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June 18, 2019
Boston Musical Intelligencer

For those hankering after a relaxing nightcap and a time capsule experience, RCMF offered a second Saturday evening concert, “Weimar Cabaret,” which took place after a 40-minute break, during which many savvy night owls in the audience window shopped at Bear’s Neck in Rockport or simply inhaled the warm, pre-storm seaside air. Those making the fortunate choice of waiting, ascended to the third floor of the Shalin Liu for a taste of the intimate, if sparse, blunt, and increasingly counter-culture Kabarett, which flourished in Weimar iand other German cities, especially Berlin in the late 1920s and 1930s . Libations were available (but not smoky darkness), for those who stayed to experience the exuberant second performances by three of Friday night’s musicians, the phenomenal young violinist Blake Pouliot, jazz singer Cristine Zavalloni; and pianist Stephen Prutsman.

Pouliot, resplendent in a blue-and-pink jacket and punk pants, wowed the crowd with a passionate version of Bartok’s sparkling Rhapsody no. 1, with versatile pianist Stephen Prutsman. The Rhapsody, written originally in 1928 for violin and piano (Sz. 86), is dedicated to Joseph Szigeti, known for his virtuosity, and who premiered the orchestral version of the work (Sz. 87) in 1929. There is also a version for cello and piano (Sz. 88).

The main theme of the first movement, with its Tziganische rising violin theme from a Romanian fiddler’s tune from Transylvania in the Lydian mode is showy, and suited the charismatic 24-year-old Pouliot, who was the 2016 winner of the Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal Manulife Competition. The delightful second movement, with its successive series of 5 separate melodies, accelerates brilliantly into a vibrant and virtuosic display.

A spirited execution of Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois, Opus 2, rounded out Pouliot’s performance. His musicality and technical facility constitute a hold-your-breath excitement that mesmerized.

The evening then moved on to a series of Weimar-evoking songs, performed with in-character acting by the Bolognese soprano Christina Zavalloni, who combines jazz, bel canto and composition. Her background in classical ballet and modern dance contributes to her impressive presence, though her voice is perhaps slim. Prutsman contributed fitting piano collaboration. They opened with three of Kurt Weill’s emblematic songs. The singer’s coiled fury especially fit “Surabaya Johnny,” and she brilliantly executed “Barbara Song,” about a young woman’s recollection of abandoning caution (and foreshadowing Polly’s marriage to Mac the Knife in the Threepenny Opera).

Zavalloni charmingly explained and dispatched Hanns Eisler song about the radio, “An den Kleinen Radioapparat,” evocative of war communications with a lover and his “Bettellied.” Arnold Schoenberg wrote several cabaret songs early in his career, including Gigerlette, which, of course, is unlike his later work. She ended with Norbert Schultze’s “Lili Marleen” and Piaf’s “Milord,” both iconic.

Poised for cabaret, Zavalloni has had these songs in her repertoire for years and added a charming and personal view to the evening. In all, Weimar Cabaret seemed to go by to all too quickly. We look forward to the next late evening addition—On Saturday, June 22nd, with “Cabaret: Inspired by Beethoven.”

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