Sunday, June 25, 2017

Princeton Festival Chamber Concert with Baroque Orchestra. June 24, 2017.

Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary.  General Admission ($30.)

Beatus Vir, SV 268 by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643).
Kyrie, RV 587 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741).
Miserere, ZWV 57 by Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745).
Chanos Anthem no. 11a, “Let God Arise,” HWV 256a by Handel (1685-1759).

Michael Duryea, Maria Hagan, Kyle Hanson, Shohei Kobayashi, Simon Shiao.

During the Festival a group of conductors (mostly but not all young) attended master classes conducted by Jan Harrington, retired Chair of the Choral Conducting Department at the Indiana University.  This concert is the result of their hard (I assume) work for the last several weeks.

A couple of the pieces were conducted by a single conductor, and the other by a combination of them, sometimes with a switch after a short movement (e.g., Miserere.)

I had time the day prior to listen to all the pieces on YouTube, and managed to find scores for three of them (couldn’t find Vivaldi’s Kyrie.)  The music, with solo, choral, and orchestral parts, looked quite a bit more complicated.

Instead of getting bored, or only using my “left brain” to listen, I found today’s concert generally more captivating. Perhaps the addition of lyrics helped a lot.  Although I do not know Latin, and had some trouble getting the words in the Handel piece, I had some idea what the pieces were about.  Beatus Vir was based on Psalm 112 which begins with “Blessed is the man;” Kyrie has three simple phrases: “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,” meaning Lord and Christ have mercy, yes one phrase is repeated; Miserere is based on the Psalm of repentance by David (Psalm 51), and Handel’s lyrics are from Psalm 68 and 76.

Here are some details:

Monteverdi.  He also lived in Venice, and preceded Vivaldi by 100 years.

Vivaldi.  Three segments are Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, and Kyrie eleison.

Miserere.  Zelenka was more Bohemian in style (per our friend David).  Today’s piece consists of: Miserere I, Miserere II, Gloria Patri I, Gloria Patri II, and Miserere III.  M I and M III are very similar (M III appears to be an abbreviated I), yet they sounded very different with two different conductors.  M I was serene, M III was agitated. I don’t know how Zelenka intended it, but I am sure M III hews more to the taste of today’s listener.

Handel.  This is the longest of the four, and the movements are Symphony, Let God Arise, Like as the Smoke, Let the Righteous be Glad, O Sing unto God, Praised be the Lord, At the Rebuke O God, and Blessed be God.  I thought there was a part that sounded very much like Messiah, Chung Shu also pointed out it sounded like one of his coronation anthems.

There were on occasion some voice ensembles, some involved the soloists we heard earlier (Johnson and Bello).  Our seats were in the first occupied row, so everything sounded loud and clear, and I got to observe how critical technique was in their delivery.

At the end of the concert.  Eventually other conductors and soloists would join these people in the front.

Many of the conductors also sang in the chorus, which also included Richard Tang Yuk, the Artistic Director of the Festival.  One string player played the viola da gamba, the viola, and the violin.  (A search of the web identifies her as Stephanie Raby.)

Indeed Chung Shu and Shirley decided to join us, so we carpooled out together.  The six of us stopped by the reception (can’t turn down free food) and had a simple dinner at Mamoun’s before we went our separate ways.  During the reception I really wanted to ask one of the string players why their instruments go out of tune so easily, but couldn’t find anyone standing there alone.  Anne told me many of them had changed out of their black clothes; so they were around.

The group dates back to the 1970s, when were were students at Cornell (Anne and I were undergrads, the others were graduate students.)

We left some food on our boat yesterday, so had to stop by to dispose of it – otherwise it would really reek given the hot weather we expect to get.  So it was about 10:30 pm that we got home.

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