Saturday, 18 August 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

Superbly Dramatic and Dramatically Superb

Myrna Moreno as the Old Lady in Lord Byron's Love Letters - R. D. Bamfield

Myrna Moreno is a remarkable mezzo-soprano, with almost a baritonal middle range, as if born to sing intense Oratorios.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was labeled a “walking Encyclopaedia” … one could similarly characterize Miss Moreno as a ‘walking Oratorio’!

Miss Moreno’s appearance on even a simply lit stage is so powerfully dramatic, so intensely tragic in the most grandiose sense of the word that she appears like a sacred ritual matriarchal icon, the likes of which one only encounters in the plays of the great Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca.

Miss Moreno has an excellently developed sense of her dramatic operatic vocal potential – she selects her repertoire perfectly. For her solo concert [on 6 June 2007] accompanied perfectly on the Piano by Miss Diana Wright, at the Bolivar Hall (the cultural centre of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in London), Miss Moreno seems to have focused on displaying her considerable vocal range upwards from the lower registers – unfortunately with music that rarely allowed the flow of her two (top and middle) ranges smoothly into one another – instead, even though the tones were made full complex use of, but they mostly stayed separate, shining like brilliant but individual diamonds. I longed for songs that would flow together and burst the shores of Miss Moreno's vocal range.

I was not happy with her accents when she sang in different languages. As a perfectionist, and familiar with eleven languages, I cannot condone the received idea that classical Singers should be forgiven their linguistic inadequacies compensated for by the beauty of their tones

I insist that Ravel’s Chanson Francaise should not sound like his Chanson Hebraique, and both sound like his Chanson Espagnole – even though I do not mind the fact that this latter may echo Bizet’s Carmen …

The sensation, nay, inspiring Revelation of the concert evening was Miss Moreno’s introduction of the Venezuelan Antonio Esteves (1916-1988), a most remarkable Song writer of intense tragic sentiment, unheard of in London concert halls.

Myrna Moreno as The Secretary in The Consul - G.C. Menotti

I have now lived in London for four decades, and I have not heard anything like this composer’s extraordinary recitative-like narrations of heavily symbolical tonal tapestries, which Miss Moreno performs to Christ-like perfection;

Here comes the man from Mariguitar
Last night he went fishing

Singing he went to sea
And at Dawn came back dead

Miss Moreno petrifies you with her vocal magical expressionism! You dare not breathe, in case you wake the dead in her Esteves song (Polo Doliente).

A hundred puzzles get carved on Miss Moreno’s visage, midstream while singing – ultimately perhaps about life and death. They need answers that Antonio Estevez does not provide in musical resolutions – He articulates Death with Major Key(s) – with intense fury, instead of the sweet melancholic Minor Keys one is accustomed to in post-Baroque European classical Music.

In El Ordenador = milking-song where the cows are called, Miss Moreno converts her recitative middle line into an almost oratorical contralto;

The Virgin of Sorrows is coming to visit you
“Carro de Oro”

thus persisting with and preserving the purity of her upper Soprano-line – the two lines never dripping (like milk) into one another;

Up there in the hills I have a clear well
Where the Virgin washes her little feet and face
“Nube blanca”

Myrna Moreno as Ana in The Seven Deadly Sins - Kurt Weil

Antonio Esteves deserves global recognition. The true worth of his music can only unfold itself in the art and craft of a consummate artist like Miss Moreno, whose intensely tragic sense of existential being (= Life) seems to be well-tuned and in perfect harmony with the composer’s.

Antonio Esteves is nothing like Schubert, but everything like the Armenian classical composer Komitas (1869-1935), who was arrested in Istanbul (in 1915) by the government of the Young Turks, as one of two hundred fifty intellectual leaders of the Armenian community,
to be killed – the signal shot of the genocide of a 'headless' million Armenians that followed it.

Komitas was well-known in Berlin, as a Founding member of the academic International Musical Society – probably the first of its kind in the world. His life was spared, but not his witnessing of the genocidal deeds.

As a direct result of the inhuman horrors, Komitas fell ... silent, lost his mind, and never uttered a word, literally, for another twenty years, breathing his last in an Asylum in Paris.

The great Claude Debussy had heard his music, and said of Komitas’ masterpiece Groonk=crane (the bird; the Hermes-type of Messenger in Armenian culture), which expressed musically the variations of the bird-in-flight, while the lyrics sang of the Refugee’s longing for his hearth, that if Komitas had composed nothing else but that song, he could have been regarded as one of the great composers of all time.

I wonder if Antonio Esteves had somehow heard the Komitas song referred to by Debussy, whose music he must have known most certainly.

How I wish that one day both composers – the Venezuelan and the Armenian – are performed together in the same program for an evening of exceptional musical experience.


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