Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Millennium Ensemble presents a program of "Concerti" in the Eden-Tamir Center's 2011 Passover Festival

The Eden-Tamir Music Center in Ein Kerem (Jerusalem) hosted a Passover Festival of three concerts. “Concerti”, a noon concert on April 23rd 2011, was performed by the Eden-Tamir Center’s ensemble in residence – the Millennium Chamber Ensemble. Players at this concert were violinists Yevgenia Pikovsky, Eliakum Salzman and Elena Tishin, violists Dimitri Ratush and Vladislav Krasnov, ‘cellists Kirill Mihanovsky and Yefim Eisenstadt, double bass player Evgeny Shatsky and pianist Marianna Sorkin. The Millennium Chamber Ensemble was founded in 1997 by violinist Yevgenia Pikovsky, its players being immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The concert opened with Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings in D minor, soloists being Yevgenia Pikovsky and Marianna Sorkin. Composed in 1823, this concerto leaves no doubt as to the young Mendelssohn’s interest in virtuosity and melodic invention. Pikovsky’s Romantic and forthright solo playing in the opening Allegro, tying in with the movement’s technical demands, with its (characteristically Mendelssohn) fugal approach and intricacies, was spirited. Sorkin took a more understated approach. The soloists, however, conversed and communicated, Sorkin taking time to state the theme in the lyrical Adagio, its calm tempo never lagging. This was followed by the hearty flamboyance of the Allegro molto, peppered with brilliant passagework and effervescence. An ensemble exhibiting the accuracy and attention of long-standing collaboration, the non-soloists worked their lines in and around the solos, making for an exciting performance.

Developed in 1823 by Viennese luthier Johann Georg Staufer, the arpeggione, a bowed 6-stringed fretted instrument, similar to the guitar and with the same tuning, was not generally well received. It did, however, generate a small group of enthusiasts and players. One of these was Vincenz Schuster, for whom Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed his Sonata “Arpeggione” in 1824. (Schuster also published the only method for playing the instrument). The use of the arpeggione, however, was short-lived – a mere ten years. In fact, by the time the Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano (D821) was published in 1871, the instrument for which it had been composed was extinct. With the arpeggione role nowadays played on ‘cello or viola (I have heard it performed on clarinet) we heard veteran Israeli violist Ze’ev Steinberg’s (b.1918) arrangement of it for viola and strings. Soloist was violist Dimitri Ratush. The Millennium Ensemble preserved the chamber quality of the piece, bringing out its depth of expression, its underlying wistfulness ever present, its joy tinged with sadness, the players never allowing tempi to turn the work’s folksy melodies into vulgarity. For the “Arpeggione” was, indeed, written after Schubert’s physical and mental health had taken a turn for the worse. In a letter penned to his friend Leopold Kupelweiser some months before composing the “Arpeggione”, Schubert writes “I feel myself to be the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world…a man…whose most brilliant hopes have come to nothing.” In the performance at the Eden-Tamir Center, Ratush leads and paces, he intertwines the virtuosity of Schubert’s text into the musical fabric, rather than using it as an end in itself, his playing giving expression to the poignancy, poetry and innate Schubertian humility of the sonata.

The concert ended with Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) Variations on a Rococo Theme for ‘Cello and Strings opus 33. Composed in 1876 for Wilhelm Fitzhagen, principal ‘cellist of the Moscow Conservatory, the ‘cellist made some changes to the work – cutting out the introduction and eighth variation, shortening the coda and changing the order of variations, this version of the work being the accepted one till the Soviet edition of Tchaikovsky’s complete works in 1956. We heard ‘cellist Kirill Mihanovsky in the solo role. After stating the daintily charming and somewhat mischievous theme with the use of non-legato bowing and slight rubato, Mihanovsky proceeds to setting out the variations. He presents the character and mood of each, from the whimsical second variation, to the soulful third, to the flexed and virtuosic fourth. Fine, filigree lines are presented sensitively, as are broader gestures, each variation sounding freshly created, the artist’s bass note melodies richly colored and moving. The seventh variation, vibrant and urgent, whisking away introspective moments heard in the sixth, brought the work to a brilliant and joyful close. A little poorer for the lack of woodwind instruments, the artists, nevertheless, brought out the charm and grace of a work void of Tchaikovsky’s dark brooding. The audience delighted in the performance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Jerusalem Barbershop Ensemble performs at Beit Avi Chai, closing the 2011 Stage One#2 Amateur English Theater Festival

