Thursday, September 24, 2015
Ailyn Perez and the New Century Chamber Orchestra
The New Century Chamber Orchestra scheduled soprano soloist Susanna Phillips to join their opening concerts of the season but she canceled at the last moment. Her replacement was Ailyn Perez, jetting into San Francisco between assignments at La Scala and the Dallas Opera. For sheer glamor and radiant beauty, Ms. Perez turned out to be hard to top, making even the audience feel frumpy in comparison.
She sounded beautiful too, in Rachmaninoff's wordless Vocalise, where she spun out one perfect "Ah..." after another with the string orchestra backing her.
The concert started with the 1994 Trisagion, a 15-minute piece of mystic minimalism by the Estonian composer Arvo Part in a transfixing, meditative performance.
It continued with a trio of string pieces by the contemporary American composer Jennifer Higdon that were excerpted from larger works, containing lots of pizzicato plucking framing a serene piece of nature painting of the Grand Tetons called String Lake. It was particularly fun watching Isaac Melamed above leading the cello section because he seemed to so thoroughly enjoy himself while playing, rather like cellist Peter Wyrick at the San Francisco Symphony.
Music Director and Concertmaster Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg led the second half of the concert with a pair of contrasting Shostakovich pieces from 1931, an Elegy extracted from the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and a wild Polka taken from his ballet The Golden Age about a Soviet soccer team in Paris, of all things.
Perez returned in another gorgeous outfit for the long Letter aria from Tchaikowsky's opera, Eugene Onegin, where the teenaged Tatiana pours her heart out to her first love which is cruelly rejected by the title character.
It was a lovely performance and the irresistable final tune of the aria has become my earworm of the week.