by Michael Caruso
Three members of Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, celebrated the music of Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach in recital this month. Harpsichordist Adam Pearl, violinist/violist Karina Schmitz and flute & recorder player Gwyn Roberts played music by one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most accomplished composer sons Feb. 9 at Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill and Feb. 16 at the Fleisher Art Memorial in the Bella Vista section downtown. The program offered exquisite renditions of five of the loveliest scores composed in the middle of the 18th century.
C.P.E. Bach’s music falls chronologically between the music of his father and that of Handel, who brought the baroque style to its zenith, and the developing classical style of Haydn and (eventually) Mozart. While displaying in rudimentary fashion the use of thematic development established as the norm for the next several centuries by Haydn, C.P.E. Bach’s music still speaks in the intimate tones of the chamber music that so typified the baroque. Although he employed a far simpler texture than did his father — more like that of Handel — C.P.E. nonetheless made ample use of counterpoint.
Schmitz and Pearl gave a lilting, elegant reading to the “Sonata in C major for Violin & Harpsichord.” The former’s straight tones were delicately shaped while the latter drew rainbows of color from a 1980 William Dowd harpsichord borrowed from the Peabody Institute of Music, where Pearl now teaches.
After the interval, Roberts took up the bass recorder and joined Schmitz on viola and Pearl for the “Trio Sonata in F major,” an incredibly inventive and expressive score that could easily enter the modern chamber repertoire for (possibly) clarinet, viola and piano.
The Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theater opened its production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” (The lost one) Saturday night in its Warden Theater in center city. Continuing through Feb. 25, it’s one of the most consistently performed productions of this beloved classic I’ve seen in years.
Set to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, which was based on Alexander Dumas’ “Lady of the Camellias” (Greta Garbo’s famous 1937 MGM film, “Camille”), “La Traviata” is Verdi’s only opera set in his contemporary time, the mid-19th century. Focusing on the giddy life and tragic death of a Parisian courtesan, it is one of the most effective pairings of text and music in the entire operatic repertoire.
The cast was superb, especially the two leads. Soprano Chloe Moore was headstrong yet touching theatrically as Violetta, the doomed courtesan of the title. Tenor William Davenport was vocally eloquent and dramatically convincing as Alfredo, the young man whose love for Violetta manages to save her heart and soul in the end.
For ticket information, call 215-735-1685 or visit www.avaopera.org.
HAYDN & PART
When Alan Harler conducts the Mendelssohn Club and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in Haydn’s “Missa in tempore belli” (Mass in the Time of War) and three works by Arvo Part, several local singers will be joining him Sunday, Feb. 23. They include Ellie & Tom Elkinton, Erin Donovan, Lynn Kirby, John Luttenburger, Janelle McCoy, Maria Sisto, Rebecca Thornburgh, Evan Towle and Jane Uptegrove. The concert is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will take place in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square in center city. Tickets are available online at www.mcchorus.org or at the door.
“I’m fascinated to witness how the audience experiences these works by two such different composers,” explained Harler, who has led the Mendelssohn Club for 25 years. “Haydn’s music for chorus is among the most beautiful and satisfying ever composed, and the Part half of the program offers truly sublime sounds that speak to the universal idea of humanity, itself.”