Beit Avi Chai (Jerusalem), in collaboration with Mercaz Hamagshimim Hadassah’s Center Stage Theater, held the “Stage One #2” Amateur English Theater Festival, April 20-22 2011. The aim of artistic director Rafi Poch and producer Tamar Akov, in presenting three days of local English language theater, was to shine a spotlight on this thriving subculture. The festival also included some musical events. This writer attended an informal morning family concert performed by the Jerusalem Barbershop Ensemble at Beit Avi Chai on April 22nd 2011.

The Jerusalem Barbershop Ensemble was founded in 1983 by Joe Romanelli. Its repertoire ranges from traditional folk music to modern songs in English and Hebrew, arranged mostly in the barbershop style, sung a cappella (unaccompanied). Its members are bass Dani Barkai, bass Howard Clapsaddle, lead baritone Ian Cohen, lead Boaz Feinberg, tenor Roger Friedland (assistant director), baritone and lead R.Martin Rogovein (director) and lead Joe Romanelli (manager).

Native to the United States, stemming from the time the barber shop itself was a center of many communities in the second half of the 19th century, the barbershop style combines chord structure, sound, delivery and interpretation, usually performed by quartets of unmixed men or women's voices. In its early days, barbershop singers improvised harmonies or “woodshedded” (tenor, baritone and bass harmonizing to a lead’s melody).

In a selection of the JBE’s song repertoire, interspersed with jokes and quips, we heard many old favorites in barbershop arrangements like “The Glory of Love” (written by songwriter William Joseph “Billy” Hill and made famous by Benny Goodman), “Don’t Blame Me” (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, first performed in 1932) and Baby Face (Harry Akst, Benny Davis). The JBE’s program offered plenty of variety, such as Billy Joel’s “Longest Time”, the Beetles’ heatwarming “When I’m 64”, the Hillbilly number “Mountain Dew” performed with the assistance of musical and/or courageous audience members, the poignant “There’s a Place for Us” (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim) and, from the south of America, “When Uncle Joe Plays a Rag on His Old Banjo” (T.Morse, D.A.Esrom, 1912) rendered in velvety tones.

The audience of mostly English speakers, ranging from toddlers to the elderly, was well entertained. Not to be ignored, however, are the challenges of singing barbershop music in its harmonic, rhythmical and formal complexities. The Jerusalem Barbershop Ensemble’s blend, intonation and expressive range lend shape and polish to its singing, the members’ fine aesthetic sense making for a truly musical experience.

A hearty performance of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” (Frank Sinatra) rounded off the program, sending people off into the somewhat inclement Jerusalem weather with a smile.
‘I’m gonna live till I die! I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry,
I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down….’

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ensemble William Byrd (France) closes the 2011 Felicja Blumental International Music festival

The 2011 Felicja Blumental International Music Festival ended with a concert performed by Ensemble europeen William Byrd (France) and pianist David Selig on April 16th 2011 in the Recanati Hall of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The festival, dedicated to the memory of Polish-born pianist Felicja Blumental, was directed by Blumental’s daughter, soprano Annette Celine together with Avigail Arnheim. One focus of the festival, in cooperation with the Australian Embassy, was on the music of Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger, marking 50 years of his death.

For almost 20 years, Ensemble europeen William Byrd has been performing Renaissance and Baroque vocal music, with particular emphasis on music of the 17th century, the six singers presenting it in a one-to-a-part setting. The ensemble is directed by Australian singer and musicologist Graeme O’Reilly.

