Tag Archives: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Concert notes: Rachael Price, Vivaldi

Two short notes on recent concerts:

Jazz singer Rachael Price is just 23, but judging by her performance Saturday night in Boca Raton, she already has the instincts and perseverance of a road veteran.

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Price, a Boston-based singer who just earned a jazz studies degree at the New England Conservatory of Music, appeared at the tiny Willow Theatre in Boca’s Sugar Sand Park with a substitute pianist in her backing trio while clearly battling a cold that occasionally robbed her of volume and smooth register shifts.

Yet she did a fine job, giving good readings of a handful of standards from the Great American Songbook. The majority of her two sets — which included You Go to My Head, Skylark, I Love You Madly, Let’s Build a Stairway to the Stars — are featured on her newest album, The Good Hours. Bassist Erik Privert and drummer David Brophy were a tight unit, and Privert had to do double duty as bandleader, cuing in guest pianist Sergio Salvatore, who was reading from charts most of the night in the absence of Price’s usual pianist and vibraphonist, Warren Wolf.

Price has a powerful, somewhat deep, often sexy voice that sometimes can overblow, rolling out a bit too much lungpower in things such as the rideout of The Trolley Song, but that’s what the weather’s like at the intersection of today’s popular singing styles and that of the past. She has a chatty, friendly stage presence, sharing a family story  before singing Serenade in Blue, and confessing to being hung up on someone before doing a moody take on That Old Feeling.

The high point for me, and apparently for the rest of the half-full house at the Willow, was a duet with Salvatore on My Romance, the Rodgers-Hart beauty from 1935. Salvatore began with a slow, sculptured series of Debussy-style chords and Price floated in with an unmannered, pure interpretation of this lovely Rodgers tune and classic Hart lyric. Words like these can be hard to relate to for younger people, Price told the audience afterward, but that they seemed so right and meaningful as she sang them was “testimony to the power of music.”

Quite so. Sources tell me the veteran arranger and composer Sammy Nestico is working on an album for Price, and here’s hoping My Romance is among the charts. Here’s also hoping she’s able to come back to these parts sometime soon, and  in full vocal health — though if she isn’t, you can bet she’ll soldier on anyway.

Viva Vivaldi: On Sunday afternoon, I went over to St. Paul’s for the Camerata del Re’s all-Vivaldi concert (except for one piece by Chedeville), and wrote about it for the South Florida Classical Review (read it here).

As I mention, the tuning problems the group faced were considerable, but I did want to note also that the current lineup of concerts for St. Paul’s is deeper and more ambitious than series in past years, and that’s to be applauded.  Keith Paulson-Thorp is a fine musician and an engaging scholar who promises to bring ambitious and interesting programming to the Delray Beach church, and this is a series well worth watching.

In fact, a benefit concert for two St. Paul’s children’s charities has been announced for 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. The young Italian harpsichordist Chiara Massini will perform works by J.S. Bach (including the Goldberg Variations), Alessandro Scarlatti, Johann Jacob  Froberger and Francois Couperin. Here’s a chance to hear music from the earlier centuries of keyboard tradition before the piano conquered all.

Froberger and Couperin, for instance, had huge influence on the development of keyboard playing and compostion in the German and French lands, respectively, and this great music isn’t heard in our concert halls often enough. (Tickets for the Massini concert are $20 and $35 and can be reserved by calling St. Paul’s at 278-6003 or going to the church Website. Thus endeth my plug.)

My must-sees for the classical season, Part I

The classical music season in this part of the state is about to get rolling in earnest, so here’s a first list of what looks good to me coming up.It’s a short list, and I’ll have a second one, likely longer, tomorrow:

New World Symphony: The finest orchestral ensemble in South Florida, led by Michael Tilson Thomas, plans many must-see events that will more than likely see me making the trip down to Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. There’s a U.S. premiere of the Irish composer Gerald Barry’s one-acter The Stronger (Nov. 22), in a concert conducted by the English composer Thomas Ades, who also has two works on that same program.

