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August 17, 2009
"Voices of Hollywood"
Beverly Hills Music Fest draws film score crowds to chamber music by Jon Burlingame

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—An appreciative crowd of approximately 200 attended Wednesday night's fourth edition of "Voices of Hollywood," the Beverly Hills International Music Festival's annual concert of chamber music by film composers.

Curated by composer-in-residence Sharon Farber, the concert featured a diverse collection of small-ensemble pieces, mostly by composers currently active in the film and television field – and bookended with compositions by beloved film composers who have left us.

It began with two movements of Miklos Rozsa's Duet, op. 15, originally written as the "Sonata for two violins" in 1933 and revised 40 years later. Violinists Samvel Chilingarian and Limor Toren-Immerman gave a fiery performance of this piece, imbued with the Hungarian colors of so much of Rozsa's concert music.

Flutist Susan Greenberg – doubling on alto flute and piccolo – and pianist Genevieve Lee conjured up of moods of mystery, intrigue and mischief in Peter Golub's Threaded Dances from 2006. Golub is the composer of Frozen River and directs the Sundance Film Music program. Paul Chihara (Prince of the City), who teaches at UCLA, offered his 1985 String Trio, a thoughtful work with occasional hints of dissonance as played by Toren-Immerman, violist Karie Prescott and cellist Garik Terzian.

Highlight of the first half was the 11-minute Rolling Hills and Jagged Ridges by Gernot Wolfgang (The Process), an alternately dramatic and delicate piece performed with precision by violinist Tereza Stanislav and pianist Robert Edward Thies. The audience was riveted throughout Wolfgang's arresting, evocative 2007 work.

The second half opened with a string-quintet medley of film themes by John Debney, arranged by Kevin Kaska. Chilingarian, Prescott and Terzian were joined by Marcy Vaj on violin and Waldir Bertipaglia on bass; often buoyant, light and warm, the various tunes reflected the composer's sensibility on multiple movie projects.

Farber's Nietzsche Quartet, a six-minute distillation of themes from her acclaimed score for When Nietzsche Wept (2007), was played by Chilingarian, Terzian, Bertipaglia and pianist Lucy Nargizyan. Like the film score, the music is passionate and heartfelt and, as the composer put it in her program note, offered "solemn and stormy moods."

Penka Kouneva's 1994 Cassandra's Rockaby was an unusual piece blending popular and classical elements in exciting and even magical ways. Violinist Chilingarian, cellist Terzian, pianist Nargizyan and flutist Greenberg performed; the title derives from a Samuel Beckett poem.

Rounding out the concert was Michael Kamen's Cut Sleeves, written in the early 1970s and essentially unknown until Music Amici recorded it in 2000. Based on an ancient Chinese legend about an emperor and his young male courtesan, it offered subtle Oriental shadings within a carefully conceived musical framework – flute and oboe (Greenberg, Jonathan Davis), cello and harp (Terzian, Tatyana Shapiro) – that gave voice to Kamen's sense of lyricism and beauty.

©2009 Jon Burlingame
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