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– Emotional exaltation from choral works at St. Martin’s

- Emotional exaltation from choral works at St. Martin's

In preparation for Palm Sunday, the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields held a Choral Evensong on Sunday, April 7.

by Michael Caruso

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, marked the start of the fifth and penultimate week of Lent with a Choral Evensong Sunday, April 7. With scriptural readings and sacred choral music, the service was a preparation for the start of the Christian Holy Week on Palm Sunday, April 14.

Parish music director Erik Meyer introduced collectively a splendid collection of choral works. The settings of the normal texts of the “Magnificat” (My soul doth enlarge the Lord) and the “Nunc Dimittis” (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) have been by Herbert Howells, as was the setting of the Psalm 126: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion.”

Howells singled out the ladies of the choir to sing the opening sections of the text taken from the Gospel of St. Luke from the New Testomony. He achieved a touching intimacy by way of delicate layers of counterpoint. Not until the textual content, “He hath showed power together with his arm,” did Howells convey in the male voices, providing fuller harmonies voiced in denser chords. It all leads up to the closing sequence on the “Glory be to the Father,” a stroke of emotional exaltation.

Howells set out gentler territory for the textual content of the “Nunc Dimittis.” Though the lads sing most of its early measures, they achieve this in a darker hue that is maintained even upon the doorway of the feminine voices.

Meyer both carried out his choir and accompanied his singers on the organ with forthright sensitivity and expressive help. The choir sang both works with a full tone seamlessly blended with professional tuning and eloquent phrasing.

The service’s main work, nevertheless, was Gerald Finzi’s broadly scaled “Lo, the complete, last sacrifice,” composed in 1946. Finzi set the textual content, originally accompanied by organ but then orchestrated the next yr in quite a lot of textures, both homophonic and contrapuntal. Meyer and his choristers gave it a studying that started softly, constructed to an exciting climax and then receded into a compelling decision.

Meyer braced the Evensong with a sentiment-laden rendition of John Ireland’s “Elegiac Romance” at first and an lively interpretation of the Allegro motion from Felix Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F minor on the close.

St. Martin’s Church will host a performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Phrases of Christ on the Cross” Good Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. The featured musicians would be the members of the Fairmount String Quartet, at present in residence at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.

Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancers Oksana Maslova (left), of Roxborough, and Arian Molina Soca. Maslova danced the position of Terpsichore and Molina Soca was Apollo in Balanchine’s choreography to Stravinsky’s music. (Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Wellington)


Earlier Sunday afternoon, I caught the ultimate efficiency by Pennsylvania Ballet of its all-Stravinsky program at the Merriam Theater. Two of the four ballets danced have been choreographed by George Balanchine, a 3rd was the company premiere of a ballet by Jerome Robbins, and the fourth was a commissioned world premiere by Matthew Neenan, the company’s choreographer-in-residence.

Set to Stravinsky’s “Tango” and Piano Sonata, here performed splendidly by Martha Koeneman, Neenan’s “Deco” is an creative, lyrical masterpiece that follows the Balanchine tradition of not just mirroring the music but delving into its very inspiration. Most spectacular was Neenan’s visual evocation of the melodiousness of Stravinsky writing for the piano in his 1941 neo-classical sonata. With out ever brief altering its acerbic harmonies and pointed rhythms, he nonetheless catches Stravinsky evoking the contrapuntal texture of Bach’s keyboard music by having the movements of his six dancers movement into and out of one another with nary a bump. Albert Gordon, Jacqueline Callahan, Kathryn Manger, Zecheng Liang, Jack Sprance and Peter Weil have been the exemplary performers.

Balanchine’s “Apollo” opened the program. Commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1928, it’s something of Stravinsky’s neo-classical answer to Debussy’s impressionistic “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” just because it’s Balanchine’s neo-classical reply to Nijinsky’s scandalous choreography to the Debussy. And but, each the music (initially referred to as “Apollon Musagete”) and the dance are, of their approach, every bit as erotic as the Debussy/Nijinsky outing.

A minimum of they have been in the course of the pas de deux that includes Arian Molina Soca as the Greco/Roman god of the sun, poetry, drama, dance, music and prophecy and Roxborough’s Oksana Maslova as Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance. Their efficiency was so delicately romantic yet technically secure that its conclusion elicited a yelled “bravo!” from a member of the viewers and an ovation that stopped the present. Maslova’s extended line was like an unbreakable silken thread while Molina Soca flawlessly projected Balanchine’s choreography by inhabiting Stravinsky’s music after channeling the aesthetic and ethos of Apollo. Dayesi Torriente and Nayara Lopes have been pretty as Polyhymnia and Calliope. And the concluding tableau of the four dancers silhouetted towards the rising solar was beautiful.

