by MICHAEL CARUSO
Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum opened the third season of its Sunday afternoon classical music recitals with clarinetist Charles Salinger joining two-thirds of the Philadelphia Trio Sunday at 3 p.m. Pianist Elizabeth Keller and cellist Deborah Reeder teamed up with Salinger for a program consisting of Beethoven’s “Trio No. 4 in B-flat major,” Brahms’ “Trio in A minor” and Max Bruch’s “Andante.” The concert drew a large and enthusiastic audience.
The afternoon’s finest playing was heard in the four-movement trio Brahms composed relatively late in his career. The music glows with introspection but also courses with throbbing emotions. Salinger, playing a clarinet tuned in the darker key of A rather than the brighter scale of B-flat, offered a focused yet creamy tone. He phrased with exquisite vocalism, often beginning and ending a particular line with so soft a dynamic level that one barely heard either the first or last note. Reeder offered substantive support to Salinger’s leading motifs in the second movement; all three musicians tended to drag in the third, and Keller provided the explosive piano accompaniment for Salinger’s operatic declamations in the volcanic fourth movement. And the Bruch piece made for a touching finish to a lovely recital.
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, opened its 27th season of concerts Friday evening in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The program launched a series of concerts that will survey the music of late Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque music in the German-speaking lands of the Holy Roman Empire.
Friday night’s concert was best heard in the context of several of the past seasons’ unifying themes. Last year, for instance, Piffaro focused on the music of Spain and its colonies in the New World, investigating the broad and deep scope of Spain’s influence throughout its vast Empire. The ensemble’s most recently released compact disc, “Los Ministriles in the New World,” documents that repertoire.
Whereas the Spanish style was both flamboyant and intense, the music composed in the German-speaking countries slightly before, during and slightly after the 16th century Renaissance was both serious and hearty in tone and spirit. Flights of melodic, harmonic and virtuosic fancy characterized the Spanish fashion. German music, especially that of Ludwig Snefl (the program’s dominant composer), tended more toward four-square phrasing, clearly articulated harmonic progressions and balanced counterpoint.
Although there were moments of lapses in precision of ensemble Friday night, tonal blend and rhythmic vitality triumphed over any and all technical imperfections. Piffaro’s players were always able to tap into the gutsy high spirits that characterized the music-making of the centuries leading up to the development of “serious” classical music. The earlier music was written to enhance life’s activities more than to be listened to “in concert.” If you are going to listen to it “in concert,” however, there’s almost no better venue in Greater Philadelphia than Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, where the acoustics are clear yet resonant.
Piffaro’s next Chestnut Hill concert is its Christmas program, set for Friday, Dec. 21, 8 p.m. Call 215-235-8469 or visit www.piffaro.com.
The Philadelphia Orchestra opens its 2012-13 subscription concert season with three performances in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall and a fourth in New York’s Carnegie Hall of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Manzoni” Requiem.” These concerts will launch Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s first season as music director.
One of the Orchestra Association’s most important administrative posts is that of vice president for institutional advancement. Chestnut Hiller Matthew Loden came onboard early in the summer and is now fully involved in the ensemble’s activities as it enters the new year, having only recently exited bankruptcy proceedings.
“I’ve never before seen so much energy and passion coming from a conductor and igniting the same feelings from the players as I have watching Yannick conduct the Philadelphians,” Loden said in a recent interview. “There’s something fundamental about him. He’s unstoppable.”
Loden pointed to Nezet-Seguin’s ready accessibility to audience members, his eagerness to meet people after a concert in the Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza and the scintillating success of the Orchestra’s series of concerts in June in the Academy of Music as signs that better times lie ahead.
Still, the financial challenges facing the Orchestra remain daunting. In the days of Leopold Stokowski’s and Eugene Ormandy’s music directorships, tickets to Orchestra concerts were almost impossible to come by except via season subscriptions. For my money, if anyone can pull off that initial miracle, Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s the one.