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Vienna Vs. London

Friends of Vienna offer an afternoon of Viennese vocal rarities, while the Buffalo Chamber Players plan a British Invasion

Sioprano Emily Tworek Helenbrook sings at Unity Church on Sunday, February 21.

The final Friends of Vienna concert for the 2009-2010 season takes place this Sunday, February 21, at 3:30pm at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue, and features the young, lyric coloratura soprano Emily Tworek Helenbrook in a program of Viennese rarities, accompanied by David Bond (piano), Carol Timmerman-Yorty (clarinet), and Matthew Swensen (tenor).

Helenbrook, who has been described as a “vocal prodigy” blessed with “a hauntingly beautiful voice,” began to study voice at a very young age with her aunt, well known Buffalo-based soprano Adrienne Tworek-Gryta. She currently also studies with Patricia Alexander, the mother of Renée Fleming, at the Eastman School of Music, where for the past three years she has received the June Clase Voice Scholarship given in honor of Renée Fleming.

She sang the “Song to the Moon,” from Rusalka, to win the 2009 Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Star Search competition, conducted by maestro Jeff Tyzik, and last month was awarded first prize in the Classical Singers Competition at the Mannes School of Music in New York City. She will perform at Carnegie Hall this fall after winning the Barry Alexander International Voice Competition this past December, and she has performed both with the BPO under Paul Ferington and as a soloist in the Viva Vivaldi series.

Though still a high school student, Emily already has definite ideas about what she wants to do in life. “I love to sing,” she explained in a recent interview with Artvoice, “and I hope to be able pursue a professional career as a singer as far as I can take it. I’d love to eventually compete in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and hopefully become a National Finalist, competing in the Grand Finals Concert on the Metropolitan Opera stage.”

The earliest music on the program is an aria composed by the Austrian Emperor Joseph I that was inserted in M.A. Ziani’s1709 opera Chilonida. “The music has a very spacious feeling,” Helenbrook observed, “and I love being able to add ornamentation in the da capo section. I’ve previously sung Cherubini’s ‘Ave Maria,’ and I think that the piece is just as lovely as Schubert’s far better known version.” As for the two Mozart arias that she will be performing, she observed “I’ve sung Zerlina’s aria ‘Batti batti o bel Masetto’ from Don Giovanni for a while now, and I try to sing it playfully, and not take the lyrics too seriously. I’ve just learned ‘Deh vieni non tardar,’ from Le Nozze di Figaro, and I think that the way the aria floats suits my voice very well.”

There are so many exciting changes in Schubert’s “Shepherd on the Rock” for soprano, clarinet, and piano, Helenbrook noted, “that everyone loves the work. “One of my favorite pieces on the program is ‘Mariettas lied’ from Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt, and I’m looking forward to singing it with tenor Matthew Swensen. Korngold is one of my favorite composers, and the piece seems to come out differently every time that I perform it.”

Tickets are $8, or $6 for students and $1 for children under the age of 12. For more information, visit

On Wednesday, February 24, at 7pm, the Buffalo Chamber Players present the second concert of their 2009-2010 series at their home in the Buffalo Seminary at 205 Bidwell Parkway, in a program that spans four centuries of British chamber music. Now in their third season, the Buffalo Chamber Players, many of whom are also members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, continue their mission, under the artistic guidance of the group’s founder, BPO violist Janz Castelo, to explore the lesser-known byways of chamber music masterworks

The concert will feature guest tenor Jeffrey P. Porter, who is currently director of music and liturgy for the parish of St. Katharine Drexel in Buffalo. He has performed as a soloist with the BPO, the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra, the St. Joseph Cathedral Consort, the Choir of Men and Boys of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Chautauqua Chamber Singers, and the Freudig Singers of WNY.

Surprisingly, British music is not programmed very often in local classical music series. As an example, the BPO has only performed three of the nine symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the master of 20th-century English symphonic composition, and only one of those works, the Symphony No. 2 in G major (“London”), twice. Wednesday’s program features Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge, a song cycle for tenor, piano, and string quartet, that sets to music six poems from A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad. A contemporary critic noted that “England is the spring of emotion, the centre of power, and the pictures of her, the breath of her earth and growing things are continually felt through the lovely sound.” Also on the program are Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae: Reflections on a Song of Dowland, for viola and piano, Op. 48 and the Lament for two violas by Frank Bridge, best known nowadays as Britten’s teacher. A genuine rarity, the 1926 Poem for string quartet, by Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), may well be the first local performance of any work by the composer; most of her music remained unpublished during her lifetime and a revival of interest in her works only dates back a decade or so. Earlier English music on the program includes the In Nomine a 4 for string consort by William Byrd and the Three Parts Upon a Ground for strings by Henry Purcell.

Admissin is $15, $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased at or at the door. For more information, call 462-5659.

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