On Sunday, December 10, 2017, a “heavenly trio” of the Chicago Philharmonic Chamber Players put on a concert filled with holiday cheer at the City Winery, 1200 E. Randolph, Chicago. Featuring Jennifer Clippert, flute; Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, viola; and Alison Attar, harp; “Fairytale Noël” celebrated the magic of the season with melodious tunes and joyful carols.
Flutist Jennifer Clippert’s performance career clearly reflects her passionate knowledge of music from Baroque to present day. She’s equally comfortable as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player.
Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, a champion of new music, has premiered and performed works by many composers. Her discography includes chamber works recorded for Albany Records and Innova Recordings.
Dr. Alison Attar is highly regarded by her colleagues for her professionalism, leadership, versatility, vibrant and expressive sound and her uncanny rhythm.
The clever, inventive and engaging program consisted of:
-Mykola Leontovych (arr. Ken Gist) Carol of the Bells, 1914
“Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol based on a Ukrainian folk chant, recognized by a haunting four-note ostinato motif. The music was never copyrighted and has been arranged many times for different styles of singing and setting, been performed in classical, metal, jazz, rock, country and pop genres and featured everywhere from film and television to parody. The song is festive and exhilarating with a brisk and driving tempo.
Opening the concert with the flute announcing the unmistakable melody, the viola sounded deeply poignant, the harp luxurious. The Slavic/Asian influence in the music was subtle yet pervasive.
–Frederic Chopin Variations on a Theme by Rossini “Cinderella”, 1824
This charming and fluent set of variations- crafted when Chopin was only 14 years old yet not published until 1953- presents the theme and four decorated versions of the original tune. The first variation is enlivened with added triplets while the second is embellished with a “florid bel canto style”. The third variation, driven by rapid downward arpeggios, is succeeded by the last variant containing quick staccato figurings. The flute portions in particular display very interesting turns of phrase!
The name of this aria, we were told, was “I will no longer be sad”, an apt description of this uplifting and sprightly flute-driven work; it seemed to refer to past sorrows but not to dwell upon them.
-Arnold Bax Elegiac Trio, 1916
This piece, a memorial to those who died in Ireland’s Easter Rising, and dedicated to Bax’s friends who perished therein, is filled with tenderness and a sense of wonder. Considered to be “one of Bax’s most impressionistic scores” it sounded Celtic and haunting, rather than sad. It was included in the “Fairytale Noël” repertoire because modern fairytales are derived from cautionary stories, often “dreadful”.
As performed this afternoon, the piece, which the audience had been advised was “poignant and turbulent for all 3 of the performers”, ended in peacefulness and a sense of calm.
It began with a touching harp debut; the viola enters in a melancholy serenade before the flute appears. The tune is suspended in a mire of reflective sorrow until a series of harp glissandos send forth an exquisite alarum before the work thoughtfully subsides.
-Claude Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, 1915
The sonata has been called “evocative and emotionally ambiguous”. It opened with a freely constructed movement in which many musical themes emerge as the music unfolds; in reprising these melodic strands, their initial order differs which results in a clear dramatic impact. The flavor of the whole is relaxed, yet it delivers an atmosphere of held-back passion. The second movement vaguely suggests a dance form with a moderately defined rhythmic structure. The finale is shaped by the viola’s intense pizzicato, but each player gave soulfully lyrical and probing performances.
Dr. Attar advised the audience how this piece changed harp music for the next 100 years. Debussy, in his inspired efforts “to withstand German attempts to eliminate French thought… pulled out all the stops”, creating “a fairytale for all harpists”. The piece began with a mysterious flute introducing the precise harp and weeping viola. It was a very sophisticated, dramatic and introspective performance, atonal and meandering at moments with a decidedly more rapid and measured third movement.
-Christmas Carol Suite arr. Kenneth Gist
Gist is Principal Harpist and Librarian of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, and also teaches and free-lances in the Evansville, Indiana area; he has crafted a number of traditional carols in beautiful, evocative arrangements. From a jazzy “Winter Wonderland” through a sensitive and lovely “Silent Night’, to an audience-participatory “Jingle Bells”, this was a warm and playful finale.
The concert was remarkable for containing a number of sophisticated works amid non-traditional carols; there was something for every listener in this vivid and joyfully presented concert.
For information and tickets to all the great programming of the Chicago Philharmonic, go to www.chicagophilharmonic.org
All photos by Elliot Mandel