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Teamwork Pays Off In Pittsburgh

Chatham Baroque: Scott Pauley, theorbo; Patricia Halverson, viola da gamba; and Andrew Fouts, violin. (Photo by R. Alan Adams)

 

By Mark Kanny

PITTSBURGH — Mergers can be risky business, but Chatham Baroque is looking to build on the initial success of joining forces with Pittsburgh’s Renaissance & Baroque, a presenting organization, at the end of the 2017-18 season.

“Last year was more successful than we had even hoped,” says Donna Goyak, Chatham Baroque’s executive director. She reports attendance increased 32.5 percent in the first year of the merger. Non-board member contributions rose 21 percent.

The combined organization is by far the major player in early-music performance in Pittsburgh. When Pittsburgh Opera presents Baroque opera, Chatham Baroque is the core of the orchestra. When local churches offer Baroque music at Christmas and Easter, Chatham Baroque often is a key participant in the ensembles. Historically informed performance practice is part of the curriculum at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music, where it is led by flutist Stephen Schultz, who will be part of Chatham Baroque’s final concert of the 2019-20 season.

Fortepianist Sylvia Berry will make her Pittsburgh debut with “Haydn in London” on Oct. 5.

 

The success of the merger was facilitated by trust and rapport built up over the preceding six months, when Chatham Baroque managed Renaissance & Baroque concerts. Even so, there were some surprises during the post-merger analysis.

“We didn’t know how much overlap there was in audiences,” says Goyak. “But given such clear mission alignment between the two organizations, we were surprised how little crossover there was. In fact, there was only 11 percent overlap on mailing lists, six percent on the email lists.”

The 2019-20 season was planned by a programming committee consisting of the three artistic directors of Chatham Baroque – Andrew Fouts, violin, Patricia Halverson, viola da gamba, and Scott Pauley, theorbo and other fretted instruments – plus Goyak and members of the board of directors. The new season is most oriented to Baroque music, and while there’s hardly any Renaissance repertoire, there are two concerts of medieval music.

Concerts are performed at a variety of locations in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, including the acoustically superb Synod Hall in Oakland and at Chatham University in Squirrel Hill.

The season’s opening program September 20-22 is titled “Foreign Accents.” It exemplifies the increased opportunities for collaboration that made the merger so appealing to Chatham Baroque, which will team with The Four Nations Ensemble, based in New York, and Canadian soprano Pascale Beaudin in cantatas by Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti written in languages and styles foreign to the composers’ own nationalities.

Benjamin Bagby, second from right, and Sequentia colleagues will perform music dating back to the 9th century.

 

Bach never set foot outside of Germany but was fascinated by other national musical styles. His “Non sa che sia dolore,” Cantata No. 209, is a secular work in Italian about the sorrow of a friend moving away. The exquisite flute part will be played by Charles Brink of The Four Nations. Handel did travel and wrote his only work in Spanish, “No se emenderá jamás,” in 1707 while in Rome, five years before the German composer found his future in London. The accompaniment of this cantata about a heart broken by love is led by guitar, which will be played by Pauley.

The Pittsburgh debut of fortepianist Sylvia Berry on October 5 in “Haydn in London” will feature works by four composers performed on an 1806 fortepiano made in London by John Broadwood and Son that has been restored by Berry’s husband. The major pieces are Haydn’s big Piano Sonata in E flat major and Muzio Clementi’s G minor Sonata, Op. 34, No. 2.

Berry notes that the fortepiano’s advantages include better balance because the bass is not overpowering and playing quickly is easier due to the shallow movement of the keys. Slow tempos are less practical as tone decays more quickly than on modern pianos. Berry emphasizes that late 18th-century keyboard style is closer to speaking than singing, to conversations rather than arias.

Chatham Baroque will be joined November 16 and 17 by the vocal ensemble Pittsburgh Camerata and extra instrumentalists for “Welcome to All Pleasures,” featuring both of Henry Purcell’s celebrated odes for St. Cecilia’s Day. Hail! Bright Cecilia from 1692 is the larger in scale and one of this composer’s best-known compositions. Purcell wrote Welcome to All the Pleasures in 1683.

East of the River ensemble will perform “Hamsa: Music from Andalusia, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and the Sephardic Diaspora” on March 14.

 

Fouts admires “the whole palette of Purcell’s tone colors in his exploration of music and art. Love, life, and the cosmos are intertwined and inspired by this patron saint” of music. “Purcell expressed beauty through dissonance arriving at consonance unexpectedly and with striking harmonic motions.”

