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Labor Day Concert: Martin Schmeding

As part of the series of jury concerts taking place over the week of the Boston Bach International Organ Competition, jury member Martin Schmeding of Leipzig plays the annual Labor Day concert at First Lutheran Church, a program of music by Bach, Bruhns, Frescobaldi, Grigny, Krebs, Medek, Mendelssohn, van Noordt, Scheidemann, and Steigleder.

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Boston Bach International Organ Competition

The inaugural Boston Bach International Organ Competition takes place September 2-9 and is open to emerging artists of any nationality who have completed their schooling and are between the ages of 26 and 37. Sixteen contestants will arrive during the last week of August to prepare for the three rounds of the competition. The BBIOC is quadrennial like its Leipzig counterpart, and is intended to

  • promote further artistic development of players already engaged in professional careers,
  • increase the general public’s awareness of the breadth and scope of Bach’s organ music; and
  • showcase Boston as a leading center of historically informed organ building and performance practice, and home to many internationally prominent organists.

The jury consists of Arvid Gast (Lübeck), Chair; James David Christie (Boston-Oberlin), Christian Lane (Boston-McGill), Hatsumi Miura (Yokohama-Ferris), Christa Rakich (Hartford), Martin Schmeding (Leipzig), and Carole Terry (Seattle). Competition rounds take place in order at Old West Church, Church of the Advent, and First Lutheran Church. Jury concerts will be held in order at First Lutheran Church, King’s Chapel, Harvard Memorial Church, Trinity Church, and the Church of the Advent. Arvid Gast plays a Sunday afternoon concert out in Worcester at St. Joseph’s Chapel, Holy Cross College, and a winners’ concert will cap the week at First Lutheran later that evening.

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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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Instrument Sale to Benefit Thomas Binkley Fund

Thomas Binkley (right) with other members of Studio der Frühen Musik


Readers with long memories may recall that some years after the death of legendary lutenist and educator Thomas Binkley in 1995, his widow, Raglind Binkley made a charitable gift to EMA to create an endowed fund, the “Binkley Fund,” to honor Binkley’s memory and his life as a musician and teacher. Mrs. Binkley subsequently donated the Thomas Binkley Instrument Collection to EMA, which added the net proceeds of their sale to the Binkley Fund. As Binkley had once served as a Vice President of EMA, the organization presents the annual Thomas Binkley Award to a director or directors of a university or college Collegium Musicum to recognize outstanding achievement in performance and scholarship.

Thomas E. Binkley, Ph.D. (1931-1995), was a lutenist and musicologist who was the founding director of the Early Music Institute (now the Historical Performance Institute) at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, where he taught from 1979 until his death in 1995. During his long career as a performer of medieval music, director of ensembles performing medieval music, and teacher, Dr. Binkley acquired a significant number of musical instruments, including both instruments of historical origin and authentic copies of historical period instruments. Prior to Bloomington, Binkley had taught at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and made ground-breaking recordings with the Studio der Frühen Musik.

EMA is delighted to announce the sale of three of the remaining instruments from the collection. The proceeds from the sale will be added to the Binkley Fund, which will continue to honor Binkley’s life through awards to those involved in the performance and scholarship of historically informed music.

All three instruments are currently in San Francisco, and the buyer will pay for shipping.

Please contact Karin Brookes, Executive Director for more information, at or 412-642-2778.

Sold – Eight-course Lute
By Christopher Challen, 1976
Lute is 57 cm mensur strung in Nylon and overwound strings. Recently repaired and refurbished, new frets, strings action adjusted The sound is clear and strong like the best instruments on the current market. The action is quite good at 3mm at the eighth fret. Bowl appears to be cypress. Neck is ebony veneer with Ivoroid decoration. There were several long cracks that have been repaired. Has a custom-fitted case in good condition. Appraisal letter available upon request.
Reserve price: $3,200

Sold – Vihuela
Made by Anton Geggenbruber, 1968
Vihuela is made of stained maple. There are some cracks in the back and a repaired crack on the top. The action is a 5.3 mm at the eighth fret on the first course. Pegs work well. The sound projects well with substantial volume. Currently strung in nylon and overwounds. 62cm mensur. Comes with an old, but fitted, case that is fair condition.
Reserve price: $650

SOLD -Turkish oud (as appears in Thomas Binkley’s publicity photo, above)
Well made vintage oud. Strung as medieval lute. Excellent tone and projection. Pegs are well fitted. Finish is worn but in good condition, no cracks or structural flaws. Comes with an old fitted case.

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