The concert began with works by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), the first being “Si ch’io vorrei morire!” (Yes, I would prefer death) from the composer’s Fourth Book of Madrigals, to an anonymous text depicting the state of abandoned lovers. The group lavished it in pathos and drama. And to “Lamento d’Arianna” (Arianna’s Lament): a work that was so significant that it created the “lament” as a recognizable genre of vocal chamber music. Monteverdi completed the five-voiced madrigal setting of the text based on his opera of the same name to a text by Rinuccini, publishing it in his Sixth Book of Madrigals, with the monody reworked into the madrigal settings. Here again, we are presented with the drama of the soul – mostly suffering and despair - sketched in chromaticism and dissonant leaps. At the end, in the final stages of Arianna’s despair, when nobody hears Arianna’s tears, Monteverdi takes the voices into the low register to express this. Ensemble William Byrd’s performance of it was expressively crafted, capricious and theatrical, the effective use of dark and light vocal colors providing contrast, the power of words being “the master of the harmonies”.

Thomas Tomkins’ (1572-1656) died 13 years after Monteverdi. His “When David Heard” is surely among the most tragic and moving works of the genre of the English sacred madrigal. The Byrd Ensemble presented the work’s blend of polyphonic- and harmonic writing, leaning into the dissonances that speak of David’s state-of-mind, stressing key words (in authentic pronunciation) and clothing them in clear resonance.

In “Thule, the Period of Cosmography”, a six-part madrigal from Thomas Weelkes’ (1576-1623) collection of “Madrigals of Five and Six Parts” (1600), the amazing travelogue of an Andalusian merchant returning “with cochineal and china dishes”, Weelkes paints volcanoes, sulphurous fire, frozen scenery (Iceland also being an allusion to the end of the world) and flying fish in musical notes and gestures rife with underlying symbolism. An interesting choice, sung with as much descriptive variety as its text boasts, the audience would have gained more insight into this fascinating work by having the text printed on the program to follow.

The second half of the concert presented works by Australian composer Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961.) It began with the composer’s piano arrangement of his orchestral piece “Blithe Bells” (1930-1931), titled “Ramble on Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ for theater, massed or small orchestra”, “ramble” being the composer’s term for “transcription, arrangement or creative thinking”. A free fantasia, its na├»ve melody set in a richly polyphonic setting, the title “Blithe bells” refers to sheep bells. Australian-born pianist David Selig challenged the local audience to enter this musical maze inspired by the great Bach - a piece that is grand, delicate and humorous, perhaps bearing cynical undertones. Selig also played the piano version of “Molly on the Shore”, a delightful setting of two Cork Reel tunes, energetic and charming in its dance rhythms. Composed originally as a string quintet as a birthday present for his mother in 1907, it has also undergone several transformations; Grainger’s “elastic scoring” was in keeping with his aim to make pieces available to many players and instrumental combinations. Selig played Grainger’s “Walking Tune”, outlining its inner voices together with its expressive, direct melodiousness. This piece was played in its original form by the Hindemith Wind Quintet (April 14th 2011, Felicja Blumental International Music Festival.)

Percy Grainger was a collector of folk tunes in England and Denmark. In fact, he was an avid collector of plenty of good song melodies. Ensemble europeen William Byrd sang a representative selection of the composer’s song arrangements, many of them a cappella. Folk song settings from the British Isles included the saucy “I’m Seventeen Come Sunday” (British Folk Music Settings no.8) (its piano accompaniment a little too loud) the unaccompanied energetic, homophonic “Agincourt Song” after a 15th century song and “Lord Maxwell’s Goodnight”. In the latter, arranged by David Tall, the text of the first half is from Sir Walter Scott’s “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border” with the second half added by Grainger himself. Here the solo was sung by soprano Edwige Parat.

In his quest to collect and set what might be called “world music”, Grainger was one of the first ethnomusicologists to record on the wax cylinder. His interest lay in melody and harmony, but also in the timbre, inflections and performance style of folk music. Grainger showed much interest in Scandinavian folksongs; he spoke Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. (He knew Grieg and Delius.) The strophic, homophonic, pleasantly asymmetrical “Song of Varmeland” was representative of the phase during which he collected these songs.

Another genre used by Grainger was the “wordless” song, an idea in which he had dabbled from 1899. He spoke of it as carrying “its own special message to the soul” and as being a “natural musical instinct”; he contended that singing in that manner “proves that choirs develop a purer, richer and more voluminous sonority”. We heard the “Australian Up-Country Song”, based on a melody Grainger had composed in 1905 and set for unaccompanied choir in 1928. Grainger wrote: “In that tune I had wished to voice Australian up-country feeling as Stephen Foster had voiced American countryside feelings in his songs”.

