New York Composers Circle at St. Peter’s and Magill/Levin at the Barge – Reviews by Mark Greenfes

Saturday, March 15, 2014 2:02 PM

By independent New York concert reviewer Mark Greenfest

New York Composers Circle, new music for voice and piano at Saint Peter’s Church (54th and Lexington), New York City, Thursday, March 6, 2014, featured works by six member composers.

Debra Kaye, While We Were Sleeping for piano is outstanding. It’s an intensely passionate piano impromptu – the night of the hurricane (Sandy) – fiery arpeggios alternating with nocturnal passages building on the romantic lyricism of Chopin, Liszt, Scriabin and other influences with modern elements. Craig Ketter is a pianist’s pianist – a stellar performer.

Peri Mauer, At Home With Allen Ginsberg: Five Songs for Baritone and Piano(2014 World Premiere) – is a fresh and inspiring song cycle starting with a tribute to an Allen Ginsberg poem using the poet’s speech cadences for timbre, followed by striking and memorable pieces with lyrics and music by Ms. Mauer. Composer Christopher Berg is a legendary pianist, and baritone Daniel Neer’s tone, diction and dramatic delivery was superb. The diversity of moods and textures in the Mauer piece is outstanding.

Robert S. Cohen, Parable (2014 New York Premiere), a song cycle for soprano and piano consists of 10 English settings of Japanese Haiku-striking and piano. First conceived when the composer was 21, this is a visionary piece “illuminating the cyclical nature of life.” Soprano Valerie Gonzalez and pianist Craig Ketter gave luscious and excellent performances of this excellent piece.

Jennifer Griffith, Rumi Songs sets two of the great Persian poet’s poems for mezzo-soprano and piano, the first being on a theme of insomnia. Ms. Griffith, a singer herself, writes the most articulate vocal lines imaginable. Mezzo-soprano Heather Meyer gave a most nuanced and compelling performance supported by the masterful pianist Christopher Oldfather.

Patricia Leonard, Demonstrations of Love (2010 World Premiere; 2014 American Premiere), with words and music by the composer is an intensely operatic style of three poetic songs with a musical theatre piano accompaniment. Simply put, it’s lovely. Soprano Sharon Harms and pianist Christopher Oldfather gave performances to be proud of.

John Eaton, Sor Juana Songs, on poetry by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (translations by Alan S. Trueblood). Mr. Eaton, awarded the MacArthur “genius” grant is considered one of the greatest American opera composers, and Sor Juana, the 17th century poet and abbess is one of the most brilliant polymaths in Mexican and world history. The avant garde setting is strikingly beautiful; soprano Sharon Harms and pianist Christopher Oldfather gave memorable performances. Ms. Harms’ vocal line runs up into the stratosphere.

New York Composers Circle (NYCC) puts on consistently interesting performances. Admission is by suggested donation and there is always an amiable post-concert reception afterwards. Visit them at

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