Tempeste di Mare opens season with virtual performance

by Michael Caruso
Posted 11/6/20

Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, opened its 2020-21 season with a virtual performance recorded at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. The concert was streamed Oct. 23-25 and was a …

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Tempeste di Mare opens season with virtual performance

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Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, opened its 2020-21 season with a virtual performance recorded at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. The concert was streamed Oct. 23-25 and was a delight to experience, both to the eye as well as to the ear.

The concert was entitled “The Four Winds” and the program of included music composed by Loeillet, Schickhardt, Boismortier, Telemann, and Fasch. The featured players were founders/directors Gwyn Roberts & Richard Stone, Forrest Ransburg, Priscilla Herreid, Rachel Begley and Lisa Terry.

The “concept” of four winds was cleverly fleshed out with music that included both the older recorder and the newer transverse flute, both made of wood. As instrumental ensembles grew in size in response to their playing in larger and larger venues, the biting yet less dynamically flexible tones of the recorder gave way to the more lyrically expressive sounds of the transverse flute. Oboe and bassoon added to Tempesta’s tonal spectrum.

In time, the wooden flute was forced to give way to its modern metal counterpart for the same reason. In our day, the flute is made out of silver, gold and platinum. All the same, I’ve always wondered why so few composers ever paired the two together, highlighting their different timbres for different effects.

Loeillet’s Sonata in B minor opened the program, and to my delight it features both flutes and recorders along with viola da gamba and theorbo as the “basso continuo.” Divided into the traditional four movements of the baroque “sonata di chiesa,” the score opens slowly and gracefully, picks up speed in the second movement, turns more reflective in the third and then dashes with dance-like abandon for the fourth. It was played beautifully.

Next up was Schickhardt’s Sonata in G major for two recorders, oboe and “continuo.” Its first movement sports intricate counterpoint, its second pairs the two recorders on one side and the oboe on the other, and gives the gamba an active solo line to play. The third movement speeds along while the closing fourth whips up a beguiling frenzy. It received a winning rendition.

Boismortier’s Sonata in B minor proffered the full complement of players for a grand first movement, an impressively imitative second movement, and a two-step dance for the third. Telemann’s Sonata in D minor brought in the bassoon to innovative effect. One could hear the development of classical chamber music just around the corner.

Fasch’s lovely Sonata in G major once again gave us that rarely heard recorder/flute duo, and Schickhardt’s Concerto in D minor gave us a sonic hint at Tempesta’s full ensemble. Both were given beguiling readings.

AVA’s ‘GIARGIARI’

Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, the nation’s only all-scholarship graduate school devoted solely to the study of singing, streamed its 42nd annual “Giargiari Bel Canto Voice Competition” Oct. 24-26. Performed in the school’s own auditorium over 12 hours divided into two days, the event featured some of the school’s most promising young singers and highlighted AVA’s resilience in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Hats off to East Falls’ K. James McDowell, the school’s president & artistic director.

Twelve students sang music by Verdi, Donizetti, Thomas, Charpentier, Offenbach, Gounod, Bellini, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The winner of the “Judges’ Special Prize” was Eric Delagrange. The winner of the “Second Prize” was Anne Marie Stanley of Philadelphia. And the winner of both the “First Prize” and the “Audience Choice Prize” was Kara Mulder.

Mulder was my favorite, as well -- and not just because she sang so beautifully, expressively and powerfully. She did, indeed. But it was her choice that won me over even before she sang a single note. She performed the sublime “Marietta’s Lied” from Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt.” Although Korngold is deservedly revered as the finest of all the film composers who labored during Hollywood’s “Golden Era,” he was a highly acclaimed composer of classical music and opera before the Nazis forced him to leave Germany because he was Jewish. While it’s true that all of those Errol Flynn swashbuckling films were saved by Korngold’s scores, one can’t help but wonder at all the great operas and symphonies he might have composed if it weren’t for the kind of racial/ethnic/religious hatred that continues to raise its ugly head in our own times.

And lest I forget: piano accompanist Danielle Orlando played magnificently at the Steinway for all 12 singers.

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

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