By Michele Leight
The "Enchanting Moments
- Scent of a Rose" concert at the Fabbri Mansion (House of
the Redeemer) at 7 East 95th Street in New York City on September
25th, 2005 was a heady delight with a very diverse and interesting
program in a very impressive and comfortable setting in one of
the city's most beautiful landmark mansions. It was a luxury to
be in such close proximity with this level of musical talent.
While the surroundings were
as good as it gets for intimate musical concerts of this caliber,
by the end of the evening it was clear that this ensemble of leading
soloists and guest artists of vocal, chamber and piano works would
sound just as good anyplace.
As a true fan of Lincoln Center,
I attended an unforgettable all Sibelius performance by the London
Philharmonic - led by Sir Colin Davis (and a gargantuan chorus)
- at Avery Fisher Hall barely a week after the "Enchanted
Moments" concert, which was produced by Rose Bapier. As I
joined the deafening Lincoln Center applause for a world-class
musical event, I came away with the conviction that small concerts
are no less important than these blockbuster events and are a
marvelous opportunity to focus the lens more sharply and get a
"close-up" view of the magical connection that can result
between an inspired performer and their chosen instrument - especially
in New York City.
This level of intimacy is simply
not possible at large-scale events, no matter how excellent or
magnificent, as in the case of the London Philharmonic and that
gigantic chorus, where an "us and them" atmosphere must
prevail simply because of size.
In contrast, the venerable
Fabbri Mansion (House of the Redeemer) may have played host frequently
to intimate, though no less appreciative, groups of music loving
guests and family members when the family was in residence. This
was how guests were entertained in the days before fancy audio
systems, electronic keyboards and DJs - and stadium-sized music
halls designed to accommodate huge orchestras.
The Georgian-style mansion,
which has a large gated courtyard, was built in 1916 as the town
residence of Edith Sheppard Fabbri, a great-granddaughter of Cornelius
Vanderbilt, and her husband, Ernesto Fabbri, an associate of J.
Pierpont Morgan. It was designed by Grosvenor Atterbury and Mr.
Fabbri's brother, Egisto Fabbri, to house the Fabbri's collection
of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and furniture and the interior
of the house is in Italian Renaissance style. The most spectacular
feature of the mansion is the 25-foot-high library where the concert
was performed beneath the vaulted ceiling whose center is emblazoned
from the coat of arms of the Dukes of Urbino. The house was the
Fabbri family residence until 1949 when Mrs. Fabbri deeded it
to a Board of trustees under the auspices of the Episcopal Church
for use as a "retreat house - for the glory of God and the
good of souls." It is now a place for religious retreats,
weekly services, meeting and conferences, and musical soirées
like the Rose Bapier Productions concerts. (For more information
on event rentals E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone
212-440-7899. Its Internet address is http://www.houseoftheredeemer.org.)
The varied program was presented
twice on September 25 and at the evening performance the mood
was festive and relaxed and the order of selections was changed
from the printed selection.
The Rose Bapier Productions
program veered from the musical past to the present without formality
and constraints, and without losing its level of excellence. Strict
rules were abandoned, and replaced with stylistic freedom and
a wealth of unbridled talent left to explore and interpret individualistic
arrangements of familiar classics. Compositions by Ravel, Manuel
de Falla, Tchaikovsky and Paganini shared the stage with John
Williams, Gershwin and Kenny Hirsch and Ron Miller amongst others.
This approach has the advantage
of giving a new lease of life to musical works that are frequently
endangered by their own popularity - simply because we have heard
them so often. Everything in the production sounded fresh and
new, yet anchored in the comfort of a tradition and technical
Ascending the candlelit staircase
of the Fabbri Mansion on a balmy September night, the strident
sounds of the 21st century seemed to melt away in the studious
graciousness of the library, where sconces and soft candlelight
continued the soothing mood of introspection and quiet enjoyment.
The finely designed house and the musical talent were a reminder
of how everlasting and healing the arts are, no matter what changes
are wrought in the world around them.
Rose Bapier Productions is
led by Sofia Gitis, the artistic director and the inspiration
behind the series of concerts. Born in Moscow to a renowned artistic
family, she is an operatic and concert recitalist, and an entrepreneur.
