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‘Whole Heart’ Casarrubios SEVEN Esmail Varsha Meyer Delta Sunrise J Montgomery Duoa T Porter And Even These Small Wonders A Schoenberg Ayudame Shaw Limestone & Feltb

Claire Bryant vc with aAri Streisfeld vn b Nadia Sirota va Bright Shiny Things (BSTD0178 • 44’)

Each of the seven works on Claire Bryant’s blazing debut album is about relationships and playing the cello in the 21st century. Jessie Montgomery called her magnificent Duo for violin and cello, written for Adrienne Taylor, an ‘ode to friendship’. The first movement plots slowmoving pizzicato chords against arpeggio filigrees, the second is an outpouring of song, the third an exhilarating romp.

Bryant’s ‘best friend’ Adam Schoenberg meant his passionate, deeply conflicted Ayudame, the young cellist’s first commission in 2004, to reflect in part the struggles he had writing the piece; it turns out to be a brilliant virutuoso display with heart. Caroline Shaw’s Limestone & Felt, in which producer Nadia Sirota plays the viola, is about relationships subtly at first but ultimately to the extent that you lose track of which instrument is playing which musical line.

‘If that is the only moment two people share with each other,’ Reena Esmail writes, ‘it can still be transformative.’

Her Varsha, written as an interlude between two movements of Haydn’s Seven Last Words, uses Hindustani ragas that beckon rain. Tanner Porter’s And Even These Small Wonders was written during the early stages of the pandemic to celebrate ‘the beautiful things about our lives’. Andrea Casarrubios’s SEVEN, commissioned by Thomas Mesa, celebrates the nightly ritual that took place in New York City during the height of Covid when neighbours beat pots and pans for those on the front lines. Jessica Meyer’s Delta Sunrise is a musical sonnet about wanderlust.

The recordings were made at the University of South Carolina. Release-day concerts were scheduled for a maximum security facility and a social club workspace designed by women. Laurence Vittes

Our monthly guide to North American venues Great Auditorium, Ocean Grove, New Jersey

Year opened 1894 Architect Frederick Theodore Camp Capacity 6000

Most pre-Second World War venues offer a time-travel experience, though then and now intersect more readily in the unchanged-by-time Great Auditorium of Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Its history of hosting Enrico Caruso, John McCormack and other past titans is readily envisioned in the startlingly expansive 6000-seat structure whose curved ceiling has been described as Noah’s Ark turned upside down. The American flag illuminated in coloured lights that hangs over the stage recalls a less complicated era of patriotism.

Constructed by shipbuilders only steps away from the ocean front in something like 90 days, the 1894 auditorium has a wideopen seating area with no sense of hierarchy: you’re all in this together. The equal-opportunity acoustic – every seat offers sound of clarity and immediacy – is a phenomenon unto itself. In past years, recalls Gordon Turk, the resident organist and artistic director of the chamber music concerts, ‘one of the first performers in the chamber music series, the Moscow Conservatory String Trio, walked up on the stage and said “Nyet” [due to the size]. I said “Wait a minute! Play something.” The cellist went to the back of the auditorium and said, “I can’t believe it.” But Leonard Bernstein did. He called the auditorium “Carnegie Hall South”.’

Brass ensembles and chamber-music groups now populate the ‘Summer Stars’ concert series – no modern Caruso counterparts but up-and-coming artists from area conservatories such as the Curtis Institute and Juilliard School. The most distinctive musical attraction is the pipe organ, one of the largest in the US, with 10 divisions, 207 ranks, 12,220 pipes and five keyboards. During the summer, free organ recitals are heard twice a week. The instrument is also heard in periodic performances of SaintSaëns’s Symphony No 3 (Organ) with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, as well as in the annual choir festival.

Outside the auditorium one enters a quieter time warp: the hall’s address – 21 Pilgrim Pathway – is evidence of the surrounding Victorian-era summer Methodist church camp that dates back to 1869 and still attracts thousands of summertime visitors seeking spiritual refreshment (many of the great religious orators have spoken at the auditorium) and who sleep overnight in remarkably genteel tents.

In general, the town is an unlikely presence on the Jersey Shore: the nearby Asbury Park party crowd refers to their quiet neighbouring town as ‘Ocean Grave’. That was no joke, though, when in 2012 Hurricane Sandy threatened everything in its path and damaged the auditorium. Thankfully, as Turk says, ‘the part of the roof that was damaged was just beyond the organ area’. Some locals suggest divine intervention was responsible.

At present, roughly 3700 pipes are being refurbished in refinements that are perhaps best appreciated by organ experts. Turk’s summation: ‘It’s going to be a more cohesive sound in the core of the instrument.’ Other subtle renovations include replacing the American flag illumination with modern LED lights. The auditorium is still an island of Victoriana, but is now a more energy-efficient one. David Patrick Stearns


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