‘Month of Moderns’ Features Two World Premieres

by Michael Caruso
Posted 6/1/22

The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will present the first concert in The Crossing’s 2022 “Month of Moderns” Saturday, June 11, at 7 p.m.

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‘Month of Moderns’ Features Two World Premieres


The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will present the first concert in The Crossing’s 2022 “Month of Moderns” Saturday, June 11, at 7 p.m. The program is entitled “The Books of Color and of Never” and will be preceded at 6 p.m. by a pre-performance discussion by Donald Nally, the choir’s founder and director.

The concert includes the world premieres of Aaron Helgeson’s “The Book of Never” and Marcos Balter’s “The Book of Color.”

“The Book of Never” is an adaptation of the “Norwegian Codex,” a wooden book of Psalms believed to date from the year 999 A.D. and thought to have been owned by a monk sent to convert the village of Novgorod (in what is now war-torn Ukraine) from paganism to Greek Orthodox Christianity. Following his excommunication, he continued to preserve the history of the village by writing the Codex. “The Book of Never” was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition of Brigham Young University.

“The Book of Colors” uses Jude Stewart’s book “ROY G BIV” as a stepping off point for an exploration of color in our lives: how it lifts us, changes us, makes connections, and inspires thought.

For more information visit crossingchoir.org.

Mozart and More

Dirk Brosse and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia closed out their 2021-22 season of concerts with performances Sunday and Monday, May 22 and 23, in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. It was the first season in three to be offered “in person” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.   

The program featured two works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 (“Turkish”) and the “Jupiter” Symphony No. 41 in C major, K.551. In between was the appropriately titled “Entr’acte” by Caroline Shaw. The soloist in the Concerto was Bella Hristova.

When Mozart composed his Fifth Violin Concerto in 1775, the threat of invasion by the Ottoman Turkish Empire had receded due to the staunch resistance of the Habsburg Austrian Empire. Fear of the Ottomans had so greatly diminished, many composers quoted “Turkish” stylistic elements in their scores to the delight of their audiences. Several years later, Mozart included a “Turkish March” in his Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331.


Hristova brought an iron-clad digital technique, immaculate tuning, rhythmic vitality, pointed yet eloquent phrasing, and an interpretive flair based solidly upon stylistic authenticity. Although Hristova played on a modern metal-strung violin rather than on a period gut-strung instrument, she honored the classical style in which the score was composed while nonetheless investing the music with a modern aesthetic of clear-eyed emotional delineation. She also played her own cadenzas. Once again, she caught Mozart’s original spirit by invigorating the music with her panache.

Brosse’s approach to the “Jupiter” Symphony was a tad too staid and predictable for my tastes. Even in the meltingly lyrical second movement “Andante cantabile,” there was almost no bending of the tempo via a gentle “rubato” of the rhythms. The movement’s song sang with nearly metronomic, unvarying precision with nary a breath between one phrase and the next.

The opening “Allegro vivace” approached liveliness but never quite got there. The third movement “Menuetto and Trio” seemed to recall an elegant dance, but only from a distance. I found very little “allegro” (fast and cheerful) in the closing movement. I was also disappointed in the overall quality and quantity of the playing of the string section Sunday afternoon. The sound was dry and astringent, and there just didn’t seem to be quite enough of it to balance the ample playing of the woodwind and brass choirs.

While Shaw’s “Entr’acte” wasn’t unattractive, it wasn’t compelling, either. The composer’s excellent ear for textures, in which layers of sounds were built one upon the next, made for interesting listening. Her frequent use of a distinctive yet convincing expansion of traditional major/minor tonality was efficacious. Still, Shaw’s failure to place all of these sounds securely within the context of a clearly delineated structure cast them adrift in an atmosphere of sound effects in search of a television murder mystery to accompany.

Although these were the final concerts in the Chamber Orchestra’s Kimmel Center season, the ensemble won’t be silent until the fall. “Orchestra in the Garden” will present the COP in three pairs of concerts June 2 and 4, 16 and 18, and 30 and July 2. The first features music by Vivaldi; the second offers scores by Telemann, Bach and Handel; and the third showcases music by Purcell, Saint-Georges, Gow, Corelli, Boccherini and Mozart. For more information call 215-545-1739 or visit www.ChamberOrchestra.org.

You can contact NOTEWORTHY at Michael-caruso@comcast.net. To read more of NOTEWORTHY visit chestnuthilllocal.com.