by Michael Caruso
The Chestnut Hill-based Pennsylvania Girlchoir performed a concert of varied music Sunday, April 14, in Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Society Hill. Conducted by Christopher Windle and accompanied at the piano by Abigail LaVecchia, the Troubador and Trouvere divisions of the larger ensemble sang music drawn from the Renaissance all the way up to contemporary times with style and panache.
The Troubadors and the Trouveres feature singers younger in years and experience than the Pennsylvania Girlchoir’s Motet Choir, the ensemble’s most advanced division. The entire choir rehearses at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill under the direction of Vincent Metallo. It is paired with the Keystone State Boychoir to form the Commonwealth Youthchoirs.
All of the afternoon’s singing benefitted from Old St. Joe’s splendid acoustics, perhaps the finest of any church in Greater Philadelphia. Founded by Jesuit Fathers in 1733 and the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Philadelphia, Old St. Joe’s current structure was built in 1838 in the Greek Revival style. Relatively small in size and made of wood, marble and plaster, the sanctuary offers acoustics that are warmly resonant yet bracingly clear.
Chestnut Hill flutist Anna Meyer will present “Accompanied by Silence: A Musical Meditation on the Theme of Love” Saturday, April 27, in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 120 N. Easton Rd., Glenside. There will be a wine and cheese reception at 5 p.m.; the recital will begin at 6 p.m.
Meyer, the wife of Erik Meyer, music director of Chestnut Hill’s Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, described the program as “exploring the theme of love in music, bringing alive the varied facets of this emotion through solo flute music. Presented as a meditative concert, the solo pieces will be accompanied by simple abstract watercolor paintings to give the listener a place to start his/her meditation. Where words fail us, often silence is our dearest friend; when silence becomes unbearable, there is music.”
Music by Debussy, Fukushima, Lang, Higdon, Roter, Ibert, Meyer, Piazolla and Karg-Elert will be performed. Admission is free.
BACK TO BACH
Under the inspired hands of guest conductor Nicholas McGegan, the Philadelphia Orchestra traveled back to the roots of the orchestral repertoire and presented three performances of an all-Bach program April 18, 19 and 20 in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. I heard the Saturday evening concert with an audience that packed the house and came away impressed by McGegan’s gifts as an interpreter of Bach’s music and his ability to elicit stylish playing from the Philadelphians.
McGegan put together a roster of some of Bach’s most magnificent scores — and then had to reconfigure it after Thursday’s performance due to a lip injury suffered by principal trumpeter David Bilger. Out went the “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 2 in F major and in came the “Concerto for Two Violins & Orchestra in D minor.” The concert still opened with the “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 1 in F major and continued with “Brandenburg” No. 3 in G major, but it was “Brandenburg” No. 4 in G major that rounded out the program’s first half. The Double Violin Concerto opened the evening’s second half, with the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D minor rounding out the concert. One can only hope for a quick recovery for Bilger, but I for one was delighted to hear the Double Violin Concerto.
The score received a splendid rendition, especially by first associate concertmaster Juliette Kang, who took the first violin part. She proved that a violinist playing a modern instrument is able to deliver as stylistic an interpretation of a baroque score as any violinist on a period instrument if she understands the traditions of the music and has the technique to deliver her interpretation.
Principal flutist Jeffrey Khaner delivered a magnificent reading of the first flute part in the Fourth “Brandenburg.” He elicited a consistently clear tone from his golden flute — certainly not of the baroque period, when they were made of wood, but just as certainly a peerless instrument for his superb musicality.
McGegan was at his best in the Third Orchestral Suite. He marshaled musical forces that were massive for Bach’s day and brought the house to its feet. The performance revealed the scope of Bach’s genius and the Philadelphians’ mastery of a part of the repertoire that should be regularly programmed since it forms the foundation of classical music.
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