Romanian-born Maestro Valentin Radu led one of his three ensembles in an all-Handel program two weekends ago and is set to lead a second of the three in celebration of springtime two weekends hence. It was the Camerata Ama Deus that performed three suites and two concerti in Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Society Hill Friday, May 13. It will be the Vox Renaissance Consort that will present “Renaissance Springtide” 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 4 in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church here in Chestnut Hill. Roxborough harpsichordist Bronwyn Fix-Keller, as a member of the baroque continuo along with cellist Vivian Barton Dozer, was and will be at the very heart of the music-making.
In the “Suites for Strings & Continuo in G minor & F major,” the “Concerto Grosso for Two Violins & Cello in D minor,” the “Violin Concerto in B-flat major” and the “Trumpet Suite in D major,” Handel’s peerless gifts of melody, harmony and orchestration were so beautifully delineated that one heard in his music a sensual counterpart to Bach’s unequalled genius for counterpoint and structure. Even when writing for purely instrumental ensembles, Handel’s style always harked back to his true love – the human voice, spectacularly on display in his many operas and oratorios. The singing line was always paramount to Handel, even when he wrote in the fugal style so favored by Bach.
The fully costumed Vox Renaissance Consort will present a program of a capella motets and madrigals complemented by instrumental interludes 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 4. The program will run approximately 75 minutes with no intermission. For ticket information, call 215-688-2800 or visit www.VoxAmaDeus.org.
Chief conductor Charles Dutoit led the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Singers Chorale and four vocal soloists in a program pairing Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” with Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony No. 9 in D minor. The concerts took place May 19-24 in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, and Saturday night’s performance very nearly filled the hall’s 2,500 seats. If it wasn’t quite like the “good old days” when the late Eugene Ormandy used to pack the 3,000-seat Academy of Music whenever he led Beethoven’s mighty Ninth Symphony, it came about as close as we’re likely to get these days. That is, of course, unless the orchestra decides to return to the Academy of Music, the ensemble’s beloved previous home and a facility it still owns. There it could give fewer performances for larger audiences, saving countless dollars over the course of even a single season.
The joining of the Stravinsky with the Beethoven looked better on paper than it sounded in concert. Composed for the 50th anniversary season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1930-31, “Symphony of Psalms” definitively falls within the parameters of the Russian-born composer’s middle or neo-classical stylistic period. As such, it should work well alongside any work by Beethoven, since Beethoven remains the archetypical classical composer. Or does he? Beethoven’s genius transcended any and all classifications. It could easily be said of him that he never met a classical form he didn’t intend to expand to the point of non-recognition. And there’s no doubt that several of his symphonies – especially the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh – prepare the way for the romantic symphonies of the remaining decades of the 19th century, from Schumann through Mahler.
That point can certainly be maintained about the Ninth Symphony. Although the internal classical tradition of motivic development is present and accounted for, the external shape of the Ninth bears little resemblance even to its immediate predecessor, the graceful Eighth Symphony.
Saturday evening’s program offered an even more emotionally inexpressive reading of the Stravinsky than usual, poised against a grandly theatrical rendition of the Beethoven. Whereas Dutoit seemed to be holding everyone back in the former – the orchestra’s tones were pointed yet pale, and the chorale sang with crisp correctness - he elicited broad sonic strokes from the orchestra, thunderous outpourings from the chorale and exemplary efforts from soprano Melanie Diener, mezzo-soprano Mary Phillips, tenor Joseph Kaiser and bass-baritone Nathan Berg. Although Dutoit failed to enliven the primitive purity of the Stravinsky, his interpretation of the grandiose Beethoven received an ecstatic standing ovation.
All six branches of Settlement Music School will host an Open House, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 4. There will be performances by students enrolled in the ballet and dance classes, piano and violin students, string and woodwind ensembles, and members of the school’s children’s choir. There will also be tours of Settlement’s newest branch in Willow Grove, located at 318 Davisville Road.
For more information, visit www.smsmusic.org. Call the Willow Grove Branch at 215-320-2630. The Germantown Branch is located at 6128 Germantown Ave. Contact that branch at 215-320-2610.