Monday, April 28, 2008

Italian Fire - Vivaldi and the Scarlattis - senior and junior

“Italian Fire: Vivaldi and Scarlatti” was an evening performed by four of the PHOENIX Ensemble soloists. It was an evening of secular music, with much to do with the subject of love, and, alas, to do with the suffering involved, always a part of these texts. Those performing were Macarena Lopez Lavin-soprano, Adi Silberberg-recorders, Dafna Gan-harpsichord and the ensemble’s musical director, Brazilian-born Early Music researcher and string player Dr Myrna Herzog-viola da gamba.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) although a priest, composed 37 secular chamber cantatas probably from 1718 to 1720 when he was in Mantua as chamber Kapellmeister at the court of Landgrave Philips van Hessen-Darmstadt. There his work was to provide operas, cantatas and possibly concert music. The secular cantata appealed to a very select, aristocratic audience of the time. In his cantata “All’ombra di sospetto” RV678 (In the Shadow of Suspicion), Lopez Lavin and Silberberg blended and communicated superbly. Born in Santiago, Chile Lopez Lavin completed music studies in the USA and, today, resides in Israel. She has vocal ease and agility, she is expressive and coquettish; Silberberg reflects these traits in his playing, and his ornamentation adds charm and humor. In “Amor,hai vinto” RV651 (Love, you have conquered) Lopez Lavin’s singing is sonorous and well-phrased. Herzog’s playing adds intensity to the stress and panic expressed in the Largo movement. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) is often called the father of Neapollitan opera. His popular aria “Rugiadose, odorose” from the opera Pirro e Demetrio (1694) was given a fresh reading by Lopez Lavin, with Silberberg interacting with her on a soprano recorder.

Pretty violets,
You are standing
Half hidden
Among the leaves
And you scold
My desires
That are too ambitious.”

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) - Alessandro’s son – spent much of his life in Portugal and Spain. An organist and eminent harpsichordist, he composed 500 two-part harpsichord sonatas. These small gems contain many original and daring ideas. Each one presents the listener with surprises. Dafna Gan, playing a Klop spinet, performed two very different sonatas. In the first, she painted a serene scene and in the second, brought out the technical, rhythmical and textural complexities in a piece brimming with temperament. Israeli-born Gan studied under David Shemer and is a member of faculty of the annual Jerusalem Early Music Workshop.

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) published Opus 5, his only set of violin sonatas, in 1700. Corelli left only a bass line and the unadorned violin part, with no harmonies, figurations or ornamentation, inviting players to be creative in their performance. These sonatas are considered such fine Baroque fare that they have been transcribed for and performed on other instruments. In this concert, we heard Herzog playing an 18th century French transcription of it on an 18th century bass viol, the result being very mellow. The viol was occasionally drowned out by the harpsichord. Herzog’s reading of it was highly melodic; she brought out the touching simplicity and beauty of the Sarabande, contrasted by the excitement and virtuosity of the final Giga.

There is some doubt as to whether the Sonata in g minor for recorder and basso continuo attributed to Vivaldi was really composed by him. In any case, it is a beautiful work offering much interest to the keyboard player, too. Silberberg and Gan’s performance was lively and interesting. Silberberg, playing a Yoav Ran alto recorder, presents clean melodic lines which are never blurred by his brilliant ornamenting. An eclectic musician, Israeli-born Silberberg began his studied in Rehovot, continuing them in Utrecht.

The final work of the evening, Alessandro Scarlatti’s cantata “Solitudine avenne” brought the audience back to the original theme of the concert – that love is full of pain. This appealing work tells of the lady longing for her lover, but he is off in fresher pastures. Once again, Silberberg plays along with the plot together with Lopez Lavin.

Kudos to Myrna Herzog and her excellent soloists for an evening rich in interest – an evening of outstanding, authentic performance, fine entertainment and humor.

Italian Fire: Vivaldi and Scarlatti
Soloists if the PHOENIX Ensemble
St Andrews Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem
April 3 2008

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