Kudos all around for library musicians

By Ben Nyberg

This past Friday evening the elegant Hemisphere Room of the Kansas State University library hosted a presentation of highly diverse chamber music by The Flint Hills Trio of Kansas (Janie Brokenicky, soprano; David Littrell, cello; Amanda Arrington, piano) with additional support from guest artists Karen Large, flute, and Laurel Littrell, percussion.

The performance launched the second half of the 2013-2014 Library Concert Series which will conclude with an “encore” recital by pianist Slawomir Dobrzanski Friday, April 25.

The program commenced with Sonata in D Major for cello (D. Littrell) and piano (Arrington) by Locatelli, which is actually a transcription for cello (by Alfredo Piatti) of segments from two different violin sonatas by the Italian baroque master. After a fiendishly demanding allegro opening movement that exacted incessant, unrelenting technical skill, a serene adagio gave the artists the space and time necessary to explore more purely musical values. The concluding theme-and-variations minuet provided a resolution with both plenty of flash (e.g. leaping shifts and sizzling arpeggios) and an abundance of melodic eloquence.

Staying with the baroque but moving forward to one of its acknowledged titans, J.S. Bach, soprano Brokenicky offered fervent yet polished readings of arias with cello obbligato from two sacred cantatas. Not that we ever doubt it, but it’s still always a rewarding pleasure to be reminded—especially as persuasively as Ms. Brokenicky did—that his genius remains forever fresh.

The Vocalise for soprano, cello, and piano by Andre Previn is a brief gem of pure abstract lyricism whose lines were invested by Brokenicky, Littrell, and Arrington with a carefully calculated sheen that set us up neatly for the following scored “jam session” titled Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano by Nikolai Kapustin, which finished the program’s first half with an exuberant flourish.

After intermission the Flint Hills three were joined by both Karen Large and Laurel Littrell for a poignant and searching rendition of Laurel’s own composition, a poetic remembrance of her late parents, “In the Garden,” which celebrated the powerfully complementary forces of life and death.

In contrast to the soberly reverent Bach arias earlier in the program, “My Faithful Heart Exult” gave Ms. Brokenicky the chance to show him at his most spiritually bright and uplifting. 

She then breathed new life into the “lost” song, “Dream with Me,” from Leonard Bernstein’s score for Peter Pan. Yet another happy reminder of the willingness of this great conductor/composer to buck the mid-twentieth-century aversion (still sadly too much alive) to tonality and its lovely byproduct, melody.

The aria “Da Tempeste” from Giulio Cesare in Egitto by the baroque period’s other titan, Handel, is a true tour de force for coloratura, and Ms. Brokenicky paid it the glorious homage it deserves in a dazzling exhibit of vocal virtuosity.

Concluding the program as it began with music for cello and piano, Dr. Littrell and Ms. Arrington collaborated in a stirring performance of Robert Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro. Again, as with the Locatelli, there was more room for actual beauty in the slow first movement than in the frenzied rush of the finale. But kudos all round for a splendid ensemble achievement!

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