Mark Gresham | 04 FFEB 2021
Long before the current COVID pandemic, the Bailey Performance Center at Kennesaw State University was the first presenter of performing arts in metro-Atlanta to grasp the value of live-streaming video of concerts over the internet. At the time it was not a tool for sheer survival, but an exploration into the medium. Classical music has long dipped its toe into the video medium every now and then, something which popular music genres and already overwhelmingly embraced a few decades ago. But live-streaming on internet, well, that was still frontier. That is, until everyone who could hitched their wagon to it this past year due to the pandemic forced the obligatory absence of live audiences.
Now that it is de rigueur, presenters, performers and audiences alike are beginning to see the more clearly both the great advantages as well as disadvantages of streaming as a sole means of concert presentation.
Witness a recent chamber concert at Bailey, billed as a faculty recital, headlined by cellist Charae Krueger, violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, and pianist Robert Henry, all prominent KSU faculty.
Kim and Krueger opened the concert with a electrifying 27-minute work by Zoltan Kodaly, Duo for Violin and Cello, Opus 7, impressively played. These ladies perform together a lot, and this is definitely a piece they should keep in the top drawer of their repertoire. It sizzling energy and copious fireworks for both players held the attention from start to finish and, at least for this listener, was the highlight of the program.
The featured contemporary work on the program came next Flame Language by composer Laurence Sherr, a fellow member of the KSU music faculty, who has devoted his career to music of, and in remembrance of, the Holocaust – including his own compositions.
Scored for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble of of clarinet, cello, piano and percussion (with a conductor in this performance), Flame Language is a setting of a poem by Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Nelly Sachs.
Dr. Sherr introduced the work from an onstage lectern with a media presentation about Sachs, making special note of the fact that this particular performance was taking place only two days before the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
Then the performance began along with one of a composer’s worst nightmares in our digital age: no audio in the video stream. This continued for what seemed more than a few minutes of the 11-minute work before the sound sudden;y popped in again. Fortunately, it appears this was only lost in the streamed, recorded video; the audio was otherwise successfully recorded, possibly in an backup audio device (always a good idea). Alas, the viewers did not hear it, but because of the technical foresight, an edited archival video exists with complete audio of Sherr’s work, and I was ultimately able to obtain access to it – hence the lateness of this review.
The music has its few strident moments, but i primarily lyrical and melancholic in sentiment, for which mezzo Heather Witt‘s darkly hued but clear voice was well suited. Krueger’s cello had much opportunity for emotive lyrical response to the vocal part, as to a lesser extent did John Warren‘s clarinet some sad, reflective passages.
Kruger played Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 5 5 back in the latter part of November with pianist Elizabeth Pridgen and reprized it in this concert with her frequent collaborative pianist Robert. (Krueger, Kim and Henry regularly play concerts together as the Summit Piano Trio.)
In this concert, Kruger gave a masterful performance equal to the previous one, with the collaborative piano playing by Henry matching her acumen well in his own rather own demanding part. It was an excellent, solid choice with which to wrap-up this concert.
As a final note: Mr. Henry is very active on the Bailey virtual stage during first two months for 2021. In addition to this January concert, in February he will join with ASO principal flutist Christina Smith in a recital this coming Monday evening, February 8, then again in solo recital on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14 More information about those can be found on the KSU School of Music website. ■