Exciting young musicians and repertoire in The Frederick R. Koch Foundation’s Live from Elm Court

United StatesUnited States Various, Live from Elm Court, Season 2: Erica Petrocelli (soprano), Liv Redpath (soprano), Madalyn Parnas (violin), Chieh-Fan Yiu (viola), Cicely Parnas (cello), Narek Arutyunian (clarinet), Louis Lohraseb (piano), The Frederick R. Koch Foundation, Elm Court, Butler, PA, 28.3-1.4.2022. (RP)

Liv Redpath (soprano) and Louis Lohraseb (piano) (c) Frederick R. Koch Collection

The Frederick R. Koch Foundation continues its digital concert series with a second season of Live from Elm Court, curated by the rising young conductor and pianist Louis Lohraseb. In keeping with the Foundation’s mission, the five concerts feature exciting young artists and the opportunity to hear works that Koch collected in manuscript form and later donated to the Yale University’s Beinecke Library.

Located in Butler, Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, Elm Court is one of the grand houses that Koch acquired over the years. It was built by Benjamin D. Phillips, whose wealth was derived from his family’s natural gas and oil company; completed in 1930, the forty-room mansion was acquired by Koch in 1988. As with the prior FRK Foundation series, including those from Koch’s townhouse in New York, the second season of Live from Elm Court offers music-making of the highest caliber in the grandest of settings.

The FRK Foundation has focused on young American musicians already making their mark in the US and elsewhere. In addition to curating this series, Lohraseb appears as pianist, and is garnering international acclaim as a conductor in both the operatic and the symphonic repertoire. A student of the late Lorin Maazel and of James Conlon, Lohraseb currently serves as assistant conductor at the Los Angeles Opera. For the 2022-23 season, he will conduct at the Komische Oper Berlin and the Dresden Semperoper.

Lohraseb has assembled an exceptional array of talent for these recitals: sopranos Liv Redpath and Erica Petrocelli; Duo Parnas, made up of violinist Madalyn Parnas and cellist Cicely Parnas; violinist Chieh-Fan Yiu; and clarinetist Narek Arutyunian. They were drawn primarily from musical terrain that Lohraseb knows well, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and LA Opera. Most are his friends, and Petrocelli, who participated in the Zurich Opera’s International Opera Studio and the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at LA Opera, is his wife.

Liv Redpath’s career has taken off with upcoming appearances as Sophie in Barrie Kosky’s production of Der Rosenkavalier at the Bayerische Staatsoper, and the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor for LA Opera. Duo Parnas took First Prize in Carnegie Hall’s International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition held in 2008 and has performed in the world’s most prestigious music venues.

Madalyn Parnas (violin), (Cicely Parnas (cello) and Louis Lohraseb (piano) (c) Frederick R. Koch Collection.

Triple-prize winner of the 2013 Lionel Tertis Competition, Taiwanese-born Canadian Chieh-Fan Yiu has established himself as one of the most exciting young violists on the international stage today. Narek Arutyunian won First Prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and has appeared in chamber music concerts and as clarinet soloist with orchestras around the world.

The sweet spots here are performances of works from manuscripts in the Koch Collection. Koch, who attended Yale, amassed an impressive collection of musical, literary and historical materials. The collection is particularly rich in works by nineteenth- and twentieth-century French composers, including the manuscript scores of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann.

For the first concert, an all-Debussy program, Lohraseb selected a new transcription of a Debussy rarity for voice and piano, ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’, performed by Redpath with Lohraseb at the piano, and including the unpublished second ending that has never been performed. Each Debussy performance was exquisite, but the three had much more fun with his ‘Chanson espagnole’ for two voices and piano. The other work from the Koch collection was Fauré’s ‘Mai’ in the fifth concert, with extra measures and alternate tempo markings from the composer’s own autograph score, sung by Petrocelli and accompanied by Lohraseb.

Lohraseb and his colleagues give excellent recitals of works from the standard repertoire, including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, but the musical rarities and new works performed are especially rewarding. Cicely Parnas was particularly soulful in the first performance of Jocelyn Hagen’s newly updated ‘Miniatures for Cello Solo’; and reveled in the variety of musical styles and sounds in Mark Summer’s fascinating ‘Julie-O’. The Parnas sisters united to perform Cicely Parnas’s own arrangement for violin and cello of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto,

Amy Beach’s ‘Chanson d’amour’, scored for soprano, cello and piano, is the last work performed in Season 2. Petrocelli, Cicely Parnas and Lohraseb instilled this song of near operatic proportions with an exuberant mix of rapture and pathos. Petrocelli soared in the climax, singing passionately of a lover who not only sings but weeps, to Lohraseb’s equally dramatic accompaniment.

Few institutions have the resources to present concerts of such quality as the Koch Foundation does. Launched during the covid pandemic, these digital concerts have enabled music lovers around the world to enjoy exciting young performers in a vast repertoire. One can only wonder what comes next.

Rick Perdian

Live from Elm Court Season 1 and Season 2 are available for streaming on the Foundation’s website.

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