by Michael Caruso
The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, hosted a concert Friday, April 24, featuring Camerata Ama Deus in an all-baroque concerti program that drew a generous if not particularly large audience in the church’s intimate sanctuary. Although some renditions were excellent, others were not.
The roster of pieces offered a who’s-who of Baroque masters, with the sole exception of Johann Sebastian Bach. Conductor Valentin Radu pointed out that Bach’s great contemporary, Georg Frideric Handel, is most famous in America for his oratorio, “Messiah,” but that he composed an enormous amount of other music. Alongside his other English-language oratorios, Handel composed 49 Italian-language operas and an impressive catalogue of purely instrumental music.
Radu programmed four works by Handel. The remainder of the program featured Telemann’s “Suite in A minor for Recorder & Orchestra;” Corelli’s “Sonata a Quattro (for Four) in D major for Trumpet” and his “Concerto Grosso in D major;” Albinoni’s “Concerto a Cinque (for Five) in D minor for Trumpet” and Vivaldi’s “Concerto in E minor for Violin & Orchestra.”
This was the very sort of programs performed by the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia under the direction of Marc Mostovoy, who founded the ensemble 50 years ago. Mostovoy was the original leader of Philadelphia’s “Baroque Revival.” At the height of their stature, the Concerto Soloists offered two sets of programs: one conducted by Mostovoy at the Walnut Street Theatre on Monday evenings and a second, performed in the Baroque fashion without conductor, on Sunday afternoons in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square. Both series regularly sold out.
As was the style in those bygone days, the musicians of the Concerto Soloists performed on modern, rather than period, instruments. Once the ensemble moved to the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, subsequent music directors began steering the group away from the Baroque and Classical eras and into the repertoire of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
If the local classical music scene could boast a period instrument ensemble that offered so many concerts played at so high a musical standard at two or more venues, then those of us who love the music of the 18th century wouldn’t feel deprived of its glories. But that’s not the case. The Concerto Soloists, now the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, simply haven’t been successfully replaced by any of the local period instruments groups.
Friday night’s concert did, indeed, present some excellent playing. Recorder soloist Rainer Beckman and trumpeter Elin Frazier offered fine renditions of their respective concerti and suites, proving that Baroque music can be both historic and vibrant. The former played with consummate intimacy while the latter dazzled with pyrotechnical brilliance.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, presented a Choral Evensong preceded by a solo organ recital April 19, the third Sunday of Easter. Edward Landin gave splendid performances of music by Louis Marchand, Herbert Howells, Kathleen Scheide and Craig Phillips on the church’s magnificent Aelolian-Skinner pipe organ. The recital was part of the Ann Stookey Memorial Recital series that raises money for the maintenance of this splendid instrument.
Music director Zachary Hemenway led St. Paul’s Choir and organ scholar Joseph Russell in a program of works by Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Attwood Walmisley and Sir Edward Cuthbert Bairstow.
Hemenway and the choir caught the sweet tones of Gibbons’ ”Now shall the praises of the Lord be sung,” the service’s Introit. The perfect blend and balance of voices and textures dispelled the tensions of the outside world with what seemed like an aural balm from Heaven. Phrases were eloquently shaped as every inner line beautifully supported the highlighted principal theme.
FUTURE EVENTS: The final Choral Evensong of the season at St. Paul’s Church is scheduled for Sunday, May 10, 5 p.m. It will be preceded by an organ recital performed by Karl Robson at 4:30 p.m. The final installment in the “Five Fridays” series of chamber music recitals is set for May 15, 7:30 p.m. Violinist Luosha Fang and pianist Sejoon Park will perform a program of music by Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann. Visit www.fivefridays.org