Tempesta opens season with Handel, Vivaldi

by Michael Caruso
Posted 10/19/23

Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, will open its 2023-24 concert season Oct. 21 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.

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Tempesta opens season with Handel, Vivaldi


Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, will open its 2023-24 concert season Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. The concert will feature music by two of the three most prominent composers of the Baroque era: George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi.

Together with Johann Sebastian Bach, Handel and Vivaldi form a musical trio of composers whose works have come to define baroque music. The style bridged that of the Renaissance and the Classical, beginning in and around 1600 and continuing through approximately 1750. While Bach was German-born and Vivaldi Italian-born, Handel was born in Germany, studied in Italy and settled in England.

Saturday evening’s concert includes two of Handel’s most popular works, the Suites in F and G major of his “Water Music,” composed to be performed on barges sailing down the River Thames. Vivaldi was most famous for his concerti for various numbers of instruments. His Flute Concerto in G major will be receiving its modern premiere and it will be joined by his “Concerto in D for the Solemnity of St. Lorenzo.”

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Weekend Wrap Up

I needed no better proof than the weekend of Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8, that the local classical music concert season is up and running following the summer break. Three concerts were on my docket – among far more that took place – and all three proffered stellar performances.

The first was heard at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill with the opening Oct. 6 of  “Five Fridays.” Next on the roster was Lyric Fest’s “La Serenata: Songs and Serenades from Italy for Voice and Guitar.” Lyric Fest was founded and is directed by Chestnut Hill pianist Laura Ward and East Falls mezzo-soprano Suzanne DuPlantis. Finally, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia opened its 2023-24 season with a pair of concerts highlighting three beloved scores by Felix Mendelssohn.

“Five Fridays” presented violinist Danbi Um and pianist Mika Sasaki in a program of works by Harry Burleigh, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg and Fritz Kreisler. Although one might argue that the sonatas by Strauss and Grieg were the evening’s most substantial scores, it was the pair that opened and closed the recital – Burleigh’s “Four Southern Sketches” and two musical morsels by Kreisler – that were the evening’s most captivating.

Burleigh is most famous for his choral arrangements of African-American spirituals, a gift with which he invested his writing for violin and piano. Um and Sasaki caught the energy and poignance invigorating and resonating in these four vignettes. The former’s tone sang and soared while the latter coaxed textural clarity out of the parish’s vintage Steinway.

The duo projected the virtuosic charm of Kreisler’s “Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice” and “Viennese Rhapsodie Fantasietta.”

Um and Sasaki invested their interpretation of Strauss’ early Sonata in E-flat major with all the romantic passion yet surprising classical development of this unusual opus from one of the operatic and symphonic repertoire's most thrilling masters. Likewise, they delineated the folksy yet structured solidity of Grieg’s Sonata No. 2 in G major.

“Five Fridays” raises funds for the local charities “Face to Face” and “Family Promise.” The next recital features the vocal ensemble “Vox Fidelis” on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Lyric Fest’s “La Serenata” featured soprano Jessica Beebe, tenor Charles Calotta and baritone Jean Bernard Cerin accompanied by West Mt. Airy guitarist Allen Krantz. Divided into seven sections and performed without intermission, their program spanned the centuries from the Renaissance through contemporary popular music. Through the clever balancing of the three vocal ranges and sporting exquisite arrangements for guitar from various sources by Krantz, the recital was an unvarnished pleasure to hear.

Beebe sang with beguiling purity of tone and molten lyricism, Calotta’s voice rang with Italianate brilliance and Cerin sang with deep-hewn resonance. From start to finish, Krantz’s arrangements and renditions were flawless. He proffered surprising tonal strength fashioned into sensitive support.

The entire experience was enhanced by the venue: the neo-gothic chapel of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. The visual setting, including three magnificent Tiffany stained glass windows, was matched by peerless acoustics.

The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia opened its 2023-24 season with music by Mendelssohn and a “welcome back” to David Hayes, the former music director of the sadly departed Philadelphia Singers who stepped in on 48 hours-notice for an indisposed Dirk Brosse, the ensemble’s music director. His command over the program’s scores and the musicians’ playing was exemplary.

Sunday afternoon’s soloist was the Spanish-born violinist, Francisco Fullana. He played Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor with melting lyricism and scintillating pyrotechnic. His tuning was immaculate, his dynamics and vibrato were broadly essayed, and he invested his interpretation with distinction.

Hayes accompanied him efficaciously. He caught the magic of the Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the engaging high spirits of the “Italian” Symphony No. 4 in A major. In between the overture and symphony, he led an energetic reading of Jessie Montgomery’s “Starburst.”

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