by Anne Arenstein
Posted In: Classical music
at 09:12 AM | Permalink
c:n's spooky show continues on Oct. 27
Before Anne Rice and Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe set the standard for gothic creepiness. He's the inspiration for Gothic Halloween, a terrific program of music and Poe's classic stories guaranteed to chill the blood temperatures to appropriate Halloween levels, performed with wicked glee by the adventurous ensemble concert:nova. It's an evening of music from the dark side seamlessly interwoven with equally scary stories and songs. Performed on the stage of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of The Birds, it's the perfect setting for an evening of macabre and mayhem. Many of the musicians sported black capes but harpist Gillian Sella takes the prize —more on her later.Bach's "Toccata" from the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" is a horror standard and that's what starts the evening, performed with gusto by local treasure, keyboardist Julie Spangler. It's so familiar that the opening three-note sequence evoked laughter, which was quickly silenced by Spangler's artistry. She makes the small electric keyboard resonate with the power of a cathedral instrument. The "Psycho Suite" features three pieces from the classic film score by Bernard Herrmann, performed by a string sextet — Eric Bates (no relation to Norman), Gerald Itzkoff, Mari Thomas, Rebe Barnes, Margaret Dyer and Theodore Nelson. There were also a few chuckles which quickly subsided. Those screeching string swipes don't need film to convey the murder in the shower scene or the ominous mood at the Bates Motel.Baritone Edward Nelson gave a powerful performance of Schubert's setting of German poet Heinrich Heine's "Die Doppelganger," a song about a frightening encounter with one's alter-ego. Spangler accompanied and segued into Part II of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Musica ricercata," ("Researched music"). Entitled "Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale," (Sad, rigid and ceremonial), the music is a series of repeated notes, restless and menacing.Sections of Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1 accompany a reading of Poe's "The Cask of the Amontillado," performed by Jason Podplesky and Edward Nelson. Podplesky seemed uneasy at first, stumbling over mispronunciations, but he recovered to bring the story to its macabre finale. Nelson did a fine job as the hapless victim. He remained onstage, joined by a string quartet for a performance of Samuel Barber's setting of Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach." Nelson conveyed the longing, passion and terror with elegant tone and flawless diction. The string quartet delivered an appropriately moody reading.The second half opened with violists Barnes and Dyer slinking out on stage to perform "Viola Zombie," Michael Daugherty's duet that's a mashup of horror themes and plucked strings. You gotta love a piece with movements entitled "Jerks of Rigor Mortis" and "Zombie revivus." Barnes and Dyer clearly do.The evening closed with Poe's ultimate horror classic, "The Masque of the Red Death," read by Podplesky, accompanied by French composer Andre Caplet's "Conte Fantastique: Masque of the Red Death" for string quartet and harp. In spite of a few mispronunciations here and there, Podplesky rendered the story with ghoulish delight. Caplet's score meshes fantasy and foreboding, and the harp glissandos add to the eerie atmosphere. Willowy harpist Gillian Sella nearly stole the show when she entered, garbed in a white satin cape and pointed hat. c:n Artistic Director and clarinetist Ixi Chen doesn't perform in this concert but her creative mark is all over this terrific program.You have one more opportunity to up your scare quotient on Monday evening, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. A party follows the performance. You go, ghouls. Tickets and more info here.
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Each year as a child, I sat glued to the couch when ABC's 4:30 movies repeated its Edgar Allen Poe Week. 'Tales of Terror was among my favorites, comprised of three of Poe's shorter works, including 'The Cask of the Amontillado.' Of course, I had no idea then what Amontillado sherry was ... but today I have a real appreciation for the grownup drink.