St. Paul’s Church to host ‘Five Fridays’ fundraising piano recital

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/1/24

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, will continue “Five Fridays,” the congregation’s fundraising recitals, Feb. 2.

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St. Paul’s Church to host ‘Five Fridays’ fundraising piano recital


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, will continue “Five Fridays,” the congregation’s series of fundraising recitals, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. The featured artist will be pianist Sonya Ovrutsky Fensome.

Fensome’s program is a challenging roster of virtuosic piano works: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, first arranged by Franz Liszt and then further hyped by Vladimir Horowitz; “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel; and “L’Oiseau de feu” (The “Firebird” Suite) by Igor Stravinsky.

Born in Moscow, Russia, Fensome is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied piano with Herbert Stessin and chamber music with Felix Galimir. Now living in Boston, she teaches on the faculty of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

For ticket information visit 

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill will mark the beginning of Black History Month with a Choral Evensong Sunday, Feb. 4, at 5 p.m. It will be what organizers describe as a “service of recognition and celebration of Black history in worship, music and art.”

Sopranos Jessica Beebe and Rebecca Myers, founding members of the vocal ensemble Variant Six, will perform a program entitled “Haute Voix” (High Voice) Saturday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. They will be joined by harpsichordist Leon Schelhase and viola da gamba player Sarah Cunningham in music by Purcell, Couperin and Carissimi.

For ticket information visit

Schumann at Woodmere

Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum hosted a recital featuring pianist Marja Kaisla and baritone Randall Scarlata Friday, Jan. 20. A varied roster of music by the German romantic composer Robert Schumann comprised the evening’s musical offerings: the song cycle “Dichterliebe” (Poet’s Love) before intermission and the “Arabesque” and “Fantasie in C major” following the interval.

Scarlata’s baritone is an instrument of resplendent fullness of tone, seamless transition across the “passaggio” from low to high registers, command over a vast array of colors and dynamics, and sharp yet unaffected diction. He caught the shifting emotions of the text – from mild disappointment to devastating despair with expressivity and conviction.

While the “Arabesque,” Opus 18, is an exquisite example of Schumann’s engaging simplicity of romantic feelings, his “Fantasie,” Opus 17, reveals him at his most grandiose. Spread out over three sprawling movements, it encompasses a world of both dazzling brilliance and aching intimacy. It rings with triumphant bravura and sings with gentle lyricism.

Kaisla delineated all of its contradictory sentiments – emphasizing one here and another there -- without breaking the common thread connecting each to the other. She drew an amazing kaleidoscope of voices, colors and textures from Woodmere’s mildly limited instrument, causing this pianist to wonder what heights she might have scaled on a Steinway grand piano.

Next on Woodmere’s roster of classical concerts is Tempesta di Mare: ”Lisette – A Song’s Journey from Haiti and Back” Saturday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. Kaisla, violinist Paul Arnold and cellist Ovidiu Marinescu will return to Woodmere Saturday, March 2, at 5 p.m. for a program of music by Beethoven and Dvorak. Visit

Bach Orchestral Suites

Jeffrey Brillhart conducted the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in two performances of the Four Orchestral Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. Although the first, Friday, Jan. 19, drew a sparse audience due to the snowstorm that blanketed the region, the second, Sunday, Jan. 21, played to a full house.

While Bach’s six “Brandenburg” Concertos proffer a spectacular variety of scoring and form, the Orchestral Suites are more characterized by similarity than difference. They all open with an “Ouverture” which is then followed by a series of dance movements.

Only the First in C major and the Third in D major have retained universal popularity: the former because it’s a virtual flute concerto and the latter because of its sublime aria“.” The Second and Fourth offer much beauty, but neither stands out in Bach’s canon, whereas all six of the “Brandenburg” Concertos are unique in every way. It might have been wiser to open the program with the First Suite and close with the Third while placing two of the “Brandenburg” Concertos to end the first half and open the second.

Brillhart elicited exemplary playing from the Chamber Orchestra’s musicians. The ensemble was excellent, balance and blend were impressive, tempi were wisely chosen, rhythms were expertly projected, dynamics were broadly ranged, and phrasing was stylistically clean and crisp. Edward Schultz was the admirable soloist in the First Suite. I did, however, miss at least one double bass and a more forceful continuo harpsichord.

Next on the Chamber Orchestra’s roster will be a program of works by Rameau, Leclair and Locatelli Friday, Feb. 16, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. Geoffrey McDonald will conduct and Alana Youssefian will be his violin soloist. For ticket information call 215-545-1739 or visit 

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