Local orchestra members perform virtually from home

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/12/21

Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, continued its “virtual” season in a most unusual way over the final days of January and the first few of February.

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Local orchestra members perform virtually from home

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Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, continued its “virtual” season in a most unusual way over the final days of January and the first few of February. Rather than film a performance by five of the ensemble’s members playing in a given venue – such as the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, one of Tempesta’s “local” homes – co-directors Gwyn Roberts & Richard Stone made dazzling use of modern technology.

With inventive help from the magic of the Internet, recorder & flute player Roberts and lute/theorbo/guitar player Stone’s performances were recorded in their South Philadelphia home. Harpsichordist Adam Peral’s playing was recorded in Baltimore, where the Peabody Conservatory of Music alumnus is on the school’s faculty. Violinist Emlyn Ngai’s playing was recorded in his Hartford home while viola da gamba player Lisa Terry’s efforts were recorded in New York.

All five performances were given simultaneously, each musician hearing the other four in “real time,” and were then mixed to produce a seamless musical experience. The final result was an “online virtual” concert that came amazingly close to what we used to consider “the real thing.”

Do I think that such endeavors will ever replace “the real thing”? No, I don’t. But until “the real thing” is again a possibility, I believe that these five musical eggs were beautifully cracked to make a delicious omelet.

Tempesta’s winter concert was intriguingly entitled “Expats and Immigrants.” It focused on the careers of composers who were born in one country and who then emigrated to another or others for varying reasons.

The most famous of these was George Frideric Handel. Born in Germany, he moved to several Italian cities for study with the masters of the Baroque style, then returned to Germany for a brief sojourn only to follow the George, Prince Elector of Hanover, to England to be crowned King George I upon the death of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs. George established the royal line that still sits on the throne (in the person of Queen Elizabeth II) to this day while Handel established himself as one of the greatest composers of all time.

While Handel is best known for his many oratorios such as “Messiah,” several dozen Italian operas such as “Julius Caesar, and orchestral masterpieces such as the “Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” he also wrote many exquisite works for chamber music. The program included a “Trio Sonata” for recorder, violin, and continuo comprised of cello & organ.

The influence of Handel’s study in Italy is immediately apparent in the form he chose for this “Trio Sonata:” the five movements of the “Sonata da Chiesa” established during the previous generation of the early Baroque master, Arcangelo Corelli.

Roberts, Ngai, Terry & Pearl caught the suave lyricism of the score’s first moment, propelling the music to flow unimpeded from the heart through the mind to the soul. They projected the cheerfulness of the second movement Allegro, the impressive majesty of the third movement Adagio, the fleet fugal lines of the fourth movement Allegro, and the energetic dance of the Finale. Amazingly, ensemble and balance were flawless, enabling the musicians to delineate a sterling interpretation of a delightful gem of the 18th century chamber music repertoire.

The concert also included worked by Jean Baptiste Lully, who was born in Italy but who moved to France and became the arbiter of all French music; Giovanni Valentini, who was born in Venice and who moved to Warsaw, the, Gratz, and then Vienna; Francesco Barsanti, who was born in Italy and then moved to England and finally Scotland; and several other, less well-known composers. All their works received expert readings from the Tempesta musicians.

BEETHOVEN’S ‘FIRST’

Principal guest conductor-designate Nathalie Stutzmann conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in a short “virtual” concert that brought the month of January to a close and opened February with a classical flavor. The program’s principal work was Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 1 in C major.” Also performed was the Bonn master’s “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus” and Elgar’s “Salute to Love” as an encore.

Stutzmann’s work on the podium was thoroughly competent from a purely technical standpoint but almost indiscernible from the angle of personality projection. Absolutely nothing went wrong but not very much went right, either. In both of the first two works, Stutzmann failed to reveal herself as a musician who views Beethoven as the last great classical composer, the first great romantic composer, or the bridge between the two modes of musical expression. Did she get in the way of Beethoven’s music? No. Did she uncover anything new in it? No. The Elgar was difficult to notice, at all.

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

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