The Ensemble europeen William Byrd boasts some fine singers, its signature sound forthright and individual rather than French in elegance. O’Reilly places much emphasis on words and diction. Of his work with the William Byrd Ensemble he writes: “Any performance …stands or falls by the extent to which it makes apparent the relation between the words and the notes, particularized in the context of its period, and universalized into ours.” In this unusual and daring program, presenting Monteverdi, Tomkins, Weelkes together with Grainger in one evening, O’Reilly has introduced did the Israeli concertgoer to Percy Grainger – his diversity, originality and accessibility. With Grainger’s reputation sadly damaged by the details of his personal life, the 50th anniversary of his death is a fine opportunity to remember, appreciate and enjoy the Australian composer’s music.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hindemith Wind Quintet (Germany) performs in the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival

The Felicja Blumental International Music Festival and Guitar Week took place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art from April 11th to 16th 2011. It presented a selection of concerts, movies and theatrical productions and featured performers from many countries. One focus of the festival was on the works of Australian composer Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), in collaboration with the Australian Embassy, on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The Hindemith Wind Quartet hails from Germany, its members all principal players from the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra, each originally coming from a different country. Flautist Clara Andrada de la Calle (Spain), oboist Nick Deutsch (Australia), clarinetist Johannes Gmeinder (Germany), horn player Sybille Mahni (Switzerland) and bassoonist Richard Morschel make up this select group. The quintet performs only works written originally for this specific combination.

The Hindemith Wind Quintet opened its concert, in the Assia Gallery April 14th 2011, with Samuel Barber’s (1910-1981) “Summer Music for Wind Quintet” opus 31, a work composed and premiered in Detroit in 1956. Barber’s only work for wind ensemble, the opening section of the work, the first of 11 continuous sections, is marked “slow and indolent”. A mood piece, evocative, poetic and nostalgic, its sections varied, it is characterized by its exquisite oboe solo (Deutsch) and haunting, long notes on the horn (Mahni). The Hindemith Quintet’s reading of it was sensitive, creating a richly colored canvas. This was followed by German Jewish composer Hanns Eisler’s (1898-1962) “Divertimento opus 4” for wind quintet. This early chromatic and harmonically dense work, composed in 1923, before the composer’s unhappy move to the USA, bears the influence of Schonberg and Webern, both of whom had been Eisler’s teachers. Offering many solos, the work is restless and capricious.

Czech-born Antoine-Joseph Reicha (1770-1836), the most significant pioneer of the woodwind quintet, composed 24 of them, each in four movements; they constitute some of the finest repertoire composed for winds, sometimes being referred to as “symphonic” in scope. The Quintet in E flat major opus 88 no.2 (1817) is the most famous of them. In the extended bassoon solo in the opening movement, Morschel’s cantabile playing was a treat. The quintet’s playing of the work was fresh, direct, unmannered and a delight to the audience.

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) composed his “Kleine Kammermusik” (Small Chamber Music) opus 24 no.2 in 1923, this, yet another work showing the composer’s predilection for wind instruments, being clearly influenced by Stravinsky’s neo-classical language. The first movement expounds a rakish clarinet theme (Gmeinder), setting the scene for the piece with its characteristically Hindemith ostinato figures. The players skillfully guide the audience through the sinewy score, its bitter-sweet and sardonic moments, its lyrical, buffoonish and terse moments. Hindemith’s economy of writing (the fourth movement gives each instrument a solo within its mere 23 bars) and sophistication were molded into a brilliant and interesting performance. Deutsch’s playing in the third dirge-like movement was soul-searching and compelling.

Of his “Walking Tune” for Wind Five, Australian-born pianist and composer Percy Grainger writes of this, his only work for winds (it subsequently underwent many transcriptions): “I composed the little tune on which this piece is based as a whistling accompaniment to my tramping feet while on a three days’ walk in West Argyleshire (Scottish Highlands) in the summer of 1900. At that time – I had just turned 18 – I was deeply in love with thoughts of the Celtic world…” Indeed British in flavor, this short, tonal piece abounds in lush hues and lovely melodies, ending on the thoughtful added sixth major chord.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) began his Wind Quintet opus 26 in April 1923 and finished it in July 1924 after having worked on the twelve-tone method for ten years, a period in which time he published nothing. The quintet is a milestone in that sonata-rondo forms once more present the possibility to compose in the light of atonal music, the composer thus reinventing himself as a neo-classicist. Here he demonstrates the versatility of his new system in a lengthy, large-scale work. The Hindemith Wind Quintet ended its concert with the final movement of it, the Rondo. The players presented the virtuosic movement in its inherent energy and variety, its individual lines ever apparent to the listener.

