by Michael Caruso
Chestnut Hill churches continue to present some of the region’s most important ensembles performing some of the most compelling programs. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was the site of a Friday, Jan. 11, joint concert by the Buxtehude Consort and Sonnambula in “Music of the German Baroque.” Then, on Sunday, Jan. 20, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill presented the Wilmington-based group, Melomanie, in “Provocative Pairings of Early & Contemporary Works.” Both concerts were intelligently conceived and impressively performed.
The Buxtehude Consort/Sonnambula concert offered two singers, soprano Jolle Greenleaf and mezzo Virginia Warnken, with three instrumentalists, organist Liga Vilmane and viola da gamba players Loren Ludwig and Elizabeth Weinfeld. Together they were heard in music by Rosenmuller, Schein, Schenck, Bach, Sweelinck, Schop and (of course) Buxtehude.
Both gamba players caught the mournful eloquence of the Andante movement of Schenck’s “Sonata No. 3 in D major,” while Vilmane and Ludwig accompanied Greenleaf in “Offne Dich” from Bach’s “Cantata No. 61” so beautifully by allowing its ongoing thematic development to unfold affectedly. Vilmane played Sweelinck’s solo, “Paduana Lachrimae,” projecting its Renaissance modality through expert finger legato.
The performances given Schop’s “Lachrimae Paven” and Buxtehude’s “Singet dem Hern” were especially noteworthy for Ludwig’s playing a treble viola da gamba. Its higher range, more like that of a modern viola, afforded him many opportunities for expressive phrasing.
Melomanie is comprised of Kimberly Reighley on baroque and modern flutes, Christof Richter on baroque and modern violins, Donna Fournier on viola da gamba, Douglas McNames on baroque and modern cellos and Tracy Richardson on harpsichord. For the Sunday concert in Chestnut Hill, Melomanie welcomed guest baroque flutist Eve Friedman.
The afternoon’s program featured two baroque scores and two modern works. The two early pieces were actually the first and second halves of Francois Couperin’s “La Pietmontoise” (from “Les Nations”), the Sonate and then the Dances. The new pieces were “Dreams” by Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, here receiving its world premiere, and Roberto Pace’s “Fantasie: Melomanie,” composed in 2009.
Although I found Couperin’s Sonate more than a little tedious, the “Suite of Dances” is delightful, and Richardson was particularly adept at bringing out its rhythmic agility, elegant melodies and tart harmonies.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s new music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, returned to the ensemble’s podium for a set of three concerts performed in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. I caught the performance of Saturday, Jan. 19, and came away with an ever more optimistic view of the orchestra’s future under the direction of its dynamic conductor.
Nezet-Seguin’s program featured Ravel’s “La Valse,” Szymanowski’s “Violin Concerto No. 2” with soloist Leonidas Kavakos, and Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5 in D minor.” Both the Ravel and the Szymanowski were given convincing readings, but it was in the Shostakovich that Nezet-Seguin displayed the gifts that have made him the most fanatically adored new music director since I first began writing about the Philadelphians in 1976.
That was assuredly the case Saturday evening. It was almost as though Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was expressively composed for Nezet-Seguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform, so perfectly well did his interpretive talents and their sonic capabilities coincide with the score.