April 1, 2010

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Hiller’s ‘enriching experience’ with choral ensemble

Valentin Radu will conduct the Ama Deus Ensemble Chorus & Orchestra in an all-Brahms program Good Friday, April 2, 8 p.m. in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. The concert will open with the “Violin Concerto,” featuring Thomas DiSarlo as soloist, and conclude with the “’German’ Requiem,” with vocal soloists Tatyana Galitskaya and Ed Bara.

Among the members of the chorus is Chestnut Hiller Claudia Becker, who is in her sixth year as a chorister, fifth year as its librarian and second year as a member of the board of directors.

Recalling her joining the ensemble, she said, “The Ama Deus Ensemble was scheduled to perform a Bach concert at my church, Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mt. Airy, in the spring of 2005. Vox invited Holy Cross choir members to join them in this concert, but only after an audition in the late summer just prior to the 2005 season. I was intrigued by the invitation because I was looking for a more challenging musical experience than that which was provided by my church choir; but I also had a good deal of hesitation because I had no prior experience singing large choral works. Until that time, my music experience consisted of many years of classical piano.

“Following the audition, I was invited to sing the entire season with the ensemble. The first choral work I performed with Vox was Schubert’s ‘Mass No. 6.’ Much to my delight, I discovered that with practice I could sing the correct notes, and once the correct notes were learned, I could experience the technical mastery and beauty of this music on a new level, as a participant, not just a listener. That experience has been repeated over and over with many great choral works that are part of the Vox repertoire, from Bach’s ‘Mass in B minor’ to Beethoven’s ‘Missa Solemnis,’ Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’ and many more.

“This enriching experience continues to the present,” she added, “as Vox prepares for its performance of Brahms’ ‘German’ Requiem on April 2, Good Friday, and Mozart’s ‘Great Mass in C minor’ on April 30, both in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater.”

Becker explained that she enjoys the warmth and camaraderie that exists within Vox. Starting with director Valentin Radu, it continues through the ranks of the ensemble. “I look forward to our weekly rehearsals,” she said, “not only because I’m singing great music; I’m doing so with great friends.”

For ticket information, call 610-688-2800 or visit


Tempesta di Mare performed Jan Dismas Zelenka’s “Lamentations of Jeremiah” Friday night, March 26, in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. A Czech contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, Zelenka set verses by the Old Testament prophet used in synagogues in commemoration of the two destructions of the Temple in Jerusalem and in churches on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. He composed six cantatas for vocal soloist and chamber ensemble in the early baroque style. Tempesta’s director Gwyn Roberts and Richard Stone divided the six to make two equal halves of an intriguing and enlightening program.

Tempesta di Mare fielded a roster of musicians that included 13 instrumentalists and three vocalists. Best of the latter group was tenor Aaron Sheehan. His singing struck an admirable balance between recalling the aesthetic style of baroque singing and remembering that he was performing here and now for a contemporary audience of music-lovers and not a convention of musicologists. Among the players, Gwyn Roberts and Eve Friedman on flutes and recorder, Debra Nagy and Stephen Bard on oboes, and Marilyn Boenau on bassoon were especially deserving of praise.


The city by the bay sent its symphony orchestra to Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for an exhilarating concert last Tuesday evening, March 23. Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, its music director since 1995, and joined by the Westminster Symphonic Choir of Princeton, New Jersey, the San Francisco Symphony performed Mahler’s “‘Resurrection’ Symphony No. 2 in C minor” before an enthusiastic audience that virtually packed Verizon Hall. If it wasn’t the finest rendition of this splendid work I’ve ever heard, it certainly ranks up there with the best.

During the last decade or so, Tilson Thomas has made of himself one of the world’s most highly respected interpreters of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Several of his recordings of the scores with the San Francisco Symphony are considered the most telling and moving currently available on compact disc.



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