The Hindemith Wind Quintet is an ensemble of five superb musicians, whose in-depth performance is intelligent, thorough, convincing and moving. The audience was clearly appreciative of their high quality playing. Attending the concert in the Assia Gallery, surrounded by European oil paintings, added to the evening’s enjoyment; exhibited were two paintings of Felicja Blumental, one by Irwin Dom O-Sen, the other by Kees van Dongen, both paintings being part of the Mizne-Blumental Collection.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Israel in Egypt" performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra under David Stern

“Israel in Egypt” (1738) is the fifth of 19 oratorios that Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed in England. Written in 27 days, it was premiered in 1739 at the King’s Theatre, where Handel was manager at the time. The first performance was not received well: the London audience was confused at hearing a sacred work in the theatre and would have preferred more vocal solos and fewer choral movements. “Israel in Egypt” was only performed nine times in Handel’s lifetime and, despite its splendour, was considered a failure at the time. The composer made several changes, his 1756 version being that which we heard in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s “Great Vocal Series” concert no. 5 April 7th 2011 in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre. In a slightly abbreviated version conducted by Maestro David Stern (director of the Israeli Opera), the chorus (mostly double choir) was made up of The New Vocal Ensemble and The Kibbutz Artzi Choir (Yuval Ben Ozer, conductor). Soloists – all local talent - were sopranos Claire Megnaghi and Avigail Gurtler, countertenor Alon Harari, tenor Nimrod Grinboim, baritone Yair Polishook and bass Amit Friedman.

Essentially a choral oratorio using texts from the Bible (the Book of Exodus and Psalms) “Israel in Egypt”, out-of-the-ordinary in its lack of overture, consists mostly of massive double choruses. The two choirs gave their all to the complex musical detail, the many-faceted counterpoint, the dramatic development of the work and to the nuances of its emotional roller-coaster ride. The English text, so pertinent in this work, was given attention and lucidity. The singers followed Stern’s articulate conducting, their collaboration resulting in precision and clean phrasing.

Tenor Nimrod Grinboim, a charismatic artist with a fine sense of the stage, set the scene, his manner forthright, his English articulate:
‘Now there arose a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph; and he set over Israel taskmasters to afflict them with burdens, and they made them serve with rigour.’ (Exodus 1:8, 11:13.) Countertenor Alon Harari, continuing the narrative, was outstanding in his expressiveness and sincerity, his voice distinctive and mellifluous. In “Their land brought frogs…” his “reading of the text” became dramatic, fired by consonants and enriched with fine melismas and ornaments. In the duet “Thou and Thy mercy”, Grinboim and Harari blend and balance in a delightful mix of timbres and shapes. In the bright and cantabile soprano duet “The Lord is my strength and my song”, its minimal instrumental accompaniment, offering the stage to Claire Meghnagi and Avigail Gurtler, the vocal combination was pleasing; however, Meghnagi needs to take into account Gurtler’s less expansive voice. Meghnagi has much musical personality, her solos compelling; issuing in the final chorus with two startling unaccompanied phrases, her singing had listeners sitting on the edge of their seats. Opening with Yair Polishook’s dramatic statement, he and Amit Friedman provided a fresh, virile and exhilarating performance of “The Lord is a man of war”.

David Stern wielded Handel’s massive score with composure and consummate skill, the JSO players painting the buzzing of flies, lice and locusts, the hopping of frogs, the pelting of hailstones and rain and fire onto Handel’s technicolor canvas.