She made her recital debut at the UN opening gala in Paris and
studied piano since age six and has performed solo recitals and
concerts with orchestras in her native country Russia, as well
as in Puerto Rico, Italy, France and the United States. Judging
by the musical selection for this concert, Ms. Gitis is obviously
- and refreshingly - as enamored of the creative talents of the
past as she is of present day composers and lyricists, including
brilliant Broadway lyricists, and she has no qualms about combining
musical hits from The Great White Way with Montiverdi, Saint Saens
The performers reflected the
diversity and excellence of New York City itself.
Barbara Liefer, (contralto),
performed a stunning piece (amongst others) from Selections from
Siete Canciones Populaire by Manuel de Falla, accompanied by Steven
Salerno guitar: how marvelous are notes culled from gut strings
Well that one did not work
out too well, but hopefully the heroine moved on to a more rewarding
Violinist Anna Rabinova was
marvelous in two works, "Ave Maria" and "Libertango,"
by A. Piazzola arranged by Jorge Bosso. She was also powerful
in N. Paganini's "Sonata Concertata in A major" in which
she was accompanied with subtlety by Stephen Salerno. She has
been a member of The New York Philharmonic since 1994. She has
served as the Concertmaster of the Columbia Festival Chamber Orchestra
and has performed all over the former Soviet Union, Europe and
the USA in recitals and as a soloist with many important orchestras.
A winner of several competitions, she is a graduate of Moscow
Conservatory and The Julliard School of Music. Mr. Salerno performs
both classical music and jazz and is a member of the Ray Anderson
Quartet, the Paul Smoker Nonet and leads his own jazz trio, Exiles.
Mr. Salerno also accompanied
contralto Barbara Leifer in selections from "Siele Canciones
Populares" by Manuel De Falla. Ms. Liefer has sung lieder
and oratorio throughout the world with such notable orchestras
as the Prague Radio Philharmonic, the RAI Television Orchestra
in Rome, and Violinist Carrie Dreyer is currently studying with
Karen Dreyfus at The Manhattan School of Music in the orchestral
performance program. She has performed with the Arlington Symphony,
Alexandria Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore, New Jersey
Chamber Orchestra and the Trio Con Brio. . That same fire was
evident in the quiet confines of the Fabbri Library on a Sunday
night in Carnegie Hill. Douglas Martin humorously translated some
lines from a Spanish love song in the work for the audience: "Look
at my heart, I have a hole in my heart
.I curse love!"
Douglas Martin is a pianist and conductor who has worked with
such prestigious companies as Santa Fe Opera, Opera Orchestra
of New York, Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and Wexford
Festival in Ireland. A recent highlight was working on the production
of Buz Lehrman's - of the movie "Moulin Rouge" fame
- "La Boheme" on Broadway.
from Iolanta was sung exquisitely by Sofia Gitis, Mary Ann Stewart
and Barbara Liefer with the String Quartet, arranged by Douglas
Martin. Mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Stewart has sung with Washington
National Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York and was a World Finalist
- no ordinary achievement - in the Luciano Pavarotti International
Competition, amongst other notable achievements.
Cellist Inbal Segev provided
a moving interpretation of John Williams's Theme from Schindler's
List and was nicely accompanied on piano by Victor Goldberg. Ms.
Segev is a member of the New York Philharmonic and has enjoyed
and international career following debuts with the Israel Philharmonic
and the Berlin Philharmonic, both under the direction of Zubin
Mehta. She made her Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall playing
Dvorak's cello concerto with the Julliard Orchestra. Ms. Segev
devotes much of her time to chamber music and has collaborated
with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Pamela Frank and Augustin Dumay.
There was a noticeable emphasis
on Broadway music in this wonderful concert, without any loss
to the classical composers, and the polish and professionalism
was memorable, all the more so because each performer shone just
as brightly without the usual accompaniment of dazzling lights,
extravagant sets and dozens of extras. No doubt Mr. Martin contributed
significantly to this confidence. He currently serves as a conductor
of Ashlawn Opera Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Daniel Khalikov performed a
memorable encore "Le bonheur est chose est legere" by
Saint Saens, with Sofia Gitis and Douglas Martin on piano. Winner
of the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition in London and the Strad
Violin Competition in Boca Raton, Mr. Khalikov has also won the
Concerto Competition at The Manhattan School of Music, where he
is currently a 5th year student, completing his bachelor diploma
in the studio of Pinchas Zuckerman and Pantika Kopec.