I wasn’t much impressed with Jerome Robbins’ “The Cage” to the Concerto for Strings in D main. It combines the unenviable qualities of “silly” and “creepy.” However the music of “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” is a neo-classical virtuosic masterpiece, and Balanchine’s 1972 choreography ups the ante one step greater. Standouts Sunday afternoon have been Mayara Pineiro and Sterling Baca. The rhythmic precision of Pineiro’s dancing was like that of the stainless development of a priceless Swiss watch while Baca made probably the most intricate of steps appear easy whereas at the similar time investing them with electrifying vitality.

Guitarist Jordan Dodson was the soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in the commissioned world premiere of local composer Andrea Clearfield’s “Glow: Concerto for Electric Guitar and Chamber Orchestra.” (Photograph courtesy of Leslie Johnson)


The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and its music director Dirk Brosse continued their season of “Migrations” Sunday afternoon, March 31, with “The Americas” in the Kimmel Middle’s Perelman Theater. The house was packed to hear a properly conceived and finely performed program of music by Manuel de Falla, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Emmanuel Chabrier, Steven Gerber, Jordan Dodson and the world premiere of local composer Andrea Clearfield’s “Glow for Electrical Guitar and Chamber Orchestra.” The live performance’s exemplary soloist was Curtis Institute of Music alumnus Jordan Dodson.

Clearfield’s use of a calmly amplified electrical guitar opened up a brand new world of tonal prospects that enabled Dodson to sustain legato strains that may by no means have been audible in a 600-seat theater on a purely acoustic guitar. The outcome was an immaculate stability between the orchestra as an entire and the stringed solo instrument. Neither overwhelmed the opposite. The two forces have been capable of keep an ongoing dialogue that spanned the complete scope of emotions and the timbres Clearfield selected for their expression for the rating’s three actions: “Sing,” “Streak” and “Glow.”

Dodson’s enjoying was most noteworthy for its dynamic restraint, its capability to work inside the larger instrumental texture in addition to take middle stage as a soloist, its coloristic selection and its eloquent lyricism of sustained melodic strains. Brosse and the musicians of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia gave him sensitive yet vibrant help.

Dodson was also the soloist in Villa-Lobos’ Concerto for Guitar, a gorgeous rating that deserves much more frequent listening to. Here enjoying on a standard acoustical guitar that was flippantly amplified into the home’s own system, he projected the music’s tart harmonies, pulsating rhythms and courtly lyricism. And his charming take on The Beatles’ “Throughout the Universe” fortunately jogged my memory that I had heard the “Fab 4” twice in concert.

Brosse and the Chamber Orchestra opened their live performance with a sultry reading of Falla’s Suite from “El amor brujo.” Following intermission, they gave Chabrier’s “Habanera” a trendy interpretation and Gerber’s “Homage to Dvorak” an impassioned efficiency.


Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra welcomed Brian Sanders’ JUNK to hitch them for 3 performances of choices from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet score, “Romeo and Juliet.” The live shows befell in the Kimmel Middle’s Verizon Hall April Four-6. I caught the Saturday night efficiency with an audience that packed the house.

Most local ballet lovers know the Prokofiev score from the productions mounted by the Pennsylvania Ballet within the Academy of Music. The native troupe opened its 2018-19 season with Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography to rave evaluations just a few months ago. Former Philadelphia Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti thought-about it the best rating ever composed by the 20th century Russian master.

For these performances, Nezet-Seguin reduce more than a handful of scenes from the work to fit it into the traditional two-hour span of a typical live performance, and Sanders’ acrobatic gymnastics enhanced approximately one-third of the scenes that have been programmed. All the identical, a reasonably convincing narrative line was sustained from begin to finish, particularly for those who already know the story of the original play by William Shakespeare for which the music was written.

The one drawback was the limited vocabulary out there to JUNK’s members. Perched on a shallow platform that prolonged out from the primary tier’s “conductor’s circle” and relying virtually solely on acrobatics with just a few temporary touches of gymnastic gestures, the performers have been visually exciting but expressively constricted.

There was nothing constricted, nevertheless, about both Nezet-Seguin’s interpretation of the music or the Philadelphians’ rendition of it. The young maestro saw the score in both broad strokes and intimate particulars, and the Orchestra’s players responded with sumptuous sounds, bracing textures and scintillating rhythms.

Best of all was the acoustical sound in Verizon Hall. To accommodate JUNK’s acrobatics, the ceiling panels have been raised to their highest attainable degree. The outcome was a much more expansive sonic atmosphere than that which I’ve heard in Verizon in current seasons. Maybe that is the place these panels should stay.

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