Description of the above plagues was followed by the spine-chillingly eerie chorus “He sent a thick darkness over the land”, the latter chorus graced by mellow and empathic playing on the part of the JSO’s woodwind section. Stern’s performance set before the audience the Israelites’ despair which turns to gloom, the savage smiting of the first born - effectively chiseled in detached notes - followed by and contrasted by the idyllic and pastoral silver-and-gold threaded comfort of “But as for His people, He led them forth like sheep”. The work then evokes the raging waters engulfing and drowning Pharaoh’s men and horses, these texts inspiring Handel to create some of the most vivid, visual and dramatic moments in Baroque music, the energy and power of the situation being reflected in the complexity of the music. Throughout the work, we are constantly reminded of the power of the sea:
‘And with the blast of Thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as in a heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.’ (Exodus xv: 8.)
Majestic triumph ensues, then celebration and dancing; Alon Harari’s tranquilly beautiful rendition of “Thou shalt bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance” provides relief, respite and reassurance, its message especially relevant in a performance in Israel! Stern, the opera conductor, and his fellow musicians give audience members their money’s worth of excitement! Not to be ignored, however, are the choruses which poignantly punctuate the drama with hymns of conviction and devotion, strategically placed, their cantabile textures caressing and soothing.

Not performed on authentic instruments, Maestro Stern nevertheless addresses the Baroque style of the work. The orchestra was at its best. This was surely one of the JSO’s finest and most enjoyable concerts of the season.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Israel Early Music Project in "The Joy of Improvization" at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem

March 26th 2011 greeted Jerusalem with one of those idyllic late winter mornings bathed in sunshine, the local bird population in full throat. With this tranquility blotting out the previous week’s pressures, we made our way to the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem, to attend “The Magic of Improvisation” a concert performed by the Israel Early Music Project under the direction of Alon Sariel. Welcoming artists and audience, Professor Alexander Tamir mentioned that the Eden-Tamir Center has not made a practice of presenting many early music concerts on authentic instruments, but that there would be more emphasis placed on early music in the center’s next concert season. Alon Sariel talked briefly of the central role of improvisation in Renaissance- and Baroque music, as in the practice of playing divisions over an ostinato bass or taking a well-known song as the basis for instrumental variations.

The concert opened with songs from Henry Purcell’s (1659-1695) “Orpheus Britannicus” collection. Published posthumously in two volumes by Henry Playford, many of the songs were originally written for the stage, either as operatic songs or for incidental music. Soprano Anat Edri performed “If music be the food of love, play on” from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. Orsino, frustrated in his courtship of Countess Olivia, muses that an excess of music might cure his obsession. Backed by ‘cello and lute, Edri follows the text in its emotional fluctuations. Not all words emerge crystal clear; she, however, masters the tricky melismatic passages with aplomb. This was followed by “The Plaint”, a song from the masque in Act V of “The Fairy Queen”, a veritable mini-drama; it was enhanced by a violin solo (Sivann Zelikoff) and word-painting on the part of Edri. In “Hark! The echoing air” (also from “The Fairy Queen”) Edri flitted through the joyful and virtuosic melodic line with agility, her English pronunciation suitably British.

Remaining in England, the ensemble performed two John Dowland (1563-1626) songs. Dowland composed 88 lute songs. Anat Edri and Alon Sariel (archlute) gave a poignant reading of “Come Again” to be followed by “Can she excuse my wrongs”, the latter, in the style of a galliard, possibly referring to the Earl of Devereaux’s stormy relationship with Queen Elizabeth I. In the instrumental version of the song, ‘cellist Talia Erdal contended admirably with the polyphonic nature of the arrangement.

Giulio Caccini (1551-1618), an outstanding singer, who spent most of his life in Florence, was one of the first composers to write the chordally accompanied solo song, as appearing in his collection “Le Nuove Musiche” (The New Music), “new” referring to the fact that his accompaniments were not polyphonic and that certain of the rules of classical polyphony were stretched to enhance the text with “una certa sprezzatura di canto” (a certain noble nonchalance of song). Both volumes of “Le Nuove Musiche” (1602,1614) include explanations as to performance practice, singing techniques, ornaments, etc. We heard Edri and Sariel performing two Caccini love songs. In “Sfogava con le Stelle” (One who was lovesick) Edri presents the vehement suffering of the lovesick man convincingly and spontaneously, with a good dose of Italian melodrama. In the infatuated “Amarylli mia bella” (Amaryllis, my beauty), Sariel is attentive to Edri’s pace and tasteful embellishments, delicately ornamenting the lute part. “Amarylli” was then played on ‘cello and lute. Erdal is a highly expressive musician, using rhythmic flexibility strategically.

