Tempesta di Mare ‘splendid’ in streamed Christmas concert

By Michael Caruso
Posted 1/6/21

Tempesta di Mare provided local music lovers with a remedy to the COVID-19 lockdown that has eliminated in-person concerts since mid-March, 2020.

Piffaro will present their “virtual” concert, “Music for Twelfth Night,” January 5-11.

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Tempesta di Mare ‘splendid’ in streamed Christmas concert

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Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, provided local music lovers with a remedy to the COVID-19 lockdown that has eliminated in-person concerts since mid-March, 2020. In December, 2019, Tempesta presented two local performances of “A Czech Christmas” to packed houses. One took place at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, the other at the Episcopal Cathedral of Philadelphia, located in the University City section of the city. Fortunately, the latter was recorded and was made available through live-streaming for several weeks in December.

In their never-ending search for parts of the classical repertoire that have gone overlooked for centuries, Tempesta co-founders and co-directors Gwyn Roberts and Richard Stone uncovered a trove of early baroque treasures in the early 17th century library of the Archbishop of the Moravian city of Kromeritz.

Throughout the multitude of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties and archbishoprics that comprised the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire, there thrived countless centers of culture. Individual rulers prided themselves in the quantity and quality of their libraries and musical establishments. Scores in elaborate manuscripts abounded and were in constant use until styles changed in the 18th century with the development of larger and larger instrumental ensembles and full-fledged opera companies. It seems as though in no time at all, these collections of exquisite music were forgotten, even as later composers built upon the foundations laid by musicians now considered antiquated by their very heirs.

Forgotten, that is, until performers like Roberts and Stone, who are equal part historians, follow their instincts and re-discover scores of masterpieces just waiting to be brought back into the light of audience appreciation. With the help of vocalists soprano Rebecca Myers, alto Meg Bragle, tenor James Reese & bass Jean-Bernard Cerin, the instrumentalists of Tempesta di Mare gave thrilling interpretations of some of finest works of the early baroque era.

The most memorable of these was a “Magnficat” composed by – who else? – Anonymous. Divided into several movements of instrumental, solo and choral complements, this setting of the Virgin Mary’s joy at having been chosen to bear Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, as found in the New Testament’s Gospel of St. Luke, is a marvel of concise structure, extravagant emotional expression and spiritual revelation.

The vocal writing – both for individuals, pairings and the full quartet – is simply splendid. The text is presented simply yet colorfully, vocal ranges are expansive yet not over-stretched, accompaniments are inspiring yet never overpowering, with the whole coming together as a convincing musical and religious statement of sophistication and conviction.

All four of the vocalists sang beautifully, most especially tenor James Reese. His clear tones, expert diction, and elegant phrasing filled the resonant sanctuary of the Episcopal Cathedral efficaciously. Soprano Rebecca Myers clarion clarity was equally noteworthy.

Violinists Emlyn Ngai & Rebecca Harris proffered beautifully tart lines of contrapuntal lyricism, Richard Stone and Adam Pearl comprised a solid “basso continuo,” and recorders and trumpeters contributed sweet piping and glittering dazzle, respectively.

A host of smaller works complimented the “Magnificat” to remind every music lover just how much we’ve been missing “live” concerts and just how much we appreciate local ensembles such as Tempesta di Mare and their energetic use of modern technology to continue to offer great music to eager audiences. The playing and the singer were superb.

PIFFARO CONCERT

Piffaro, Philadelphia’s Renaissance Band, will present their “virtual” concert, “Music for Twelfth Night,” January 5-11. Visit info@piffaro.org for ticket information.

You can contact NOTEWORTHY at Michael-caruso@comcast.net.

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