Tempesta di Mare celebrates and the orchestra played Mahler

by Michael Caruso
Posted 4/25/24

Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, will present “Bach & Telemann: Four Flavors of Concerto” on April 28 in Chestnut Hill.

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Tempesta di Mare celebrates and the orchestra played Mahler


Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, will present “Bach & Telemann: Four Flavors of Concerto” Sunday, April 28, at 4 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. Eight of the ensemble’s core players will perform concerti by Giovanni Antonio Guido, George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann.

 Tempesta’s founders and director, Gwyn Roberts (recorder/flute) and Richard Stone (lute/theorbo) explained during a recent conversation how many ideas and considerations go into determining the works that will comprise a particular season and its concert programs. Both have particular composers and works from the baroque repertoire that hold interest, either because they’re simply so good or perhaps because they’ve been overlooked.

 Connections with other better-known composers, such as a teacher/student relationship, come into play as well as unusual scoring or form and structure.

 “And we also must consider drawing an audience,” Roberts reminded. “We often have to balance between scores that are audience favorites and works that are less well-known but are also appealing.”

 Stone added, “It’s a balance between knowing what our audiences would like to hear again with what we hope they’ll be interested in finding out about.”

 Both explained the added necessity of including personnel forces into the mix. A continuity of instrumentation is a required ingredient so that all the players on hand are taking part in most of the individual selections on a program.

 Venues, their accommodations and their acoustics also need to be taken into consideration, especially since there is no suitable site for period instruments ensembles in Center City, Philadelphia. Beyond question, the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater (seating approximately 600) fits the bill regarding size and acoustics – but its astronomical rental fee shoots its bill out of reach of most not-for-profit classical music groups.

 This point has become all the more challenging, since much of the funding for such ensembles from local foundations has dried up because it has been switched to other projects. Tempesta frequently performs in churches such as Chestnut Hill Presbyterian and the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Savior in West Philadelphia, or the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium, but suitable venues in Center City, itself, are few and far between.

 While forced economies can no doubt be made, it seems unfair in the face of the internationally acclaimed reputation Tempesta has earned and garnered for the excellence of its interpretations of music drawn from the baroque and early classical repertoires. Tickets for Tempesta’s Sunday afternoon concert can be ordered at or by calling 215-755-8776. 

 Orchestra plays Mahler

 Music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in concert Sunday afternoon in the soon-to-be-renamed Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center. The Philadelphians’ charismatic maestro led the ensemble in its first performances of “Four Songs” by Alma Schindler-Mahler and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in E minor. 

 The concert was heard by an audience that packed what will soon and deservedly be known as “Marian Anderson Hall,” thereby removing the sting of being named after a phone booth.

 Alma Schindler was a well-respected composer in her own right before she married Gustav, who demanded that she suspend her own career if they were to be married. She did – and the world lost a distinctive voice in the early decades of the 20th century. Composed between 1900-01, the four songs sung Sunday afternoon were orchestrated in 1995 by Colin and David Matthews.

 With mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill as the soloist and Nezet-Seguin leading the full Philadelphia Orchestra behind her, local audiences were treated to glowing renditions of a quartet of imaginatively conceived and subtly realized vocal masterpieces.

 Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is one of the least regularly performed of his ten efforts in the form. That lack of regularity is perfectly understandable whenever you hear it in concert. Its 80+ minutes is too long for its own good, not so much because the musical material isn’t worthy of the composer’s treatment but because its five moments barely seem to know each other and certainly never come together to form a whole greater than their individual parts.

 All the same, no one could ever deny that the Maestro and his Philadelphians gave the score a resounding reading that deserved every shouted “bravo!” it received. Although balance – particularly with the brass choir and the rest of the sections – was occasionally out-of-kilter, I suspect that the fault was more that of the hall’s problematic acoustics rather than the ear of Nezet-Seguin. Even so, the strings glistened with luster and the woodwinds sang with angelic lyricism.

 The Philadelphia Orchestra’s next Sunday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. is scheduled for April 28. Nathalie Stuzmann will conduct Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony and W.A. Mozart’s Requiem Mass.

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