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James Adler at Yamaha Piano Salon: Lyrically Remembering Brothers & Others
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
James Adler (center) with Henco Espag (left) & Cain-Oscar Bergeron (right)
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On April 10, at Yamaha Artist Services, Inc. Piano Salon, composer, pianist, and teacher James Adler, at the Yamaha, offered a notable piano recital, announcing that the “theme of the concert is remembrance,” and in most of the pieces, paid tribute to loved ones lost.
There were two world premieres, honoring the musicians’ departed brothers. Adler presented his new “Elegy for Norman,” with the dedication, “In loving memory of Dr. Norman T. Adler, z”l, September 11, 2016” (2017-18), a moving work of lamentation and celebration, with flutist Cain-Oscar Bergeron assisting the pianist in mourning and remembering. The lamentation was mournful indeed, but with a measure of reserve and dignity. Music for the celebration of Norman’s life was based on the Shabat melody “L’Chah Dodi,” in its Israeli version, welcoming the Sabbath. Adler also introduced composer and conductor Henco Espag’s new “Herinneringe” (2017), “Dedicated to his brother Manus Espag,” a sweet memory in a dulcet melody, simply stated, and then swinging. In both cases, while tears and sadness were acknowledged, so were remembered joy and laughter, making for fitting salutes.
Adler opened the performance with his late colleague Paul Turok’s somber Passacaglia, darkly flowing. The pianist dedicated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D Major, Köchel 311, to the memories of Seymour Lipkin and Rudolf Serkin, his mentors at the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia. He began with a brilliant Allegro con spirito, continued with a contemplative, aria-like Andante con espressione, and ended on another bright note, with a sprightly Rondo. He played two Claude Debussy Arabesques, also in tribute to his older brother Norman, who played them for him when the younger sibling was six. Like the Turok Passacaglia, the first arabesque, Andantino con moto, in E major, called to mind flowing water, now cascading freely, while the second, Allegretto scherzando, in G major, processed to a triumphant conclusion.
Adler’s grand finale was a powerful, expressive “Pictures at an Exhibition,” written by Modest Mussorgsky in memory of his friend, painter Victor Alexandrovich Hartmann. Bringing out all the colors, and truly obviating the need for an orchestrated version, Adler devoted his full musicianship and considerable spirit to conjuring up an anticipatory opening (Promenade); a nutcracker with a stern visage (Gnomus); an imposing, forbidding fortress (Il Vecchio Castello); boisterous children at play in the gardens (Tuileries); a ponderous ox cart (Bydlo); baby birds clucking and clawing (Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells); contrasting portraits of Polish Jews, the one rich and pompous, the other a humble beggar (Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle); a bustling marketplace, its shoppers and hagglers as busy the chicks in their dance (Limoges: the Market); a solemn burial place (Catacombs); a terrifying witch (Baba Yaga); and a splendid, multi-hued grandiose portal (the Great Gate of Kiev).


 

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