by Michael Caruso
The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, celebrated Choral Evensong for All Souls Day, Sunday, Nov. 2. With the help of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, a former associate rector at the parish, and the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Chamber Singers, the service offered a broad variety of music beautifully performed. It was also among the best attended concerts I’ve encountered at St. Martin’s throughout its 125th anniversary year. Virtually every pew in the Norman-Revival masterpiece was filled.
The three major choral works of the evening service – “Magnificat,” “Nunc Dimittis” and “Our Father” – were all composed by Roland Woehr, director of the SCH Academy Chamber Singers. Although I found the first a trifle more sentimental in tone than I prefer, I was mightily impressed by Woehr’s use of unison male voices against piano accompaniment in the “Nunc Dimittis,” and his setting of “The Lord’s Prayer” was as sensitive yet as straightforward as any other contemporary choral version I’ve heard.
The singing, all under the leadership of parish music director Erik Meyer, was excellent. Meyer brought together the two choirs – that of St. Martin’s and that of SCH Academy – with nary a hint of uneven ensemble and much passion and commitment. Meyer composed the elegant settings of the Preces and Responses. SCHA student Claire Cohen opened the service with a fine rendition of the Prelude from Bach’s “Partita in E major for Solo Violin,” and Meyer brought the Choral Evensong to a brilliant conclusion with Jehan Alain’s “Litanies” for organ.
Germantown resident Richard Raub will conduct the Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theater’s presentation of Rossini’s “L’italiana in Algeri” (The Italian Girl in Algiers). Sung in Italian with English supertitles and performed fully staged with a full orchestra, the production is scheduled for Nov. 8, 12, 14 and 15 in AVA’s own Warden Theater at 1920 Spruce St.; Nov. 18 in the Haverford School’s Centennial Hall; and Nov. 22 at Central Bucks South High School. For ticket information, call 215-735-1685 or visit www.avaopera.org.
The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will host its annual Festival of Music and Art Friday through Sunday, Nov. 14 – 16. Music director Daniel Spratlan will conduct the Aura Polyphonica in a concert of choral music from the Spanish Renaissance; Victoria’s Requiem Mass along with motets by Guerrero, Morales and Lobo. The church’s Gallery Choir will be featured Saturday in a program entitled “Modern Spiritualists” that will highlight music composed by the contemporary Englishman, John Tavener. Both concerts begin at 8 p.m. and take place in the church’s main sanctuary. The next installment in the church’s Cantata and Chamber Music series is set for Dec. 14, with a reception at 4:30 p.m. and a performance of Bach’s Cantata No. 61: “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” (Now comes the Savior of the Gentiles).
Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Westminster Symphonic Choir and vocal soloists Angela Meade and Sarah Connolly in performances of Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony No. 2 in C minor” Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 and 2. The concerts took place in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Saturday evening’s audience packed every seat in the house and gave the orchestra’s young music director a frenzied ovation worthy of a combination rock star/movie star/sports hero.
While the “Resurrection” Symphony explodes with musical imagination in the way Mahler paints through sound life’s perilous journey to its final heavenly consummation, in the symphony’s final passages it becomes apparent to anyone who has been listening carefully that not one musical moment was superfluous to the achievement of the ultimate triumph.
Nezet-Seguin elicited playing from the Philadelphia Orchestra and singing from the Westminster Symphony Symphonic Choir and his soloists that delineated his concept of the score with stunning clarity and electrifying passion. I deeply suspect that not one of his contemporaries can hold a candle to Yannick Nezet-Seguin when it comes to conducting such massive scores so compellingly.
WEEKEND’S CONCERTS: Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and organists Peter Richard Conte, Paul Jacobs and Ken Cowan will celebrate the glory of Verizon Hall’s Fred J. Cooper pipe organ with programs featuring the “King of Instruments” at 8 p.m,. Nov. 6 and 8, and 2 p.m. Nov. 7.