Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Auser Musici (Italy) at the Felicja Blumental Festival in Tel Aviv



The 2012 Felicja Blumental Festival took place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art from May 14th to 19th. The festival included dance, films, lectures, events for the whole family, solo- and duo music recitals and ensemble performances. A recital of Brazilian songs was sung by singer Annette Celine, daughter of the late Felicja Blumental.

A gala concert "Sweet Baroque and Stormy Times" on May 14th in the Recanati Hall of the Tel Aviv Museum featured the Italian early music ensemble Auser Musici, appearing for the second time at the Felicja Blumental Festival. The group was joined by countertenor Filippo Mineccia, who had stood in at the last minute for a singer who had taken ill. Established in 1997, Auser Musici’s founder and director Carlo Ipata focuses on research- and performance of Tuscan music of the Renaissance and Baroque. Working together with musicologists, Ipata is involved in giving lectures and in publishing these works.

Much of the program was made up of small groups of pieces from operas. This format gave the audience a taste of the excitement, the strongly theatrical aspect, the range of moods and gestures and the arias and dances of Italian music. Preparing the audience for what was to be a solid dose of Italian drama, amorous passion and humor, the concert began with pieces from “Le Disgrazie d’Amore”(1667) (The Adversities of Love) composed by Marc’Antonio Cesti (1623-1669), one of the greatest of the 17th century Venetian school of opera composers. This was followed by two arias from Alessandro Scarlatti’s (c.1660-1725) first opera “Gli Equivoci nel Sembiante” (The Ambiguities of Looks) (1679), a comedy of mistaken identities and, of course, amorous intrigues.

Of special interest were pieces given their first modern performance by Auser Musici. Among those were items from Francesco Gasparini’s (1661-1727) forward-looking operas “Aiace” (1697), “Oracolo del Fato” (The Oracle of Fate) (1719) and “l’Atenaide” (1709). A prolific composer, especially remembered for his operas and their influence, Gasparini was also a teacher, his students including D.Scarlatti and Quantz; he was Vivaldi’s employer when maestro di coro at the Ospidale della Pietà in Venice.

Despite the fact that the performance of the movements we heard from G. F.Händel’s (1685-1759) “La Partenope” (1730) was not groundbreaking, having, indeed, been performed in our times, the fact remains that this delightful opera, wavering between full-on passion and a kindly, humorous glimpse into how human weaknesses complicate love, is not heard enough in our concert halls and opera houses. Countertenor Filippo Mineccia gave a dramatic and vehement reading of the arias, the audience glued to his expressive face and body; his ornamenting of the da capo sections was worth waiting for.

Based on Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem “Orlando Furioso” (a poem inspiring Händel, Haydn, Rossini and other composers to compose works on the subject) Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) “Orlando Furioso” was premiered in 1727 in Venice. Filled with passion, violence, mystery, malice and sorcery, it contains some most dazzling arias and expressive recitatives, telling of the knight Orlando who falls in love with the wrong woman, consequently losing his mind. In the aria “Sol da te con Flauto” (Only with you, with the flute), Vivaldi depicts the casting of a spell with the magic, lascivious sounds of the Baroque transverse flute in one of its most challenging pieces of music for the Baroque flute, Carlo Ipata supported by Vivaldi’s magical instrumental accompaniment. Mineccia matched this with tender singing, long languishing phrases and embellishments that sounded spontaneous. This was followed by the demonic “Non profondo cieco mondo” (In the depths of a blind world), Mineccia’s strong, stable voice serving him well in this fiery utterance.

We were thus reminded that Italian Baroque music, reflecting the Italian temperament, is a series of mood changes. In the above-mentioned pieces, attention to elegant transitions between pieces was given by harpsichordist Daniele Boccaccio and theorbo player Francesco Romano. Renowned recorder-player, Baroque oboist and teacher Martino Noferi’s playing added interest and brilliance to ensemble- and solo roles throughout the evening.

The program included two instrumental works. The first was G.P.Telemann’s (1681-1767) Concerto for Recorder and Baroque Flute, Strings and Continuo in e minor. Ipata and Noferi collaborated in Telemann’s unique and somewhat enigmatic combination of flute and recorder as paired instruments, their pensive playing of the first and third movements whisked away by the heavy-textured Polish dance rondo taking over the fourth movement, an expression of unbridled joy. As well as the composer being a fine recorder player, we are reminded by this work of Telemann’s familiarity with Polish music, stemming from the time he spent in Sorau as court Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann of Promnitz; in his autobiography of 1718, the composer writes of his “acquaintance with Polish music through proximity”.

The other instrumental piece we heard was Vivaldi’s single-movement Trio Sonata no.12 opus 1 “La Folia” (Folly, madness), a set of variations on the musical theme in existence since the late 15th century, its harmonic scheme forming part of the “ground” (used by Lully, Corelli, A.Scarlatti, J.S.Bach, Händel and other composers). The Auser Musici ensemble now pared down to strings, theorbo and harpsichord, playing the melancholy “La Folia” theme - actually a stately saraband. Violinists Mauro Lopes Ferreira and Daniela Godio led, with ‘cellist Mauro Valli also providing beautiful articulate gestures and contrasts. In a seamless chain of 20 variations, presenting much imitation between the violins in florid, energetic, virtuosic variations, contrasted by poignant, tranquilly singing variations, the work’s momentum then built up, beginning with Variation XVII, resulting in rapid figurations leading into the coda.

Filippo Mineccia signed out with a moving performance of Händel’s (much recycled piece, ending up as an aria in “Rinaldo” in 1711) “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Let me weep my cruel fate), the ensemble’s second encore dispersing the atmosphere of tragedy and despair with two miniature movement’s from Cesti’s “Adversaries of Love”. Although their playing and instrumental balance falls short of several of Israel’s own Baroque artists, Auser Musici’s program was of interest. The annual Felicja Blumental Festival offers events of much interest and variety, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art being one of the “white city’s” most inspiring venues.

1 comment:

city said...

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