by Michael Caruso
Close on the heels of backing the Rolling Stones in two concerts at the Wells Fargo Center, Donald Nally and his chamber choir, The Crossing, will return to their regular repertoire of contemporary classical music and present a concert 4 p.m. Sunday, June 30, in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The concert, entitled “The Gulf (between you and me),” is the third and final installment in the choir’s “Month of Moderns” series of performances in June.
The program will open with the world premiere of Gabriel Jackson’s “Rigwreck.” The new work will be followed by “A ship with unfurled sails,” which Jackson composed in 2009. After intermission, the choir will perform John Cage’s “four2,” written in 1990, making it one of the oldest pieces in The Crossing’s active repertoire. The Cage will be followed by the American premiere of “Saline,” composed in 2006 by Santa Ratniece.
Referring to Cage’s “four2,” Nally explained, “Celebrating the composer’s centenary, we began our season in October with a performance of his ‘Hymns and Variations,’ a work that employs his subtraction technique. We’re bringing our season to a close with a very late work, reflecting an evolution in Cage’s thinking. Whereas his earlier work attempted to open music to include all sounds, his later work, while still relying on elements of chance, is more contained, more intimate and demonstrates a renewed interest in harmony or, perhaps, simultaneities.”
Santa Ratniece, the composer of “Saline,” was born in Latvia in 1977. “We welcome the composer and thank the Philadelphia Latvian Council for supporting her appearance with us,” Nally said.
The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill is located at 8855 Germantown Avenue. For more information, visit www.crossingchoir.com.
The Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), 1920 Spruce St. in center city Philadelphia, will be the site of a Russian opera workshop, replete with concert performances, this final week of June. For the third summer in a row, Ghenady Meirson is directing a weeklong workshop for singers focusing on the splendors of Russian opera. This year’s roster will include the local premiere of Rachmaninoff’s “Francesca da Rimini” and a rarely performed scene from “Romeo and Juliet,” an opera based on the Shakespeare tragedy that Tchaikovsky never completed.
“Now in its third summer season,” explained Meirson, a Russian opera coach at both AVA and the Curtis Institute of Music, “Russian Opera Workshop has established itself as an important and influential program here in Philadelphia. I am pleasantly surprised that even Russian singers from Russia want to participate in our workshop. This season I wanted to offer repertoire that is less frequently performed. Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a short scene that was a sketch for an opera that was never completed. It was discovered after Tchaikovsky’s death.”
Local classical music lovers have a long tradition of hearing great performances of the music of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Both Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s most successful music directors, made the music of both Russian masters central to the ensemble’s repertoire. Both worked closely with Rachmaninoff for the performance and recording of many of his greatest scores, with the composer himself as soloist in his four piano concerti and the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” These performances at AVA offer an opportunity to hear works by both composers unfamiliar to most concert-goers.
The Rachmaninoff/Tchaikovsky double bill will be performed 7:30 p.m. June 27 in AVA’s Helen Corning Warden Theater. Admission is free, and no tickets are needed. Visit www.RussianOperaWorkshop.com.