by Michael Caruso
Donald Nally and The Crossing will mark the March 1 death of legendary choral conductor Joseph Flummerfelt with “For Joe” Saturday, March 30, 8 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. Nally, himself, is a former student of Flummerfelt.
The Crossing released a statement that reads in part, “Sometimes life speaks and demands you listen. That happened March 1 with the passing of a legend and a friend. March didn’t come in like a lion; the Lion left us. Joe Flummerfelt is gone.
“Joe touched the life of every person near The Crossing, even those who may not realize that the values and art he imparted in his teaching speak through the students that have populated The Crossing since our birth. We want to do something to recognize that impact, now.
“So we are changing our programming. With the generous agreement of Tom Lloyd, we are postponing the premiere of his ‘In the Light’ (which had been scheduled for March 30 & 31) until a future time when we can properly concentrate on it. Instead, we are going to answer life’s call, and sing a concert for Joe Flummerfelt.
“Not a memorial, nor a celebration. More like a musical picture book; it’s what we do when we are feeling grateful or humble or sad or confounded. We sing. We sing music of our time. For Joe.”
The program will feature music by Gavin Bryars, Michael Gilbertson, Joseph Flummerfelt, Eriks Esenvalds, Herbert Howells and a world premiere by Robert Convery, written in memory of Flummerfelt.
For more information, visit crossingchoir.org
Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, presented “Concerto Grosso” Sunday, March 24, in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The musical survey of Italian and German concerti for multiple soloists drew an audience that literally packed the church’s main sanctuary. Those local music lovers were rewarded with a set of renditions among the finest heard all season.
The concert’s centerpiece was J.S. Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043. The work, itself, is one of greatest concerti ever composed, and the performance it received by soloists Emlyn Ngai and Rebecca Harris was as fine as I’ve ever encountered in concert.
The splendor of the score is Bach’s uncanny ability to maintain an unbroken line of contrapuntal development alongside an equally unbroken line of developmental counterpoint. And all the while, he sustains an unimpeded flow of dialogue between the two soloists as well as between the soloists and the orchestral tutti. The first and third movements bubble like a cauldron of themes, harmonies and progressions all voiced in an instrumental texture both sumptuous and bracing. The slow second movement in between sings like an operatic duet capable of putting those of Vincenzo Bellini to shame.
The beauty of Sunday afternoon’s performance was the stellar playing of Ngai and Harris, both brilliant and eloquent, their expert interplay with the ensemble as a whole, and the supportive yet colorful playing of the entire orchestra.
The concert also featured an exuberant reading of G.F. Handel’s Concerto in B-flat, Opus 3, no. 1. The ensemble caught the dialogue of counterpoint in the first movement, the sweeping lyricism of the second and the cascading string writing of the third. Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor, RV 566, opened the concert with uncomplicated high spirits. Although Alessandro Scarlatti’s Sinfonia di concerto grosso No. 4 in E minor was a tad disappointing, J.F. Fasch’s Concerto in G major was a delightful surprise. G.M. Cambini’s Sinfonia concertante No. 4 in D brought the program to a gracious finale.
Throughout the entire concert, the Tempesta musicians played with invigorating tempi, pointed rhythms, elegant phrasing and dynamic amplitude and variety.
The previous weekend, March 16 & 17, Tempesta violinists Emlyn Ngai & Rebecca Harris performed “Dopperlgeiger,” a program of music either composed or arranged for two violins. The first recital took place in Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum, the second in the new and marvelous Museum of the American Revolution in Old City Philadelphia.
For the first half of their recital, Ngai & Harris played on baroque period violins, strung with gut strings, featuring a lower bridge and a shorter bow. After intermission, both switched to metal-strung modern violins. The program’s first half featured music by Michel Farinel arranged by Ngai, Jean-Marie Leclair and Franz Joseph Haydn. Following the interval, the pair played music by Reinhold Gliere, Bela Bartok, Sergei Prokofiev, Jules Massenet arranged by Ngai, Jose Ferrer arranged by Ngai, and Victor Carbajo. In an amazing display of their technical wizardry and interpretive integrity, Ngai & Harris performed both halves with equal command and artistry.
They established a lively dialogue between the two parts in Farinel’s “Faronell’s Divisions on a Ground.” They brought forward the sweet lyricism of Leclair’s Sonata in B-flat, Opus 12, no. 6 with artful balance and developmental enthusiasm. And they opened up the generous counterpoint in Haydn’s Duo for Two Violins in E-flat major, Opus 99, transcribed from the String Quartet Opus 9, no. 2. The tawny tones of their gut-strung instruments danced with rhythmic vitality.
In two of Gliere’s Twelve Duos for Two Violins, Opus 49, Ngai & Harris projected the dark glow of No. 7 and the wintry blast of No. 10. In four selections from Bartok’s Forty-Four Duos for Two Violins, the pair caught the sultry fury of “Arabian Song,” the cool choreography of “Pizzicato,” the poignancy of “Sorrow” and the tart tones of “Bagpipes.” The pair then switched gears seamlessly for Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Opus 56, delineating its dissonant take on neo-classicism.
Together, Ngai & Harris efficaciously partnered for the former’s arrangement of the “Meditation” from Massenet’s opera, “Thais,” and the pulsating rhythms of Tangos by Ferrer and Carbajo.
Several local churches will mark the season of Lent with Choral Evensongs or Vespers. The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the- Fields, Chestnut Hill, will do so April 7 at 5 p.m. Music director Erik Meyer and the parish choir will perform the “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis” from the “Collegium Regale” of Herbert Howells plus Gerald Finzi’s “Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice.”
For local music lovers willing to brave the trip into Center City, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Locust Street, will also celebrate Choral Evensong April 7 at 4 p.m. Music director Robert McCormick will lead his choir in music by Gombert, Hancock, Dyson, Greene and Perosi. It should also be noted that the restoration of the church’s magnificent pipe organ should hopefully be nearly complete by Easter.
Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (Jesuit Fathers), 312 Willings Alley in Society Hill, will mark Lent with the liturgy of Roman Vespers March 31 at 4 p.m. Mark Bani will lead the parish choir in music by Wesley, Sumsion and Buxtehude plus organ music by Brahms.
You can contact NOTEWORTHY at Michaelemail@example.com. To read more of NOTEWORTHY, visit chestnuthilllocal.com/Arts/Noteworthy