Sibelius, Elgar, Franck at CCM

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022 – THE OCEAN at Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Corbett Auditorium

Mezzo-soprano Quinn Patrick Ankrum
Aik Khai Pung, music director and conductor CCM Concert Orchestra

CCM Concert Orchestra, Aik Khai Pung, music director and conductor.

Quinn Patrick Ankrum, mezzo-soprano

Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures; Jan Sibelius’ The Oceanides; Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor.

The Oceanides is is a brief, single-movement tone poem by Jan Sibelius whose Finnish-language title – Aallottaret – refers to the mythological nymphs who inhabited the seas in ancient times. Depicting at first a calm ocean, then a severe sea storm, and lastly the roughness of the waves dying away, the stillness of the final chord is there as if to remind the listener of the endless power of the ocean.

Aik Khai Pung elicited an energetic performance from his young orchestra, opening the concert with a rarely heard composition that although completed before the end of World War Two did not have its world premiere in its original version until 2002.

Edward Elgar’s 1899 Sea Pictures, Op. 37, a song cycle for female voice and orchestra comprises five songs: “Sea Slumber Song” with text by Roden Noel; “In Haven (Capri)” with text by Caroline Alice Elgar; “Sabbath Morning at Sea” with text by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; “Where Corals Lie” with text by Richard Garnett, and “The Swimmer” with text by Adam Lindsay Gordon. The music of Sea Pictures is nothing like that of the Edwardian Elgar of Pomp and Circumstance but gentler in tone, continuing a centuries-old tradition of English writing for the voice.

Quinn Patrick Ankrum brought her lovely voice to her performance of this work – a perfect vehicle for her lyric mezzo-soprano – a supple vocal instrument with abundant richness in the middle voice and a soprano’s brightness and ease in her top range, evident as she rose to a clarion top A at the end of “The Swimmer.” Aik Khai Pung was eminently suited to accompany her, leading when needed, following at other times, ever supportive, never allowing his orchestra to overpower the soloist.

Belgian-born César Franck wrote only one symphony, the familiar D minor, and one in three, not in the traditional four movements. Initially both belittled by some and lionized by others in the French musical establishment, Franck’s massively orchestrated work afforded the young players on the stage of Corbett Auditorium a great opportunity to demonstrate why they belong in one of the top student orchestras in the country. Conducting Franck’s symphony by memory Aik Khai Pung helmed the CCM Concert Orchestra in a noble and energetic performance that brought a fresh take on Franck’s warhorse, bringing to a close an exciting evening of music-making.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

Next event featuring the CCM Concert Orchestra comes up at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 – with Aik Khai Pung leading the orchestra in a program featuring saxophonist Rick Van Matre as soloist in the world premiere of Szewczyk’s Concerto for Saxophone (To Those Who Protect.) Also included in the program are Lutoslawski’s Symphonic Variations and Stravinsky’ Firebird Suite.

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