And to Renaissance France. “Ma belle si ton ame” (My beautiful one, if your soul) is a courtly song by Gilles Durant de la Bergerie. The strophic chanson was performed by Edri, the ensemble punctuating with interludes between verses. Her singing boasted French elegance and transparency. Born in Alsace, bassoonist, organist and voice teacher Philipp Friedrich Bodecker (1607-1683) was in the employ of the courts of Darmstadt and Durlach, but also spent many years as a church musician. He wrote a treatise on thoroughbass “Manductio nova”. His “Sonata Sopra La Monica”, in the form of a passacaglia and based on “Ma belle si ton ame”, is actually a bassoon sonata. Erdal and Sariel performed it on ‘cello and archlute. A virtuosic work, with the ‘cello soloing in most of the elaborate variations, the audience delighted in playing that was beautifully crafted.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) had more knowhow of the potential of the lute than many other Baroque composers. His two trio sonatas for lute, violin and continuo, commissioned by and dedicated to Count Johann Joseph of Wrtby of Bohemia, were probably composed in the early 1730’s, the Trio Sonata in C major RV.82 being the first. What distinguishes them from many other Baroque works for lute is that here the lute partners the violin, with the ‘cello taking on the continuo role. A work of joy free of emotional complexities, the unpretentious opening Andante sees violin and lute at times doubling, at others with the lute ornamenting sustained violin notes. The Largo is in a minor key, violin and ‘cello accompany the lute in pizzicato. Sariel takes the listener into the realm of magical, filigree melodic lines created on the lute, gracing them with dainty ornaments. The Allegro, restoring the violin-lute partnership, took the listener back to the unadulterated joy of the opening movement.

Violinist Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) is one of the most enigmatic characters of the Italian Baroque. In his treatise “Arte dell’ Arco” of 1714, he wrote of the phenomenon of differential tones, claiming that his students were playing out of tune if two related notes played simultaneously did not produce the “terzo sono” (third note.) He composed over 170 sonatas for violin, the sonata he is best remembered for being his Sonata in G Minor (c.1714), known as “Il trillo del Diavolo” (The Devil’s Trill”). The story behind the work ties in with Tartini’s flamboyant personality: one night, the composer dreamt that the Devil was at the foot of his bed trying to bargain for his soul, so Tartini challenged him to a musical “duel”. According to Tartini, the Devil played “with consummate skill a sonata of such exquisite beauty as surpassed the boldest flight of my imagination”. On waking, the composer sat down to write down the music, creating one of the most virtuosic Baroque works for violin. A sonata da chiesa, we heard violinist Sivann Zelikoff in the solo role (the cadenza she played was written by Fritz Kreisler) with Erdal and Sariel providing the basso continuo. In the opening Larghetto affettuoso, Zelikoff’s playing of the theme and its variations was lyrical and touching, using vibrato to embellish. The ensuing Allegro, a virtuosic movement based on a sharply-profiled subject, is highly decorated. Following a brief cantabile movement, more an interlude than a movement, the Devil appears in the final Allegro assai movement, a piece rife with Italian temperament, tricky trills and drama. Zelikoff performed it with gusto and good taste.

The concert ended with two madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). The first from “Il ballo delle ingrate” (librettist Ottavio Rinuccini), published in his ballet-opera “Ballo of the Ungrateful Ladies”, produced in 1608, is set at the mouth of hell and focuses on the fate of heartless ladies who have declined the attentions of their suitors. Accompanied by Sariel, Edri convincingly lavishes the song with suffering and urgency, Monteverdi’s daring dissonances evident. In “Quel sguardo sdegnosetto”, from Monteverdi’s “Scherzi musicali”, Edri, Sariel and Erdal collaborate to dramatize the feisty text:
‘That scornful little glance
Gleaming and threatening –
That poisonous dart –
Shoots out and strikes my heart.
Charms that have set me on fire,
And have divided me.
Wound me with a glance
Heal me with laughter!’

The IEMP’s young artists make a deep study of works performed; their concerts delight the senses.