Woodmere Art Museum announces classical music recitals

by Michael Caruso
Posted 9/21/23

Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum has announced a fall/winter season of classical concerts that includes five performances.

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Woodmere Art Museum announces classical music recitals


Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum has announced a fall/winter season of classical concerts that includes five performances, highlighted by the return of its most popular offering from last year: the back-to-back recitals featuring Finnish-born pianist Marja Kaisla.

The roster of concerts begins Saturday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. with “Romantic Music for Cello and Piano: Music of Brahms, Debussy and Kodaly.” The musicians are cellist Scott Ballantyne and pianist Hiroko.

The trio of composers encompass three different strains in musical romanticism. Although Johannes Brahms lived securely in the “romantic” 19th century, his music was often likened to that of Beethoven rather than that of his contemporaries Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Peter Tchaikovsky and Anton Bruckner.

Claude Debussy’s music is universally described as “impressionistic,” a particularly French-based strain of romanticism. His groundbreaking approach to harmony and development inspired fellow Frenchman Maurice Ravel, Italian Ottorino Respighi, and Spaniards Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados.

Along with Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly scoured the Hungarian and Romanian hinterlands to record the folk music of those living on the land before it was lost forever. Their efforts to reinvigorate the medieval modes in favor of major/minor tonality were mirrored most notably and successfully in England by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Woodmere’s classical music season continues Sunday, Oct. 29, at 3 p.m. with “An Afternoon of Instrumental Sonatas and Concertos.” The players are drawn from the Philadelphia Music Alliance Artists Initiative. 

Next up is the “Kaisla Double Bill.” The pianist will be joined by chamber musicians for “An Evening of Beethoven and Dvorak” Friday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m., and baritone Randall Scarlata Saturday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m. for music by Robert Schumann. 

Over lunch on a recent Saturday afternoon at the Germantown Cricket Club, Kaisla explained, “Inspired by having read a biography of Robert Schumann, I wanted to put together a program showing some of the composer’s compositional styles. The song cycle, ‘Dichterliebe, A Poet’s Love,’ is set to 16 poems by Heinrich Heine. The song cycle was written when Schumann was separated from Clara Weick Schumann. The music is achingly beautiful as it celebrates their life together but also dwells on the challenges they endured as Clara’s father opposed their union. I couldn’t be happier than to present this song cycle with the Grammy Award-winning baritone, Randal Scarlata.”

The program also includes the Fantasie in C major, Opus 17. “It’s a perfect example of Schumann’s ‘stream-of-consciousness’ style of composing – totally out of the box! Only recently have I felt that I might now be experienced enough in life to tackle the Fantasie. I find the ‘Arabesque’ to be a ‘baby-version’ of the Fantasie, so I’m really looking forward to pairing them together for the audience.”

Continuing, Kaisla said, “The Beethoven Piano Trio, the first work Beethoven considered to be substantial enough to be published, is sunny, energetic, and life-affirming music, all of which is what I believe our world needs so badly, especially now.

“While the structure of the Beethoven is mostly traditional, the Dvorak ‘Dumky’ Trio is the opposite regarding its form: there are six sections, three being seamlessly sewn together, but somehow, magically, the Trio gives the impression of being a four-movement work. The themes in it are all based on ‘dumkas,’ Ukrainian folk tunes, creating a fantasy of a quintessential Slavic emotional rollercoaster.”

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Meet the Musicians at the Chestnut Hill Library

The first of an upcoming “duet” of programs called “Meet the Musicians,” sponsored by the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, will be presented at the Chestnut Hill Library.

The Renaissance band Piffaro will kick off the first on Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. Founded in 1980 and currently led by Music Director Priscilla Herreid, Piffaro has played in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.

The second program, on Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m., features Warren Oree and members of the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble. A staple of the Philadelphia jazz scene since 1979, the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble is the house band for the Woodmere Art Museum’s perennially sold-out Friday Night Jazz series. 

Settlement in Germantown

The Germantown Branch of Settlement Music School, located at 6128 Germantown Avenue, will be hosting a series of free recitals in its newly renovated Performance Park. Admission is free.

Faculty members Zach Poyatt and Andy Thierauf will be performing Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. Settlement alumnus Kendrah Butler-Waters will perform Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. Kristopher Rudzinski, of Plymouth Meeting, is the branch director in Germantown.

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Lyric Fest

Lyric Fest, the vocal/instrumental ensemble founded and directed by East Falls mezzo-soprano Suzanne DuPlantis and Chestnut Hill pianist Laura Ward, will open its season Oct. 7, 8 & 10 with “La Serenata.” The program of Italian songs will feature soprano Jessica Beebe, tenor James Reese, baritone Jean Bernard Cerin, and guitarist Allen Krantz.

Performance dates and venues are Saturday, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m. in the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave, Bryn Mawr; Sunday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m., in the Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce St., Philadelphia; and Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in Community House of Moorestown, 16 E. Main St., Moorestown, N.J.

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