AmiciMusic is a new, Asheville-based branch of the chamber music organization Classicopia, which is concerned with presenting chamber music in the spaces it was originally intended to be heard – small performance venues and homes. Classicopia’s founder, pianist Daniel Weiser, along with soprano Amanda Horton, performed a concert of songs ranging from spirituals to light opera to Lieder last Sunday at the Altamont Theatre in Asheville.

The opening selection was Alfred Bachelet’s “Chèrenuit” which featured lovely, impressionistic harmonies in the piano and an emotive performance by Ms. Horton. Second came three Schubert Lieder: “Ständchen,” “Du bist die Ruh,” and “Gretchen am Spinnrade.”  All three displayed the impressive technique of both artists which lent the music tremendous clarity. Particularly to be noted was the singing piano touch of Mr. Weiser and the acting ability of Ms. Horton, which brought her opera background to the fore. Another set of three Lieder was next, this time by Robert and Clara Schumann: “Er der herrlichste von allen,” “Liebst du um Schönheit,”and “Widmung.” All three were performed characteristically beautifully; Schumann’s wonderful text painting devices and a clever quote of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” in the “Widmung”were some of the highlights of the performance. The final selection of the first half was Franz Lehár’s “Vilja”from his operetta The Merry Widow. This took on the character of a folk song, a hint at where the second half would lead, and once again put Amanda Horton’s fantastic acting and vocal chops at center stage.

After intermission, the duo took up American material by Carlisle Floyd, George Gershwin, and traditional Spiritual sources. The first, “Ain’t it a Pretty Night!”from Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah, was a composition in the archetypical American style, established by Copland, which has many folk elements as well as more contemporary European techniques. The more declamatory nature of the piece was a change of pace from the first portion of the program but was delivered with consummate skill nonetheless. The spirituals, arranged by Mark Hayes, and the George Gershwin were somewhat less pleasing, unfortunately. While the performers always played the correct notes, dynamics, and so forth, it lacked the essential element in jazz, blues, and gospel – swing! No professional classical musician would dream of performing Bach or Beethoven with incorrect performance practice, yet it is all too often that classical musicians perform arrangements of gospel songs or jazzy tunes from the Great American Songbook without the least reference to the correct performance practice of those styles.

That being said, however, the performance was pleasing overall with absolutely gorgeous Lieder interpretations and an intriguing idea for the reviving of the original meaning of chamber music. AmiciMusic has several other concerts coming up that I hope will be well attended. This is an organization truly deserving of much success in their endeavors.

Note: For details of pending AmiciMusic concerts, see our calendar.

Note 2: We welcome back Carter Stevens for his second year as a CVNC intern. For his bio, click here.