Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Alistair MacRae and Heather Conner at St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC 12/8/08

Those who braved the cold or who were sufficiently at liberty to spend their lunch hour at the historic downtown landmark were treated to a gorgeously Romantic performance. Cellist Alistair MacRae began solo with Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C Major (BMV 1009), essentially a big, ambitious prelude followed by five dances (although one, the Sarabande, is sad, slow and in MacRae’s hands exquisitely beautiful). The cello not being the first instrument that comes to mind for dance music, the composition is one of Bach’s more puckish numbers, and MacRae gave it a robust treatment that often made it seem as if there was a whole string section playing. The Prelude was dark and majestic, MacRae taking advantage of the melody playing off a single low string for a sort of raga effect; the Allemande (first of the dances) was handled with briskness and efficiency. After the slow, 6/8 Courante and the Sarabande, he wrapped it up with the rather plaintive, multi-part Bouree (not the one made famous by NPR and Jethro Tull) and a brief, somewhat blustery Gigue that brought back the dark note on which the piece begins.


University of Utah Assistant Professor of Music Heather Conner then joined him on piano for a rich, emotional take of Prokofiev’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 119. Ostensibly the piece is in C major, but the overall effect was dark and windswept, Conner’s playing in the opening andante grave section beautifully plaintive and bell-like against the washes of cello. The piece began to brighten and scurry as the second movement got underway, both musicians carried along by the intensity of the melody, seamlessly riding out its frequently percussive fire. They wrapped up the hourlong show with Tschaikovsky’s brief Melodie from Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher (Memory of a Favorite Place), a somewhat wistful song without words which would seem to be a prime target for a contemporary balladeer searching for a catchy melody on which to hang a pop song.


The show was part of Trinity Church’s ongoing lunchtime free concerts (though contributions, all of which go to the musicians, are highly encouraged), held on Mondays at St. Paul’s and on Thursdays at Trinity, a superb way to experience topnotch artists playing a wide range of styles from classical to jazz to folk that would otherwise cost megabucks at the big concert halls uptown.  

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment