By Heather J Morris
On Sunday afternoon a little gem of a concert passed by almost unnoticed by the regular patrons of Santa Cruz’s classical music scene. The artist at the Resurrection Church in Aptos was Ida Riegels, a classical & baroque concert soloist from Copenhagen. A young graduate from The Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1999 Ms Riegels won the first prize in Copenhagen’s Berlingske Newspaper International Classical Music Competition. Recently she came to the attention of Dr. S. Todd Mitchell, a Santa Cruz doctor who is sharing his knowledge and expertise on the prevention and treatment of mushroom poisoning across the globe. Meeting up again in Copenhagen where Dr. Mtichell was attending a conference they put together plans for a series of concerts in India and Bhutan, where Dr. Mitchell was working, and also in the San Francisco area. Last weekend they arranged a concert for the children of the Mt Madonna Center which sponsors Sri Ram Orphanage outside of Haridwar, India.
In these concerts, which Riegels terms ‘triathlons,’ she shows herself to be an accomplished performer on cello, recorder, and piano. She takes an invigorating and unconventional approach to classical music. “I am interested in what happens between the audience and the musicians, how the listener, in a subtle way becomes part of the performance. How an alert and connected audience subtly influences the performer into breathing life to the music. Classical music is fascinating because it is spoken in a language that reaches deep into the emotions of people in a manner that transcends one’s own culture or up-bringing . One could say that depth of feeling can be more clearly expressed in music than in any spoken language.” On Sunday she performed on a $400 cello she picked up on eBay to avoid transporting her own cello halfway around the world, and her tone, though soft, is always warm and velvet-like. Perhaps that softness is an advantage, bringing in the audience towards the music, and becoming, as she said, ‘part of the performance.’
Her presence is unassuming and this engenders an intimacy between herself and her audience, both in slow pieces, as heard in the Largo of Vivaldi’s Sonata in e minor and in fast ones including the virtuosic 56 measure recorder piece by Jean Daniel Braun requiring amazing double tonguing. This was a joy to behold. With sensitive accompaniment by Susan Bass on piano Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ and Faure’s ‘Elegie’ were given cherished performances. Ms Riegels is also a composer and her solo variations for cello on the traditional Japanese song, ‘Moon Over Ruined Castle’ though simple, was full of expressive dissonances and double stopping. Her piano playing had a smattering of missed notes, especially in Chopin’s ‘Waltz in a minor’ and she didn’t appear to connect with the piano to the same degree as the other instruments, where they truly seemed to became an extension of herself. This was a most refreshing concert giving credence to cellist Yo Yo Ma who once said: ‘To me the whole process is never about proving; it’s about sharing.’”