by Michael Caruso
Adam Pearl, harpsichordist with Tempesta di Mare and a member of the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music of Johns Hopkins University, will present a recital of music from the High French Baroque Saturday, March 14, 5 p.m. in the Woodmere Art Museum. The program will be repeated Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m. in the Museum of the American Revolution, 3rd and Chestnut Sts. in Old City.
His program will consist of music composed by Claude-Benigne Balbastre, Jacques Duphly and Joseph-Nicholas Royer. More details: 215-755-8776 or tempestadimare.org.
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performed Beethoven’s “Mass in C major,” Opus 86, and “Fantasia for Piano, Chorus & Orchestra,” Opus 80, Saturday, March 7. The 120-strong chorus, which brings its “Festival of Carols” to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, every Christmas season and includes numerous local members, was joined by the Camden-based Symphony in C and a bevy of vocal soloists for a splendidly successful concert.
Both the “Mass in C major” and the “Choral Fantasy” were composed toward the end of Beethoven’s “middle period.” It’s the time in his life when he eventually (and not without great struggle) came to terms with his deafness. It leads into his “late period,” at which time he seems to have realized that despite his loss of hearing, he could still compose. In fact, it’s during his final years of composition prior to his death in 1827 that he wrote most of his greatest scores.
Both the “Mass in C” and the “Choral Fantasy” are major works that have been unfairly overlooked by performers and audiences. No development could be more undeserved, for both are excellent works that surpass the finest efforts of all classical composers with the exceptions of Bach, Handel and Mozart.
Unlike the gargantuan “Missa Solemnis,” the “Mass in C” is so compactly conceived and intensely delineated that its setting of the Latin Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Church’s Mass could almost function liturgically. Its structure is so classically concise that the circular form of the Mass is impeccably projected.
The two outer movements – “Kyrie” and “Agnus Dei” – are in three parts and are the shortest. The middle movement – “Credo” – is the longest while the second and fourth movements – “Gloria” and “Sanctus/Benedictus” – are also balanced in size. When handled correctly, there’s a marvelous feeling of presentation, development and resolution about musical settings of the Mass, none more so than in Beethoven’s peerless hands.
Although the “Choral Fantasy” is often derided as merely a preliminary workout for the “Choral Symphony No. 9,” it’s a masterpiece in its own right. The piano writing is superb, the orchestral writing is superb, and the choral writing at its finale is, in a word, superb.
Saturday evening’s performances of both scores were also superb. Acting artistic director John Leonard and piano soloist Tomoko Kanamaru caught the tightly formed improvisatory quality of the opening portion of the “Fantasy” and then joined with Mendelssohn Club for the grand finale.
Leonard’s interpretation of the “Mass in C” was no less efficacious. The choir sang with unforced power, seamless balance between the vocal ranges, flawless tonal blend, unquestioned tuning and exemplary diction.
Symphony in C, Stilian Kirov music director, was a revelation. All sections played beautifully in both scores. The playing of the woodwind choir in the “Choral Fantasy” was especially lyrical.
No less noteworthy was the concert’s venue, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square. Its medium size – seating approximately 900 – and warm, enveloping acoustics provided the perfect setting for a concert of classical music. Would that Symphony in C had a regular Philadelphia season – at Holy Trinity Church.
Pennsylvania Ballet premiered artistic director Angel Corella’s choreography (after Petipa) of “La Bayadere” in the Academy of Music this past weekend. The production continues through March 15 and, while not a “must-see” even for ballet lovers, it’s worth a gander. I caught the Sunday afternoon performance, and the audience that packed the Academy of Music seemed to love it.
The principal drawback with “Bayadere” isn’t its cultural insensitivity – it’s set in a faux-India that even Hollywood would eschew – as much as its lack of narrative conviction. There’s not a character onstage that generates any real interest because there’s not a real character anywhere onstage.
Visually, however, it’s beautiful to behold. Corella’s choreography is riveting, and the physical production is sumptuous.
So Jung Shin was a delicate Nikiya. Jack Thomas was an elegant Solor, who betrays her for the daughter of the Rajah. Alexandra Heier was imperious as that daughter. Sterling Baca was inadvertently too charismatic as Brahmin, the rejected suitor of Nikiya.
Visit paballet.org for ticket information.
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