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CD REVIEW: Hallelujah For Handel Arias

Robert Crowe in concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with Concerto d’Amsterdam and Elizabeth Wallfisch.


Handel: The Complete Amen, Alleluia Arias
Robert Crowe, soprano, and Il Furioso
Toccata Classics TOCC0337

By Andrew J. Sammut

CD REVIEW — Nearly half of this disc is made up of Handel’s settings of the words “Amen” and/or “Hallelujah,” likely intended for performance in private homes and deliberately light on lyrical content. Yet Handel makes these spiritual declarations by turns reflective (HWV 271), resigned (HWV 274), joyous but refined (HWV 276), virtuosic (HWV 277), and, of course, triumphant (HWV 275). The album also includes three vocal works from the Harmonia Sacra, a collection of sacred solo songs published in various editions during the late 17th century and also aimed at home use: William Croft’s bright, heavily ornamented hymn to music, an anonymous composer’s graphic vision of Christ’s crucifixion, and John Church’s emotionally ranging “A Divine Hymn,” which soprano Robert Crowe calls “a truly under-appreciated masterpiece.”

This music was intended for “amateur” musicians, meaning “non-professional” rather than “unskilled, dilettante” and certainly not “student,” according to Crowe. These works are technically involved and expressive, and the musicians approach them with obvious knowledge and affection. Crowe explained over email that “the limited word choice [in the Amen and Hallelujah arias] and those two words both containing relatively broad, powerful meanings meant that the affect had to be gleaned not from text but from the music written to undergird it.” Crowe’s musical instincts are spot-on throughout as he explores each work’s unique character. He tosses off some impressive sudden register shifts, including an unexpected dip into chest voice following chiming, upper-register melismas at the end of Croft’s “A Hymn On Divine Music.” Even during the most ornate line of the three Harmonia Sacra pieces, Crowe demonstrates fine diction and consistency of tone.

Robert Crowe

The American-Canadian ensemble Il Furioso partners Crowe with chamber organ and one or two theorbos on each track. The liner notes explain the historical precedent for the double theorbos, but the warm, undulating wash underneath and around Crowe justifies itself on purely sonic terms. The first, unornamented performance of HWV 270 (as opposed to the ornamented version closing the disc) is a great example of the simple but powerful effect of one theorbo doubling the organ’s bass line while another plucks the harmonies. HWV 269 is a superb example of the whole ensemble — singer and instrumentalists — breathing together and feeling the pulse as one. Theorbo sonatas by the obscure Ferraranese composer and theorbo virtuoso Giovanni Pittoni spotlight Il Furioso co-directors Victor Coehlo and David Dolata. Charming excerpts composed by Handel for mechanical musical clock showcase organist Juvenal Correa-Salas.

This reviewer had difficulty with the recording’s audio engineering, such as rumbling on Crowe’s highest notes and some muddiness in the instruments’ lower ranges (even after trying the disc on three sound systems). Those strictly technological issues aside, the origins of these works in private musicking, the spare accompaniment, and the musicians’ sensitive interplay make this a thoroughly intimate affair.

Andrew J. Sammut has written about European classical music as well as American classical music for All About Jazz, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, Early Music America, the IAJRC Journal and his own blog.

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The Seven Last Words of Christ for String Quartet, Op. 51 by Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece The Seven Last Words of Christ expresses the immense sorrow of Christ’s suffering in an Introduction, seven slow movements, and a depiction of the earthquake. Haydn wrote, “each movement is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will be moved to the very depths of his soul.” This work was originally commissioned in 1783 for the Good Friday services at the Cathedral in Cádiz, Spain, providing a sonic backdrop for meditation on each of the seven last utterances of Christ. This musical treasure has endured the test of time, remaining in the performance repertory for more than 200 years

Haymarket String Quartet
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Jeri-Lou Zike, violin
Dave Moss, viola
Craig Trompeter, cello

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2018 Emerging Artists Showcase: Costanoan Trio

The Costanoan Trio

The Costanoan Trio will perform as part of the Early Music America’s Emerging Artists Showcase, May 24-26, 2018, as part of the Bloomington Early Music Festival.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the members of the Costanoan Trio explore the piano trio repertoire of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with special interests in lesser-known composers and recreating the world of domestic music-making in intimate concert spaces. 
2018 Showcase Program: The Costanoan Trio will present a pastiche piano trio featuring movements from three works by composers of different origins and backgrounds from the turn of the 19th century and showcasing the diversity and transition of styles during that time – from Boccherini’s galant style in the royal court of Spain to young Beethoven’s boldness and virtuosity. This program also features a trio by the well-traveled Anton Reicha, friend of Beethoven and teacher of Liszt, Berlioz and Franck, who mingled German and French aesthetics with flavors from his Czech origins.
Boccherini, Beethoven, and Reicha: Forming a Genre
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
    • Adagio—Allegro vivace from Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2 (1795)
  • Anton Reicha (1770-1836)
    • Adagio from Piano Trio (Sonata) in C Major, Op. 47 (1804)
  • Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
    • Menuetto militare from Sonata (Trio) in D Major, Op. 12, No. 4 (1781)
  • Beethoven
    • Finale. Presto from Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2 (1795) 

Performer bios

In demand as a conductor and historical keyboardist, Derek Tam performs regularly in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Praised for his “deft” conducting (San Francisco Chronicle), Derek appears frequently with choral and orchestral ensembles. Recent engagements include collaborations with Ars Minerva, Bay Pointe Ballet, and Oakland Ballet. A specialist on historical keyboards, Derek has been lauded as “a master of [the harpsichord]” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Recent concerto appearances include performances with Chamber Music Silicon Valley, Elevate Ensemble, and the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. Derek is also a founding member and the harpsichordist of MUSA, a San Francisco–based baroque ensemble.

Baroque violinist and violist Cynthia Black performs at home in the Bay Area and across the United States. She regularly performs with the American Bach Soloists and MUSA Baroque, and other appearances include concerts with Quicksilver, Les Délices, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, and the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. She recently completed a doctoral degree in Historical Performance Practice at Case Western Reserve University and holds modern viola degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Her primary teachers include Julie Andrijeski, Lynne Ramsey, and Robert Vernon.

Since moving to the United States, Swiss-American cellist Frédéric Rosselet has been performing with local ensembles and music festivals such as American Bach Soloists, Musica Angelica, Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, Chamber Music Silicon Valley and Yellow Barn. Equally at ease on modern and period instruments, he enjoys exploring new repertoire for the cello and discovering early works on baroque cello and viola da gamba. Frédéric studied at both the Basel Music Academy and the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, then obtained his DMA from the University of Southern California. He is now on faculty at Santa Clara University.

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Marianna Martines: Classical Composer in Vienna (1744-1812)

Hispanic Society of America presents SONNAMBULA

Marianna Martines was a composer of Spanish lineage living and working in Vienna at the height of the Classical era. She lived with her family on Vienna’s Michaelerplatz, in a stately building whose other inhabitants included Esterházy court poet Metastasio and composer Nicola Porpora, the latter of whom taught Marianna to compose and play the harpsichord. Marianna’s lessons with Porpora were accompanied by yet another neighbor: a young Haydn, then a struggling musician who lived upstairs in the attic rooms. Mozart was a frequent guest to her salons, and composed four-hand piano sonatas to perform with her.

Join us to celebrate this 18th-century urban tale with a rare concert featuring her music and a lecture devoted to her life and times.

Lecture at 6:30 PM
Concert at 7 PM
Free Reception to Follow

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Spain Culture New York-Consulate General of Spain and New York State Council on the Arts.

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