by Michael Caruso
The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, brought the local liturgical/musical season to a close Sunday, June 2, with its final Choral Evensong of the season. Music director and organist Erik Meyer led the parish choir in music by Robert Lehman, Walford Davies, David Hogan and Healey Willan. He also played solo organ music by Eugene Gigout and Louis Vierne.
The evening’s major work was Willan’s anthem, “O Praise the Lord,” set to a text taken from the Books of Psalms and Habakkuk in the Old Testament. The choir sang with intensity and sensitivity, achieving moments of grandeur that effectively balanced passages of tenderness.
Hogan’s setting of the “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis” from his “Mount St. Alban” also received excellent readings. The singing was agile yet substantive, with the unison passages particularly well delineated. The choir caught the profound emotions of the former and the stately dignity of the latter.
All the same, the most noteworthy aspect of the service was not musical but rather the person of the homilist. Rabbi Adam Zeff of the Germantown Jewish Center delivered a moving sermon on the evening’s first reading, taken from the first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Rabbi Zeff intoned those ancient words — “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” — and brought them to life and meaning to a small but attentive congregation.
The Archdiocesan Choir of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, under the direction of John Romeri, will present a concert in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, off Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9. The principal work on the program will be the “Messe Solennelle” of Louis Vierne. Works by Faure, Gounod, Dupre, Messiaen and Franck will also be performed. Zachary Hemenway, music director and organist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, will be the organist for the concert. Rebecca and Aaron Hoke and William Lim, members of St. Paul’s choir, will be singing as members of the Archdiocesan Choir. For more information, call 215-587-3696.
Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra presented their final concert of the 2012-13 subscription Saturday evening, May 25, in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. The program of works by Schumann, Janacek, Brahms and Dvorak drew an audience that filled the house, a common occurrence this season whenever Nezet-Seguin has been on the podium.
The concert functioned not only as the culmination of Nezet-Seguin’s first season as the orchestra’s music director but also as a memorial to Wolfgang Sawallisch, who passed away earlier in the year. The orchestra’s sixth music director since its founding in 1900, Sawallisch succeeded Riccardo Muti in 1982 and remained at the helm for the next decade, helping the orchestra make the move from its beloved original home, the Academy of Music, to its new but disappointing venue, Verizon Hall. Sawallisch made the most of Verizon’s unexpectedly dry acoustics by continuing his restoration of the famous “Philadelphia Sound” of previous music directors Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, a distinctive tonal personality mostly dismantled during Muti’s 12-year tenure. Though never a “matinee idol” maestro in the manner of Muti or Stokowski, Sawallisch was passionately adored by the players for his superb musicianship and loved by audiences for the unaffected intensity of his interpretations.
The season also served to celebrate the centenary of Stokowski’s appointment as music director in 1912. It was Stoki who transformed a third-rate band into a world-class symphony orchestra. The new music director honored his predecessor by programming many of the scores Stoki championed and fashioning several concerts after his method of arranging the pieces on the program.
Saturday’s concert opened with the second movement from Schumann’s Second Symphony in memory of Sawallisch, Janacek’s Sinfonietta, Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham and three Slavonic Dances by Dvorak. The evening’s performances displayed the high level of technical brilliance Yannick Nezet-Seguin has restored to the orchestra’s playing and his ability to reach out across the footlights to engage his audience in the music-making.