Three Great Chamber Concerts

Including sexy French songs by Les Délices and four wildly varied works performed by Philomusica Quartet.

By - Feb 13th, 2015 01:59 pm
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Les Délices

Oboist and recorder player Debra Nagy, viola da gambist Emily Walhout, lutenist Nigel North and soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw. Photo courtesy of Early Music Now.

On Saturday February at 5:00 PM, Early Music Now welcomes Les Délices to a concert at St Paul’s Episcopal Church celebrating the pleasure-seeking aristocratic culture of early-17th century France. The program will offer occasionally “PG-16″-rated French Baroque love songs to fit the season. Oboist and recorder player Debra Nagy and viola da gambist Emily Walhout are joined by lutenist Nigel North and soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw.Extensive program notes (also on-line) suggest the music’s context: Court composers “developed the French air de cour — songs which alternately express tender sentiments, gut-wrenching sorrow, utter desperation, languorous swoons, and intense ardor. These songs convey an intimate and intense personal emotionalism. The composition and performance of airs allowed women (and men) to exchange and relate ideas concerning love, relationships, and morality (that would otherwise be inappropriate for refined conversation)… the song texts transmitted a coded language of eroticism: references to possession or death could be associated with the physical act of love, while the pastoral settings of most songs set the stage for the kinds of encounters that required privacy.”

Songs will be interwoven with solos for lute, viola da gamba, and oboe. I am especially looking forward to lutenist Nigel North. He has been called “perhaps the greatest performer of the instrument of all time,” leaving renowned guitarist Julian Bream to gush that “I was bowled over by how masterful and musical” his playing is.

I recommend arriving early for a seat nearer the front. (The premium section, however, is sold out.) St. Paul’s has generally excellent acoustics, but the lute and viola da gamba were designed for small settings, not concert halls.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located Downtown at 914 E Knapp Street. To purchase tickets online visit the Early Music Now web site. Tickets may also be reserved by calling 414-225-3113.

Philomusica Quartet

Philomusica Quartet (L to R): cellist Adrien Zitoun, violinists Jeanyi Kim and Alexander Mandl and violist Nathan Hackett.

Philomusica Quartet (L to R): cellist Adrien Zitoun, violinists Jeanyi Kim and Alexander Mandl and violist Nathan Hackett.

On Monday evening February 16th, the Philomusica Quartet – resident quartet of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music – will perform their second concert of the season. All four of the selections they have chosen to perform offer a compelling reason to attend.

The Philomusica performed a complex work by Hans Krása, Passacaglia & Fugua ,in a 2014 concert outside the Conservatory series. Philomusica violinist Alexander Mandl believes Krása might have become one of the noted composers of the 20th century. Instead, he and several other students of Schoenberg and Berg were interned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II. Krása wrote this final work in 1944. He and the others were shipped to Auschwitz to the gas chambers the same year.

Performed as a trio – with ensemble member Jeanyi Kim on the sole violin – Krása’s difficult piece sparkles with energy and attitude. Using a neo-classical structure, the formal, tightly constructed material begins to fragment – especially as a waltz intervenes. The result: skillfully written and performed organized disintegration.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky‘s String Quartet in D Major, Opus 11 – his first chamber work – contains the hallmarks of Tchaikovsky’s best work – a memorable cantabile melody, skillful orchestration and drama. Nicknamed “The Accordian”, Tchaikovsky designed the rhythm of opening movement so that the legato instruments breathe as an accordion (or Russian bayan) would. The slow movement draws upon a Russian folk melody and the final movement incorporates a Russian dance melody of Tchaikovsky’s own invention.

The Philomusica Quartet has performed 14 of the 16 Ludwig van Beethoven string quartets – presenting one each concert. This concert features String Quartet in D Major, Opus 18, No. 3. In this early quartet Beethoven shows respect for the giants of chamber music – Haydn and Mozart. The light, sophisticated development owes the most to Mozart.

A short piece by Josef Suk, Meditation on a Czech Hymn, balances an elegiac air with a fervent national spirit. The violins soar in this romantic era melody.

Monday, February 16, 7:30 p.m, at the Helen Bader Recital Hall in the Conservatory at 1584 N Prospect Avenue at 7:30 PM. Series details are available on-line. Tickets may be purchased on-line or at 414 276-5760.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

On Thursday, February 26th, at 6 PM, the continues its “Salon Series” of house concerts. Principal MSO violist Robert Levine will play before an exclusive gathering at a Fox Point home.

Levine has been an active chamber musician, but has only occasionally performed in Milwaukee chamber concerts in recent years.

Violists, like the alto in the choir, rarely command attention. The viola section most often is called upon to add color to the orchestra. But the viola’s mellow resonant tone serves certain solo music well.

Salon events provide a unique opportunity to meet and socialize with special guest artists, MSO musicians and fellow music enthusiasts. Each is followed by discussion and a special Q&A session. The $75 ticket price includes performance plus hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. You’ll find more information here.

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