Other performers included the
Russian-born Israeli pianist Victor Goldberg, a graduate of both
the Julliard and Manhattan Schools of music who has performed
at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center and at major festivals, and
young Canadian violinist Judy Kang, a graduate of Curtis Institute,
Julliard and Manhattan School of Music who has performed with
all the major orchestras of Canada and also many abroad.
Talent abounds in this great
city, as was evident at this concert. It is a gift to be able
to enjoy such excellence, if only for a few hours.
As mentioned earlier, contemporary
songs were included amongst classical favorites: Sofia Gitis (soprano),
Jessica Schmitz (flute), Inbal Segev (cello) and Douglas Martin
on piano performed a sublime "If I Could," written by
Kenny Hirsch and Ron Miller and arranged by Douglas Martin. Flutist
Jessica Schmitz is a Yamaha Young Performing Artist and is currently
pursuing her Bachelor of Music degree at The Manhattan School
of Music. Drawn to the performance of both traditional and contemporary
repertoire, she has appeared internationally as a soloist and
has also premiered many new compositions in the US. Recently named
a Bang On a Can Fellow, she performs regularly with the TACTUS
New Music ensemble in New York and is a winner of the Cincinnati
The entire ensemble joined
forces for "It's A Wonderful World," a song that listeners
across the globe associate with Louis Armstrong," by G.D.
Weiss and B. Thiele. Ironically this buoyant, optimistic tune
was skillfully utilized in "Good Morning Vietnam," to
illustrate the banality and horror of war.
The mixture of classical and
contemporary material was intensely satisfying. New talent lends
weight to the old, while asserting its magnetism and power in
sassy, all-American compositions like "The Man I Love"
from Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, sung gorgeously and confidently
by Mary Ann Stewart.
These timeless Broadway musical
songs are a reminder of how much this country, and especially
New York, has given to the wider world that is essentially American
- songs that are now absorbed into the collective unconscious
and cherished across the globe. These songs were and continue
to be the best exports of America, and most reflective of Americans
despite a steady flow of blood and guts movies traversing the
globe from their launch pad in Hollywood.
Given the diverse and innovative
musical selection, and the individualistic interpretations and
arrangements of compositions by renowned composers, there was
no "disconnect," as might be expected. Instead, the
group of musicians and vocal artists of this Rose Bapier Productions
concert demonstrated the timeless continuum that is great art
- and the intense discipline and dedication needed to achieve
and continue such excellence. This musical event was a reminder
that the arts must be endowed, patronized, funded and above all
cherished, for we will be lost without our concerts, museums,
theatres, ballets, vocalists and musicians - our collective creative
history drawn from the past but rendered in contemporary form
by living artists.
The individuality, and freedom of expression and interpretation
of this production were an inspiration. The melody of the Broadway
song "If I Could," performed as a tribute to Ray Charles
and arranged by Douglas Martin, captured this spirit of invention
and creativity perfectly, and the lyrics stand on their own, as
timeless as art itself:
If I could
I'd protect you from the sadness in your eyes
Give you courage in a world of compromise
Yes I would
if I could
I would teach you all
The things I never learned
and I'd help you cross
The bridges that I've burnt
yes, I would, if I could
I would try to shield your innocence from time but the part of
Life I gave you is not mine
I watched you grow so I could
let you go
Music has the power to heal
even as it reminds us of all that remains out there in the wider
world that is in need of healing and change. As we the fortunate
audience sat listening to beautiful music in a quiet corner of
residential Carnegie Hill this Sunday, my thoughts wandered to
the South, and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and
Rita, and to so many souls who must now spend years re-building
shattered lives. It was comforting to know that the entire proceeds
of the Rose Bapier Productions event would go to The Woman's Hospital
in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the hospital responsible for recovering
most of the babies evacuated from hospitals in New Orleans when
the hurricane hit, and more recently, additional babies dispersed
by Hurricane Rita. Contact numbers for Woman's Hospital are posted
at the end of this story.
For information about upcoming
Rose Bapier Productions Concerts please contact Sofia Gitis, Artistic
Director, Rose Bapier Productions, email@example.com
For information or to make
a donation to Woman's Hospital in Baton rouge, Louisiana, please
contact Jodi Conachen, Woman's Hospital Public Relations Manager,