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"Enchanted Moments - Scent of a Rose" Concert

A Rose Bapier Production

Fabbri Mansion (House of The Redeemer) 5 East 94th Street

September 25, 2005

Fabbri Mansion (House of The Redeemer)

Fabbri Mansion (House of the Redeemer) at 7 East 95th Street

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: or phone 212-440-7899. Its Internet address is

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 excellence.

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 and Tchaikovsky.

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 and wood!

Well that one did not work out too well, but hopefully the heroine moved on to a more rewarding relationship.

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.

Tchaikovsky's "Lullaby" 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 Flute Competition.

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,

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,

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