Extra players also will join Chatham Baroque for a holiday feast of fetching string music, “Capriccio Stravagante,” December 5-8. The program’s title is taken from a piece by Carlo Farina, an early Baroque virtuoso violinist and composer who died in 1639. His Capriccio Stravagante is programmatic, evoking the sounds of animals and nature. Corelli’s Christmas Concerto is the other major work. The program will be completed by 16th-century dance music by Anthony Holborne and Michael Praetorius.

The season’s earliest music will be performed by legendary vocalist and harp player Benjamin Bagby and Sequentia, his medieval ensemble, on January 14. Some of the selections in “Charms, Riddles and Elegies of the Middle Northlands” date back to the 9th century and were carried forward by oral tradition for hundreds of years before being written down. The medieval Northlands stretched from the foothills of the Alps along the Rhine river. The program, which debuted earlier this year, employs charms and riddles as emotional antidotes to the elegies. The charms — in old German, Latin, and English — preserve folk wisdom, magical incantations, and even recipes for herbal cures.

“Riddles are a favorites pastime of English poems, difficult to decipher in a hermetic language,” Bagby says. Translations will be projected in time with the performance. Instruments will include a six-string German harp, triangular harps, and wood and animal bone flutes.

Chatham Baroque’s annual “The Art of the Trio” program February 14-16 will focus on stylus fantasticus sonatas by Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Schmeltzer and suites by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach and Nicola Matteis. Erlebach was a prolific mid-Baroque German composer, but most of his vocal and instrumental music was destroyed in a fire 21 years after his 1714 death. His suites begin with movements in Italian sonata style before shifting to French dance styles.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra will present “Vivaldi and the Apotheosis of the Concerto in the 18th Century” on Feb. 29.

 

Fouts is proud that his organization will present the Venice Baroque Orchestra in “Vivaldi and the Apotheosis of the Concerto in the 18th Century” on February 29 because he doesn’t think there is a better ensemble for high Baroque music, with its “iconic sound and style — a standards bearer and bar setter.”

The program includes the exquisite and well-known Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, as well as the Recorder Concerto in D major, “Il Giardellino.” The only music not by Vivaldi is Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D minor (“La Folia”), which is based on Arcangelo Corelli’s famous Violin Sonata Op. 5, No. 12.

Ancient harmony and improvisation mix in the East of the River ensemble, founded in 2008 by recorder players Nina Stern and Daphna Mor, which will perform “Hamsa: Music from Andalusia, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and the Sephardic Diaspora” on March 14. Other instruments in the ensemble are violin, oud, and percussion.

The earliest music they’ll perform will be 11th-century Armenian chants. Much of the repertoire is from the Sephardic diaspora, when Spanish Jews were expelled, starting in 1492, and ended up in Morocco, Turkey, and Balkan lands. Several texts follow the lead of the Bible’s Song of Songs in using a beautiful woman as a metaphor. Others are intended for the Jewish High Holidays. Examples of Ottoman Empire court repertoire will complete the program.

The music is organized according to middle eastern Makim, a modal system that encompasses more than 100 varieties and includes quarter tones that require special fingerings on the recorders.

Chatham Baroque, top, will join forces with flutist Stephen Schultz, oboist Caroline Giassi, and harpsichordist Justin Wallace to end the season in April

 

Flutist Stephen Schultz, oboist Caroline Giassi, and harpsichordist Justin Wallace will join Chatham Baroque to conclude the season April 3-5 with “Les Nations,” a program of French Baroque music. Music from François Couperin’s Les Nations will be featured. “Les Nations combines French sensibility with lots of ornamentation with the very contrapuntal feel of Italian music, which is for me the best of both worlds,” says Schultz.

The Italian trio sonata portions of these pieces were published by Couperin early in his career under a pseudonym, long before he added French dance movements to each of the suites. These performances will take advantage of the scores’ indications that the top line may be played by flute, oboe, or violin. The program also will include a Paris Quartet by Georg Philipp Telemann and instrumental suites by Marin Marais and Jean Philippe Rameau.

Mark Kanny was classical music critic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 1999-2016, and previously wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, New York Times, and other publications.

