Shakespearean Influences Unite Two Disparate Groups

A Common Thread: Thomas Morley, John Dowland, Ned Rorem, Henry Bishop, Anthony Holborne, Igor Stravinsky, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Paul Moravec, Robert Johnson and Richard Allison: Catacoustic Consort, Annalisa Pappano (artistic director); concert:nova, Ixi Chen (artistic director); Minyoung Baik, Randolph Bowman, Ixi Chen, Jennifer Joplin, Brian Kay, Youngmi Kim, Avedis Manoogian, David Morris, Theodore Nelson, Annalisa Pappano, David Walker, Heidi Yenney (soloists), Cincinnati, OH. 17.3.13 (RDA)

Thomas Morley: “O mistress mine”
Anon.: “Take, Oh take”
John Dowland: “Fancy”
Amy Beach: Three Shakespeare Songs
Ned Rorem: “After Reading Shakespeare”
Anon.: “Robin is to the Greenwood Gone”
Sir Henry Bishop: “Lo! Hear the Gentle Lark”
Anthony Holborne: “Hart’s Ease”
Stravinsky: Three Songs of William Shakespeare
Anon.: “Woodycock”
Anon.: “Whoope do me no harm”
Korngold: Incidental music from Much Ado About Nothing
Paul Moravec: “Fantasia” and “Ariel” from The Tempest Fantasy
Robert Johnson: “Full fathom five”
Richard Allison: “De la Tromba Pavan”
Johnson: “Where the Bee Sucks”
Moravec: “Prospero” from The Tempest Fantasy
Morley: “It was a lover” from As You Like It

Catacoustic Consort’s musical terrain is primarily Renaissance and Baroque music, while concert:nova leans towards 20th and 21st-century material, often mixing it up in performances that blur boundaries. Crossing over to make music with colleagues and finding a meeting ground through Shakespeare’s words was the theme of A Common Thread, last night’s performance at the acoustically ideal Mercantile Library in Cincinnati.

Youngmi Kim, a soprano with a touchstone voice for music written before 1700, brought subtle and supple vocalism to a bouquet of ballads with texts by Shakespeare and set to music by Dowland, Morley and Holborne. In the haunting “Take, O Take Those Lips Away,” with text variously attributed to Shakespeare and to his rival-playwright John Fletcher, Ms. Kim was lovely, delicately accompanied by Annalisa Pappano on viol.

Elsewhere, Ms. Kim gave sensitivity to three songs by Amy Beach, with Avedis Manoogian giving her complete support at the piano. In addition to an assured rendition of two somewhat atonal Stravinsky settings from Love’s Labours Lost and Sonnet VIII, Ms. Kim also performed Sir Henry Bishop’s “Lo! Hear the gentle Lark—spot-on, whimsical and wry. This coloratura soprano showpiece became the evening’s all-out hit, aided by the gorgeous playing of flutist Randall Bowman. Throughout the program, other instrumentalists offered attentive accompaniment: lutenists Brian Kay and David Walker, David Morris on bass viol and Ms. Pappano on viol, all four holding together the harmonic fabric.

In the first half, Heidi Yenney made her violin appear to give voice to Beatrice and Benedick’s words about the inevitability of their impending and less-than-holy matrimony. Moments later she portrayed Dogberry’s doggerel in one of two instrumental pieces from Korngold’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Whoever does not believe that instruments can actually sing, should listen to this superb violinist speak trippingly with her strings and bow. On this invigorating Monday evening, the chilly Cincinnati weather outside was temporarily forgotten, listening to music by Shakespeare’s Jacobean and Elizabethan compatriots.

Three selections from The Tempest Fantasy, by 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec, offered a dazzling, breathless obstacle course for piano, flute, clarinet and violin, deftly negotiated by Ixi Chen, Ted Nelson, Minyoung Baik and Randolph Bowman stirring up a proper storm on their respective instruments.

Impeccably assembled, grouped and curated, the program also featured the Bard’s texts eloquently spoken by actress Jennifer Joplin (of the invaluable Cincinnati Shakespeare Company), convincingly impersonating a variety of characters—now Prospero, now Hamlet, now Iago, now Ariel, now the youthful lovers Miranda and Sebastian in a compelling performance. But Thomas Morley’s “It was a lover and his lass” concluded the program—Ixi Chen joining the viols and lutes of Catacoustic Consort, while seated at stage-right with her clarinet in hand and her friend’s ensemble wrapping its centuries-old sounds around us all. Annalisa Pappano on stage-left, joined her concert:nova colleagues and blended her gentle sounds with those of her fellow musicians from the “other side of the aisle.” It was a touching and magical moment—ending a memorable concert on a common thread.

Rafael de Acha