‘Nova’ performance inspires despite minimal music program

UTD performances are often satisfactory but uninspiring, however “Musica Nova: Music of Five Centuries” was refreshingly phenomenal.

The venue was full even though all classes were over. The reputation of the performance no doubt preceded it, and the Jonsson Performance Hall was full of sincere patrons May 1.

Robert Rodriguez, a professor in the school of arts and humanities and director of the chamber ensemble, greeted the audience with an anecdotal story as an apt parallel to his talented students, despite the minimalist approach UTD takes towards its arts program.

“The proportions of the bumblebee should make it incapable of flying,” Rodriguez said. “But, he didn’t know that, and we certainly shouldn’t tell him.”

The chamber music ensemble itself allows for great variety – from jigs to French cabaret to chamber opera – and allows students to perform alongside esteemed professional musicians.

This year’s guest artists included Jeff Lankov, a renowned pianist and musical director, Lisa Engel on cello and singers Kim Childs and Chung-Han Yi.

The show opened with a charming 17th century piece, Trio Sonata in C by Arcangelo Corelli and progressed with a 17th to 19th centuries tribute to birds, featuring Rameau’s Le Rappel des Oiseaux, Messiaen’s La Grive Musicienne and Liszt’s St. Francois d’ Assisi.

These pieces ran the gamut with technical movements punctuated with grace, aggressive tonal stabs and a gorgeous piano solo.

The second half showcased three phenomenal student singers – Dana Ayers, Kristi Humphreys and Sherna Armstrong. Their performance of Bach’s “Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae” was beautiful, while Bernstein’s “What a Movie!” and Sondheim’s “Getting Married Today” showcased fabulous Broadway styling and the diversity of the singers’ talent.

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