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Scott Allen Jarrett Named EMA Board President

Scott Allen Jarrett conducting Bach Akademie Charlotte in Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’ in June. (Photo by Michael Harding)

 

Early Music America is delighted to welcome Scott Allen Jarrett as president of the EMA board. A leading Bach interpreter, he is artistic director of Bach Akademie Charlotte, director of music at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, resident conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, and music director of the Back Bay Chorale. He has maintained a long relationship with the Oregon Bach Festival, where he serves as conductor of the Discovery Series, teaching cantatas and motets. Jarrett was the first guest conductor to lead Miami’s Seraphic Fire, and he continues to collaborate with the ensemble and founder and artistic director Patrick Dupré Quigley.

Amid activities last week at the Oregon Bach Festival, Jarrett spoke with EMA editor Donald Rosenberg. Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Scott Allen Jarrett (Lydia Bittner-Baird)

How do you feel about becoming EMA board president?

It’s daunting but surely an honor. I was inspired by both Marie-Hélène [Bernard]’s leadership and Miguel [A. Rodríguez]’s leadership and vision. More recently, I was on the search committee that identified Karin [Brookes] to be our next executive director. I very much appreciate and value all she brings to our organization and what she’s doing for EMA on an hourly basis, day by day. I’m honored to help support the work of Karin and our amazing staff.

What impresses you most about the organization?

It’s quite remarkable what EMA is able to do with such limited resources, not just financially but in terms of the size of the staff. It actually feels like a treat for me to serve and work a little bit in support of what they’re doing every day. I also feel strongly that we have a fantastic group of board members. Over the past couple of years, every meeting has gotten better and better, and the quality of discourse over the course of those meetings has been deeply enriching and exciting to participate in. I feel excited for and confident about EMA’s future, both immediate and longterm, because we’ve got just a stellar group of people training their various foci and energies on EMA’s mission and vision.

Have you devised strategies to take EMA into the future?

I’m trying to think about different perspectives and establishing some goals I can put on a piece of paper to articulate for myself over the course of a six-month or year period. Those have to do with making sure I know how to reach out to our membership and what EMA is doing currently and what EMA can do in the future for its communities, members, and ensembles. I live in Boston. Now, with my increased energy in Charlotte and other places, I’m excited about the quality and breadth of activity in early music that is expanding exponentially across the country. EMA has a wonderful role as a connector for our members and their communities. That’s what’s been so inspiring: to learn the ways EMA serves as a support network for so many organizations across the country.

I’m also eager to increase access to early music and to our members. That includes advocating for the music we love and nurturing it. It means increasing access not just for our members but also to what it means to work in the field of early music and to cultivate the work. That extends beyond people who practice in the High Baroque or High Renaissance to those periods and musics that connect those dots.

Do you have ideas about how to broaden the appeal of early music?

One of things I’m thinking of is access broadly — other musics that qualify as early music. My own way of addressing the challenges of inclusivity and diversity in our field is thinking of ways to increase opportunity and access and honoring and recognizing all kinds of music and practice, not just the old dead German guys, whom I, of course, love and adore.

Scott Allen Jarrett conducting Bach Akademie Charlotte. (Harding)

 

How do you view the breadth of early music from your perspective in the vocal arts?

As somebody who practices and teaches the music of Josquin this semester and next semester will teach Mendelssohn and Brahms, I’ve never been aware of or made the distinctions that characterize so many musical disciplines. A nice departure for me is that I’m excited to advocate for everybody who comes to early music. The other exciting thing is what characterizes my experience and perspective as somebody who works with voices: Our training these days is trying to match the sound to what the music wants. I find faculty studios acknowledge that you might have a different approach. I find in particular string faculties are opening up to not applying the same beautiful tone and bowing to Corelli as you would to Paganini caprices. In short, I sense the academy catching up with professional practice and expectation, driven by the inspiring sense of entrepreneurship that so defines today’s classical music markets across the country.

There’s plenty of room, then, for the field of early music to increase its impact.

I do find in residencies and teaching and conversations with our friends in academia across the country that more and more schools of music and faculties of music are aware of the importance of preparing their students for what the workplace actually is. There’s an awareness to share and create opportunities for their students to experience a variety of ways of making music, and schools of music are encouraging that. They’re being driven by market and entrepreneurial drivers. However it’s happening, I’m happy for it. People are discovering and trying to jettison their fears about something they’re not quite comfortable with. EMA is contributing through our Young Performers Festival, Emerging Artists Showcase, scholarly opportunities, and other facets we can accomplish together.

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