Tempesta di Mare closes one season, announces another

by Michael Caruso
Posted 5/31/24

   Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, closed out its 2023-24 season on Saturday, May 18, with an intimate chamber music recital.

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Tempesta di Mare closes one season, announces another


Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, closed out its 2023-24 season Saturday, May 18, with an intimate chamber music recital on the labyrinth in the foyer of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill. At the same time, the ensemble announced its 2024-25 season.

 The good news for local lovers of baroque music, in general, and Tempesta, in particular: all five of the full ensemble performances will be in Chestnut Hill, as will all three of the chamber music recitals.

 The local concert season opens Oct. 6 with “Stolen” and continues Dec. 15 with “A Neapolitan Christmas,” “Ostinato” Feb. 2, April 6 with “Bach: Trio Sonatas,” and closes May 18 with “Faustina & Santina.” The recital series opens Sept. 14 with “Recorder Duets” and continues Nov. 23 with “Weiss: Lute Duets” and “Revolution” April 27. For more information regarding tickets call 215-755-8776 or visit tempestadimare.org.

 Saturday afternoon’s recital featured Lisa Terry on viol da gamba, Gwyn Roberts on flute and recorder, and Richard Stone on lute and theorbo. They were heard in a program of music by Georg Philipp Telemann, Francois Couperin, Jacques Morel, Marin Marais and Johann Sebastian Bach. 

 The program’s most compelling work was the players’ rendition of a realization of Bach’s Trio Sonata in E minor, BWV 527. The Trio Sonatas were originally composed for organ solo: the right hand played the top line of music, the left hand played the middle line of music, and both feet played the bottom line on the pedals. They are considered by every organist I’ve known to be the most difficult to play and interpret of all of Bach’s music for his favorite instrument.

 In this interpretation, Roberts played the top line on the recorder, Terry played the middle line on the viol, and Stone played the pedal part on the theorbo. That last-mentioned assignment might seem like an impossibility – the theorbo is a non-sustaining instrument while the organ is “the dragon that never needs to take a breath” in the words of Igor Stravinsky. And yet, Stone not so much pulled it off as triumphed tonally and artistically. Needless to say, both Roberts and Terry played their parts with contrapuntal sensitivity and lyrical phrasing.

 Philomusica Chorale

 After a postponement earlier this year due to COVID, the Philomusica Chorale was finally able to present two performances of its concert “Grant Us Peace.” The first took place before a packed Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill Saturday evening, May 18; the reprise was given the following day at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

 The Chorale’s program was a mighty one: “Mass for Troubled Times” (Lord Nelson) by Franz Josef Haydn and “Dona Nobis Pacem” (Grant Us Peace) by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I suppose that it might be possible to choose a pair of great sacred choral works even more suited to our times, but I can hardly think of one.

 Artistic director Gayle Wieand presided over her large choir and a full symphonic complement to deliver two stunning interpretations of demanding choral scores. She approached the Haydn with an equally balanced understanding of its tightly knit classical structure as well as its highly pitched delineation of an appreciation of the horrors of war stitched within the promise of eternal salvation assured by the text of every Latin Mass of the Roman Catholic Church.

 Composed during the mid-1930s, as Europe was poised to degenerate into yet another world war, the Anglican Vaughan Williams combined the Latin moniker of “Dona Nobis Pacem” with selections drawn from the Biblical books of Daniel, Jeremiah and Haggai along with poetry by Walt Whitman and John Bright. The result was a text aimed at reminding the listener that everyone and everything are the losers in all wars.

 Wieand was at her most inspired here. She elicited singing and playing of searing emotion: both devastating sorrow and reassuring beauty.

 For more information about Philomusica Chorale, visit philomusicachorale.org.

 Brosse’s Farewell

 After 12 years of leading the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Belgian-born Maestro Dirk Brosse is stepping down as its music director. He conducted his final concert in the post Sunday afternoon, May 19, in a packed Perelman Theater. His program consisted of George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings,” Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, with Simone Dinnerstein as the soloist.

 The qualities of tone that Brosse most regularly has elicited from the Chamber Orchestra is taut, clear, transparent in softer passages, muscular in louder sections, rhythmically vibrant throughout the dynamic spectrum, lyrical in overall concept.

 These characteristics stood him and the ensemble in good stead Sunday afternoon. He maintained an unbroken narrative line in the Walker, sustained through lyrical phrasing. He caught the dynamic drama of the Beethoven from start to finish. But even he was undone by the precious caution of Dinnerstein’s playing in the Mozart – pure but dull, calculated to the point of dissected from one note to the next, robbed of even the slightest hint of inspiration let alone spontaneity.

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