Soheil Nasseri, Piano
Presented by 21st Century Classical Corp. and Greta Katzauer
World Premiere of Haskell Small’s Lullaby of War
(Haskell Small Website)
At Weill Recital Hall
(Carnegie Hall Website)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 24, 2007
(See November 13, 2006 Review)
Haskell Small (b. 1948)
Lullaby of War: A Setting of six war poems for piano and narrator (2007, World Premiere). Daniel Hendricks Simon, Narrator
War is Kind, Stephen Crane.
NO, Joy Harjo.
Recitative (excerpts), Yvan Goll.
Naming Souls, Uri Zvi Greenberg.
Look Down, Fair Moon, Walt Whitman.
Guernica Pantoum, Paula Tatarunis.
Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op.110 (1821)
Moderato cantabile molto espressivo, Allegro molto, Adagio ma non troppo,
Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo.
11 New Bagatelles, Op. 119 (1820-22)
Allegretto, Andante con moto, à l’Allemande, Andante cantabile, Risoluto, Andante-Allegretto, Allegro ma non troppo, Moderato cantabile, Vivace moderato, Allegramente, Andante, ma non troppo.
Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op.11 (1832-36)
Introduzione: Un poco adagio-Allegro vivace, Aria, Scherzo e Intermezzo: Allegrissimo-Più allegro-Lento, Finale: Allegro un poco maestoso
Tonight Soheil Nasseri, the California-born 28 year old pianist with roots in Teheran, débuted Haskell Small’s Lullaby of War, less than one year after debuting Small’s Renoir’s Feast, inspired by Renoir’s sumptuous paining, “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. The inspiration for Lullaby of War, however, is much more grim, according to Small: “…both an expression of outrage at our perpetual rationalizations for making war and an offering of compassion for its victims.” Small wrote the work for Soheil Nasseri and included six anti-war poems for narration (expertly and dramatically presented by Daniel Hendricks Simon): two poems from the Civil War, one from each World War, and two current poems from Poets against the War.
Lullaby of War is a work in rhythmic contrast, with sadness and despair in tonalities fusing with searing recitations of authentic poetry of war. The moody low notes that open with Crane’s “War is Kind” soon trail to treble echoes, with determined repetitions, while the poignant narration mixes in, usually against silence, two voices, Simon and the Steinway, and two more, Nasseri and Small, as the nuanced interpretations intermingle musical and spoken language. The music for Harjo’s “No” is like a wanton dance with staccato boots. Daniel Hendricks Simon’s throaty, but clear, whispering voice could not be more perfect for this intense genre. Dizzying treble notes later wax atonal and steady, before the narrator’s shouts shoot words against dissonant chords. Lullaby of War should be heard more often, for the listener to focus again and again on the fascinating, fresh details, and for the community at large to emotionally relate to the ravages of war, one so logistically distant, yet so psychically present in today’s culture.
Nasseri shifted to Beethoven for the next two works, and Sonata No. 31 in A-flat was performed with beauty, melody, and rolling refrains. Nasseri’s internalized musicality is more obvious this season, as his entire body and facial expressions showed anticipation and familiarity with each successive passage. Soulfulness expanded with the expansion in volume, and the Sonata ends with majestic momentum. For Beethoven’s 11 New Bagatelles, Nasseri’s notes spun like an impassioned ballerina, accented and repetitive, with rapid treble phrases and masterful knowledge of each Bagatelle. Nasseri’s tight timing was intrinsic to the success of this concert, and he knew when to slow down for dramatic moodiness and contrasting soulfulness.
Schumann’s Sonata No. 1in F-sharp minor raced with imploding passion and echoing phrases. Each new theme seemed to increase a sense of longing, sometimes enveloped in thick bass notes. The higher registers joined for a quasi-musical conversation, as the music built like waves, with heightened crispness and smooth assurance. This was a well-balanced program in the elegant setting of Weill Recital Hall, with cream-gold ornamentations, shimmering crystal chandeliers, and velvet blue draperies.
Kudos to Soheil Nasseri, and kudos to Haskell Small.
File Photo: Soheil Nasseri
Photo courtesy of Publicity
File Photo: Haskell Small and Soheil Nasseri
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower