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PHILADELPHIA, PA—October 9 2013 — Richard Stone, co-founder and co-director of Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra Tempesta di Mare, will perform solo music for lute and theorbo by Bach, Weiss, de Visée and Castaldi on Sunday, October 27 at Powel House in Old City and Sunday, November 10 at Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill. Both performances will be at 3:00. For tickets and information: tempestadimare.org or 215-755-8776. For more information on Stone, including press photos: richardstonelute.com.
Lute Music from Germany, France and Italy
The recital opens with high baroque music for lute by two friends from eighteenth-century Saxony: the harpsichordist Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) and the lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss (1687–1750). Bach’s Prelude Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998, is one of just four multi-movement works for solo lute by the Leipzig Kantor famous for his keyboard music. By contrast, Weiss’s Sonata 98 is one of more than 100 sonatas by the renowned lutenist from Dresden whose compositions are most frequently compared to Bach’s.
Music by theorbists from mid-baroque France and early-baroque Italy follows, with sets by Robert de Visée (1655–1732), theorbist in Lully’s orchestra and guitar instructor to Louis XIV, and by the composer, poet and adventurer Bellerofonte Castaldi (1580–1649), a contemporary of Monteverdi. Visée’s pièces de théorbe in G encompass the musical ideals of France during the reign of the Sun King in a classic French suite. Castaldi’s Capricci rank among a handful of early-baroque publications by Italian composers who both pioneered the theorbo as a vehicle for the virtuoso and contributed to the development of an instrumental musical style that emerged in parallel with Italian opera.
Richard Stone’s performances have been described as having “the energy of a rock solo and the craft of a classical cadenza” (Washington Post), and called both “lustrously melancholy” (New York Times) and “fluid, thrilling and downright poetic” (Ariama). Having begun playing the guitar at age 10, he went on to study with David Starobin and Seymour Bernstein at SUNY Purchase, where he graduated With Highest Honors. Afterwards he went to London’s Guildhall School of Music in Drama as a Fulbright Lusk Fellow, where his teachers included Nigel North and Adrian Thorne. Upon returning to the US, he entered the Mannes College of Music in New York to study with Patrick O’Brien and Paul Echols. Stone, who co-founded and co-directs Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra Tempesta di Mare, has served on the faculty of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, since 2007.
Johann Sebastian Bach — Prelude Fugue and Allegro in E flat, BWV 998
Silvius Leopold Weiss — Sonata 98 in D minor
Robert de Visée — Pièces de théorbe in G
Bellerofonte Castaldi — Capricci per sonar solo
PHILADELPHIA, PA—August 28, 2013 — Bach’s crackling Brandenburg Concerto No 5 with soloist Adam Pearl opens Tempesta di Mare’s 2013–2014 Philadelphia Concert Series, alongside music by Scarlatti, Telemann, Couperin, and the famous Pachelbel Canon, in a program called The Classics Club. Performances take place on October 5 at 8:00 at the Arch Street Meeting House in Center City and on October 6 at 4:00 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. For tickets and information: tempestadimare.org or 215-755-8776.
Brandenburg 5 and Surrounding Works
The Classics Club opens Tempesta di Mare’s 2013-2014 season on October 5 & 6 and features Brandenburg Concerto 5 in a program of music that surrounded and influenced the creation of this classic by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach’s “Brandenburg 5,” centerpiece of The Classics Club and hands-down the world’s most famous harpsichord concerto, features a cadenza in its first movement as famous for its elaborateness as for the panache required to pull it off, a poignant three-way conversation between harpsichord, flute and violin soloists in the middle movement, and closes with a thrilling jig. Critics have praised past renditions by soloist and Tempesta harpsichordist Adam Pearl as “stellar,” for his “virtuosity and daringly original tempo changes that felt fresh and right.”
The Classics Club frames Bach’s blockbuster with music by composers that influenced and surrounded it. French and Italian styles were the two foreign national styles that Bach and his circle synthesized into the German “mixed style,” while German composers of Bach’s teachers’ generation had been forging a distinct German musical identity that Bach cut his teeth on.
François Couperin’s Concert in the Theatrical Style, a loving tribute to his musical forerunner Jean-Baptiste Lully, brings the best of the French style to the fore. Alessandro Scarlatti’s heroic Sinfonia 8 epitomizes the most current music coming out of Rome, sought after and emulated in Bach’s day. Johann Pachelbel’s celebrated Canon typifies the sort of music that Bach’s teachers were creating and what he and his generation studied growing up. Bach-contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann’s powerful Concerto for Flute and Violin reveals how, by sheer force of personality, an equally-gifted artist emerges with an entirely distinct musical voice when exposed to the same influences.
Johann Sebastian Bach — Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, BWV 1050
Alessandro Scarlatti — Sinfonia No. 8 in G
François Couperin — Concert dans le goût théatrale
Johann Pachelbel — Canon and Gigue
Georg Philipp Telemann — Concerto for Flute and Violin in E minor, TWV 43:e3
“…Tempesta di Mare’s musicians once again wielded their period instruments with skill and grace, without benefit of a conductor”
“Tempesta di Mare devoted its last concert of the season to four examples of Baroque entertainments. Telemann’s orchestral piece, Burlesque de Quixotte, is one of my all-time Baroque favorites. Tempesta’s 20- piece orchestra, complete with woodwinds and percussion, magnified the humor in Telemann’s mock charges and gallops. The Don’s sighs for Dulcinea acquired extra pathos when they were produced by woodwinds instead of strings. Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Charpentier’s The Imaginary Invalid were both court entertainments. Rameau’s ballet music from Pygmalion was a theater ballet based on the story of the sculptor Pygmalion, who falls in a love with a statue that Cupid brings to life— a story that achieved some fame in the 20th Century as My Fair Lady.
The French pieces contain passages that can only be appreciated if you know the story. In The Imaginary Invalid, for example, the hypochondriac sees so many doctors that he receives a medical degree, and Charpentier provides a special Air for Curtsying for the medical personnel who congratulate him.
But most of the suites consist of airs and dances capable of standing alone. The impresarios behind the productions seized every opportunity to introduce crowd-pleasers like Moorish dancers, dancing monkeys and a generous assortment of hornpipes, jigs and rondos.
Tempesta di Mare’s musicians once again wielded their period instruments with skill and grace, without benefit of a conductor. These were all ensemble pieces, with no solo roles, but I especially liked the passages for multiple sopranino recorders and the percussion contributed by Michelle Humphreys. And I was fascinated by the way an orchestra without a single brass instrument somehow managed to create the illusion that trumpets were concealed in its midst.” Broad Street Review, May 14, 2013.
“…Although the theme was “Great Books,” only listening, not reading, was required”
“Although the theme was “Great Books,” only listening, not reading, was required, as the theme covered several Baroque compositions based in literary works, in this case as diverse as Cervantes and Ovid. The recital opened with perhaps the best-known of the works, Purcell’s suite from The Fairy Queen, written to accompany masques for a 1692 performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Emlyn Ngai’s violin persistently led the string line of the piece to the section’s usual heights throughout. The suite concludes with the Chaconne for the Chinese Man and Woman, which, not surprisingly for music of the period, had no Asian influence to the sound. Interestingly, however, there are a few phrases in it reminiscent of motifs from Handel’s Sarabande from his Suite in D Minor (perhaps better known to some as the theme from Barry Lyndon.)
The Purcell was followed by Telemann’s Burlesque de Quixotte, based on Cervantes’ work. The overture was ushered in with cheerful string and woodwind lines and with nicely evident harpsichord work by Adam Pearl in music that was unmistakably Telemann’s composition. Like the book, Telemann’s music is suffused with humor, particularly in the section in which Quixote awakens—beginning as a pastoral morgenstemning, the drones of his snores come in along with his being shaken awake rudely. Equally amusing were the compositions for Quixote’s horse Rosinante and for Sancho Panza’s donkey; as with other portions of the Burlesque, the percussion by Michelle Humphreys made the intent of the music come to life.
The third piece was Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s incidental music for Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid. Charpentier was a substitute for J-B Lully, with whom Moliere had fallen out; although the music was prepared in time for the comedie-ballet’s opening in 1693, Moliere was struck ill while performing in its fourth performance and then died. The music has no relation to that sorrow, however, and is truly cheerful. The arrangement performed began at the end with hypochondriac Argan’s graduation as a physician, in a quietly triumphant processional, that was followed by the cheerful dance for the upholsterers and seamstresses reminiscent of court dances (perhaps not a surprise as Moliere often wrote parts for the King to play in his productions). These were followed by the “Moorish dancers” pieces, which one would not confuse either with English Morris dances or with any music from the Moorish period in Spain; these dances make no pretense of being anything but French Baroque dance tunes, though they are sprightlier than the upholsterers’ dance.
The final piece in the evening’s program was a suite of Rameau’s ballet music for Ovid’s (most definitely not Shaw’s) Pygmalion, from The Metamorphoses—this being the metamorphosis of a sculptor’s statue into a beautiful woman. The suite contained a “the characters of the dance” sampling the various dance forms which the Graces attempt to teach the living statue, including a charming gavotte and a sarabande. The audience was treated to some notable moments of Baroque guitar as well as to the Ngai-led strings bringing in some very fine melody lines. The violinists were here a delight to watch; audiences tend to forget that orchestral musicians can and do stand to perform, and the string players’ body movement in concert with their bowing was a worthwhile sight for the audience.” Broadway World, May 13, 2013.
…[Ngai’s playing] was technically beyond reproach, but even more impressive was his ability to leave the intimacy of the baroque behind in favor of the virtuosity of the romantic”
“Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum presented Emlyn Ngai, the concertmaster of the baroque instruments ensemble Tempesta di Mare, in a solo violin recital Sunday, April 28, in its acoustically resplendent rotunda. Playing on both a baroque, gut-strung violin and a metal-strung modern instrument, Ngai proved himself equally at home on both instruments and in both older and newer music.
“Ever since I heard pianist Andras Schiff perform a recital using his own Hamburg Steinway for Bach and Beethoven and his own Bosendorfer for Mozart and Schubert, I’ve often wondered why violinists can’t manage the far easier task of bringing along two violins for a recital, using a baroque instrument for baroque music and a modern violin for late romantic and modern pieces. I can’t speculate why others don’t, but I admire Emlyn Ngai for doing so in Chestnut Hill.
“Ngai opened the recital with Thomas Baltzar’s Prealudium & Allemande on his baroque violin. The Swedish-born Baltzar score includes two Preludes rather than the one its title lists. It’s a gem of baroque elegance and exquisitely expressed emotion. Ngai caught its lyrical eloquence in playing that eschewed a wide, romantic vibrato but poignantly projected its melodies with an aristocratic tremolo on the long-held notes.
“Switching to a modern violin, Ngai projected the pyrotechnics of Eugene Ysaye’s “Obsession” Sonata No. 2. Once again, his playing was technically beyond reproach, but even more impressive was his ability to leave the intimacy of the baroque behind in favor of the virtuosity of the romantic. Ngai was equally at home in the nostalgia of Fritz Kreisler’s “Recitativo & Scherzo.” And, returning to his baroque violin, he offered one beautifully played encore – the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita in D minor.” Chestnut Hill Local, May 9, 2013.
…I was enthralled by this concert
Tempesta di Mare and Choral Arts Philadelphia treated a large audience to an exceptional performance of Handel’s Messiah. The score used was as close as scholarship can come to the premiere performance led by Handel in Dublin almost 271 years ago. It called for baroque strings, valveless trumpets, timpani, harpsichord, organ and theorbo, but no wind instruments.
The Tempesta orchestra is accustomed to playing without a conductor, but not the Choral Arts singers. It is usually a challenge to keep everyone together in a work like this; but Sunday’s performance demonstrated that it can be done well. I attributed this to the level of musicianship of the singers and players, to the proximity of the chorus and orchestra that made it possible for the musicians to hear each other, and to their attentiveness to the visual and musical cues.
The singers were superbly trained, shaping their phrases to suit the nuances of the words and music. The diction was so good that all of the words were intelligible, even in the fast choruses. Their precision was remarkable in “For unto us a child is born.” Here as in other choruses, the melismatic passages were synchronized perfectly with the orchestra, each 16th note sung clearly and evenly. Their sound remained beautiful throughout the various changes of color and mood. In one moment their voices conveyed joy as they sang “Glory to God,” and in another their voices turned serious as they sang “Behold the lamb of God.”
I was enthralled by this concert. Of course, Handel’s Messiah is a masterpiece. It received a performance on Sunday that honored this reputation. If Handel had been able to hear it, I think he might have said he wanted Tempesta di Mare and Choral Arts to play his second performance with him.” Local Arts Live, March 20, 2013.