome. I used to work as a receptionist in midtown and my boss would order from VYNL, like, everyday. Love those veggie dumplings! Sounds like a brilliant (and tasty) evening!


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