by Michael Caruso
Only hours before the arrival of another winter storm, I had the pleasure of attending two extraordinary musical events in Chestnut Hill on Sunday, Jan. 27. Woodmere Art Museum resumed its series of 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon classical music recitals and showcased three core members of Tempesta di Mare Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra in a program of sonatas by Francesco Mancini. Then at 5 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church offered a Choral Evensong highlighting music by Byron Adams. Both offered exceptionally well constructed and peerlessly performed musical experiences.
At Woodmere, Tempesta founders/directors Gwyn Roberts on recorder and flute and Richard Stone on theorbo were joined by harpsichordist Adam Pearl for “Five Sonatas” (actually a Sixth as an encore) composed by the late 17th and early 18th centuries Neapolitan composer, Francesco Mancini. Each was divided into four movements according to the baroque tradition of the “sonata da chiesa” (church sonata) structure — slow-fast-slow-fast — so one couldn’t help but wonder if there could be any sense of variety whatsoever over the span of the 80-minute program. Anyone wondering would have been pleasantly surprised.
Throughout all six scores and all four instruments, Roberts’ playing was characterized by consummate technical command and exemplary musicianship. She brought out the tonal personality of each of the three recorders as well as the flute in order to project the endlessly inventive persona of a composer whose music is essentially unknown, even to lovers of baroque music.
On the visually artistic side, Woodmere is currently exhibiting recent acquisitions, which are on display as you enter the museum. On the way to the rotunda, my eye was drawn to Amanda Bush’s “Leaf River, View from the West,” one of many compelling new works at Woodmere.
If anyone ever wanted to experience Anglican Choral Evensong in its most pristinely traditional yet bracingly creative manifestation, he/she should have attended the late afternoon liturgy at St. Paul’s Church on Sunday, Jan. 27. Parish music director Zach Hemenway fashioned the choral portion of Evensong as a forum for the music of Byron Adams, who was in attendance.
In each setting, Adams displayed an idiomatic feel for the natural cadences of liturgical English, a deft hand at counterpoint and a masterful command over tonal harmonies spiced with modality. Under Hemenway’s magisterial yet sensitive conducting, St. Paul’s choir sang superbly, with tenor Jeffrey Dinsmore rendering the solo part in the “Nunc Dimittis” with haunting beauty.
Romanian-born conductor Valentin Radu will lead his Vox Renaissance Consort in a “Renaissance Candlemas” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane (at Willow Grove Avenue). Under Radu’s direction, the lushly costumed vocalists and troubadours will perform the glorious music of the Renaissance and early Baroque periods, celebrating the traditional Feast of Candlemas as the harshness of winter begins to give way to the promise of spring.
Explained Radu, “Candlemas is one of the most ancient festivals of the church. It is celebrated 40 days after Christmas, generally on Feb. 2. It is also called ‘The Feast of the Presentation’ since it commemorates the presentation of the Christ child in the temple in Jerusalem as well as the ritual purification of Mary, as prescribed by Mosaic law.”
Tickets are $10 for students, $20 for seniors and $25 for all others. All are available at the door 45 minutes prior to concert time, and seating is unreserved. Call 610-688-2800 or visit www.VoxAmaDeus.org.