by Michael Caruso

Romanian-born Valentin Radu will conduct his period instruments ensemble, Camerata Ama Deus, in “Festa Vivaldi” this Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m., in the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill. The program includes “Sinfonia No. 3 in G major,” “Recorder Concerto in F major,” “Mandolin Concerto in C major,” “Concerto for 2 Violins & Cello in D minor,” “Concerto for Recorder, Oboe, Violin, Cello & Continuo in G minor,” “Oboe Concerto in A minor” and “Trumpet Concerto in D minor.” The concert will run approximately 90 minutes without intermission.

“Vox Ama Deus has had a close relationship with the Chestnut Hill community for more than two decades,” Radu told me last week. “The audiences have been very warm and appreciative, and we especially enjoy performing where the acoustics are so flattering at both St. Martin-in-the Fields and St. Paul’s Episcopal Churches. Each has a distinctive architecture, producing its own unique and excellent sound. With its stone walls, St. Martin’s has the resonance of a cathedral, while St. Paul’s Church, with its ornate woodwork, produces a beautiful, burnished sound. Yet, in both every note comes across crisply.”

Vox Ama Deus begins its three-part Chestnut Hill mini-series with its all-Vivaldi program. “I can’t think of anybody who doesn’t love the sparkling and inventive music of Antonio Vivaldi,” Radu assured. “We will perform seven contrasting concertos, featuring eight different solo instruments and combinations of instruments, including Vivaldi’s only concerto for solo mandolin. At each Camerata Ama Deus performance, I chat with the audience – this time about Vivaldi the man, his times and his unparalleled music.”

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Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum continued its series of Sunday afternoon classical music recitals by presenting West Mt. Airy pianist Leon Bates on Oct. 28. Despite the approaching hurricane, the alumnus of both Settlement Music School’s Germantown Branch and Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music drew a large and enthusiastic audience.

Bates’ program spanned the broad reaches of the piano’s repertoire. He opened with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, and then continued with Chopin’s “Third Scherzo” and Ravel’s “Sonatine” before intermission. It was, however, after the interval that Bates offered his most convincing interpretations. He caught the silken legato and elegant chromaticism of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia,” the flowing impressionism of Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing” and the dark layers of his “Chelsea Bridge.”


Germantown maestro Richard Raub conducted the opening night performance of the Academy of Vocal Arts’ production of Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (The Barber of Seville) last Saturday. Presented in AVA’s own Warden Theater at 1920 Spruce St., the mounting was among the most well-balanced and effectively rendered productions in the all-scholarship school’s storied history.

Stage director Marc Verzatt marshaled the school’s considerable production talent to fashion a simple yet workable set from Peter Harrison and costumes from Val Starr that would be the envy of most professional companies. Verzatt’s direction elicited characterizations from his cast that were both distinctive and convincing.

Raub’s conducting highlighted the specific beauty and overarching structure of Rossini’s stunning score Saturday evening. He elicited sterling playing from the AVA Opera Theatre Orchestra and scintillating singing from his cast.

Baritone Steven LaBrie was irresistibly appealing in the title role, acting with agility and singing with supple power. Tenor Diego Silva was a dashing Almaviva, and while his coloratura singing was a trifle vague here and there, he sang with lyrical eloquence. Soprano Sydney Mancasola was a splendid Rosina.

Bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana was a stalwart Dr. Bartolo, Rosina’s domineering yet also out-maneuvered guardian; bass Patrick Guetti was an insanely avaricious and darkly-hued Don Basilio, and mezzo Margaret Mezzacappa was a resonant and put-upon Berta. “Barber” continues through Nov. 17. Ticket information at 215-735-1685 or