The concert season continues with violinist Manuel Ramos

The concert season continues with violinist Manuel Ramos

By Georgia Pampel, Music Critic

It is a constant source of wonder and gratitude to realize that in today’s world where the flashy rewards and media attention ever seem to go to the athletes and rock stars, still the discipline and enchantment of

classical music continue to draw devotees and produce solo artists to satisfy

the hearts and souls of those of us who rejoice in its eternal appeal. Thus

it was an eager Rockford audience that filled the Second Congregational Church on Sunday evening, October 6, to hear the violinist Manuel Ramos cast his own spells on us all, in the second of the Mendelssohn Club’s programmed concerts for the new season.

Ramos began playing the violin in his small border town in Mexico at age 7. His native ability was soon so evident that his father sent him on to Mexico City at age 14 for formal training in the art. Ramos and his wife, an accomplished cellist, both are now members of the St. Louis Symphony, while he also pursues a concert career, paying homage to the traditional classics, but adding on Mexican composers who might otherwise be overlooked.

So, the concert was an interesting contrast to the Rockford Symphony program a week earlier, where we heard Russian, French and American composers all try to capture the Spanish character. On Ramos’ program we learned of Manuel Ponce, a Mexican composer who went to Paris to study the music of Ravel, Debussy and Dukas. No clicking heels or castanets here, but a definite adoption of impressionistic ripples, shadows and caresses in the Ponce Sonata, with moments of breathless suspense in the warm Adagio movement.

The program opened with sonatas by Handel and Richard Strauss. From the

first notes, one was aware of the blending of piano and violin, and of the special support provided by Pianist Robert Moeling, who tackled the Strauss work with ample technical prowess and the musical sense to make the final blend so satisfying, Ramos called for Moeling to take a few bows, commenting that the Strauss, especially. was particularly demanding, and could not have been programmed without the resources of an exceptional accompanist—and then he had Anne-Marie Olson take a bow, too, as she handled the often-thankless task of turning pages for the pianist, a job which traditionally requires one to pretend to be invisible while always on the alert.

When Ramos returned after the intermission, his change to the Latin-style,

open-necked, tailored loose shirt recalled his Mexican origins, while the program shifted to the two works by Ponce, as well as numbers by Sarasate and Elgar, and a familiar “Over the Waves” by Juventino Rosas, which Ramos rendered in his own arrangement, the best to demonstrate his virtuoso techniques. Ramos clearly loves the music, and is blessed with a complete command of his instrument along with rare musical taste, producing a clear liquid sound while ever appearing modest and unassuming. The audience rewarded him with what I hear people now call “The Standing O,” rising from their seats to offer their vigorous and heartfelt applause.

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