by Michael Caruso

Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, performed “Fantasie: Character, Allegory and Imagination” Saturday, Jan. 27, in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The program of music by composers who worked in the theater as well as in the aristocratic salon enthralled an audience that filled many a pew in the church’s main sanctuary.

The roster of scores included the Orchestral Suite III by Johann Sigismund Kusser, the Concerto Grosso in A minor by George Frideric Handel, “Fantasie” by Jean-Frey Rebel, “Ritratto dell’amore” by Francois Couperin and the “Ouverture Burlesque” by Georg Philipp Telemann. In all five works, the players of Tempesta brought these often overlooked Baroque gems to life through renditions that were both stylish and vibrant.

The Kusser is a 12-movement extravaganza of tone painting that received a reading that was full of the broad dynamic variety of terraced loud-and-soft playing, expertly chiseled dotted rhythms and sweetly voiced melodies.

Handel’s peerless gift with melody, harmony and orchestration was beautifully on display in this Concerto Grosso, as was his often under-appreciated ability to write a fugue with equal precision to one penned by Johann Sebastian Bach, his contemporary. The Tempesta musicians caught the organic – not formulaic – unfolding of its many voices with eloquence and vitality.

The interpretation given the Rebel was characterized by the shimmering timbres of recorders balanced against the tawny tones of the strings. The exemplary playing on recorder by Gwyn Roberts and Heloise Degrugillier made their switch to wooden Baroque flutes all the more noticeable in the Couperin that followed. Here their tones were a model of sweet transparency, enabling them and their colleague to delineate the French master’s delicate yet telling portraits of the many sides of love.

The concert was brought to a scintillating finale with the Telemann. Often viewed as more competent than inspired, the Tempesta musicians proved that notion a misnomer, for here Telemann’s gift for the dramatic flair was splendidly projected.


Chestnut Hill will come alive with music this coming weekend. The music making will get underway Friday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m., with the next installment of the chamber music series, “Five Fridays,” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The featured artists are flutist Annie Wu and pianist Feng Niu. They will perform a program that includes Eldin Burton’s Sonatina, Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” in an arrangement for flute & piano, Henri Duttileux’s Sonatine, plus music by Beethoven, Schumann, Wolf, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. For more information, visit

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields will celebrate Choral Evensong Sunday, Feb. 4, 5 p.m. – with a promise from music director Erik Meyer that the service will be completed no later than 30 minutes prior to kick-off for the Super Bowl. The parish’s choir will be singing a new setting of the traditional “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis” composed by Meyer, himself.


Robert Capanna, the longtime executive director of Settlement Music School, died Friday, Jan. 26. He was 65 years old. Capanna, also a noted composer, first came to Settlement in 1976 as director of the Kardon-Northeast Branch. He became executive director of the entire system in 1982 and remained in that post until he retired in 2009.

Speaking of Capanna’s contribution to Settlement in particular and to the larger musical community, Germantown branch director Eric Anderson of Glenside said, “During his years as executive director of Settlement Music School, Bob expanded both the programming and the reach of the school in his tireless advocacy for quality music education for all. As a result, he had a profound impact on the musical life of Philadelphia.”

It was Bob Capanna who hired me as a member of the piano faculty at Settlement in 1986 — a dream-come-true vocation I’ve held and cherished ever since. I will remain in his debt till my own passing from this life.

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