The American composer Kevin Puts (at right) will hear his new Hymn to the Sun on Nov. 8-9, and American music also will be represented April 26 in a program of music by Lou Harrison, Tilson Thomas, Ives, Bernstein, and Crumb. I’m also excited about planned performances of the Mahler First on Jan. 29 (violinist Joshua Bell does the Saint-Saens Third on the same bill) and on March 28-29, the Nielsen Fifth (the Sixth under Paavo Jarvi was a highlight of an NWS concert several years back).

The Korngold Violin Concerto is scheduled for Nov. 8-9 with soloist Vadim Gluzman, and the fine young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, whose Netcast recital this summer at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland showed me an intriguing young artist, comes to town for the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand and the Stravinsky Capriccio in concerts Oct. 17-19. Actually, I’d be happy to see pretty much everything on this group’s bill this season. Box office: 305-673-3331

Lynn Philharmonia: This is the Lynn U. orchestra, composed of students from the school’s conservatory, formerly the Harid Conservatory. The group, led by director Albert-George Schram, can be inconsistent but when it’s good — as when they took on the Shostakovich 10th Symphony a couple seasons ago — it’s very good, and well worth seeking out. Its first of its six concerts (this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon) under Lynn dean Jon Robertson, features the Rachmaninov Third Concerto with the Armenian-born pianist Sergei Babayan.

I’ll go to that one, and I’m also interested in the Feb. 21-22 concerts, which will see Schram and his charges take on the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra as well as the Mozart Symphony No. 29 and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide overture. Information: Call 237-9000.

Delray String Quartet: In their fifth season, the Colony Hotel-based foursome offers five programs this year, four of which will feature arrangements of the movements of Frederick Delius’ Florida Suite. Delius lived in Florida, near modern-day Palatka, in the 1880s, where he studied harmony with an itinerant musician and failed to get an orange grove going.

I’m most interested in the Feb. 1 concert, which will feature a world premiere: the String Quartet No. 2 of Thomas Sleeper, the well-known University of Miami composer who was commissioned by the Delrays to write the work. The concert also includes the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with guest soloist Paul Green, and the “Sunset Near the Plantation” movement from the Delius suite. For more information: 213-4138.

Seraphic Fire: Patrick Quigley offers another brilliant series of programs for his chamber choir and the new Firebird Chamber Orchestra, which debuts Thursday at the Arsht Center in Miami in a program of music by David Diamond, Samuel Barber, Telemann and Vivaldi. The two will combine in November for Bach’s Cantata No. 82 (Ich habe genug) and December for Handel’s Messiah. I’m particulary interested in the choir’s Ikon program (Feb. 12-15) which will feature music in the Russian Orthodox tradition (Part, Tavener), the April program (April 16-19), featuring Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and the May 14-17 programs, which give pride of place to Salamone Rossi, the most eminent of early Jewish classical composers.

Seraphic Fire has added Thursday afternoon concerts at West Palm Beach’s Harriet Himmel Theater this year for non-orchestra concerts. For more information: 305-476-0260.

Music at St. Paul’s: This series at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach looks unusually rich this season. I’m partial to the March 21 concert, which will feature the church choir and the Sinfonia del Re in music by Haydn, Charpentier and Karl Jenkins.

The Bach Legacy, a May 17 program featuring music by C.P.E. and J.C. Bach, along with Krebs and Abel, should also enlighten audiences about the rich legacy of music J.S. Bach’s sons and disciples carried on after the master’s death. Information: 278-6003.

Mozart, Brahms at St. Paul’s as season opens

It was the last Sunday of summer, and if the line I was standing in at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Delray Beach is any indication, this season of classical music will be not only enriching but well-attended.

The 21st season of Music at St. Paul’s, which opened Sunday, featured works by Mozart and Brahms as played by instrumentalists associated with Florida International University, including that school’s enemble in residence, the Amernet Quartet. It was a lengthy but nourishing afternoon of chamber music, with fine performances of masterpieces of the genre.

The well-known area clarinetist Paul Green opened the concert with the Amernet foursome in the Clarinet Quintet of Mozart, written at the end of the composer’s life and still as fresh and innovatory as when it was first conceived. This was a very good reading of a great work by a group of seasoned musicians who know how to bring out the depth and the breadth of Mozart.

Green has a nice, big sound that floated out in strong relief against the Amernet (Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley, violins, violist Michael Klotz and cellist Javier Arias). He sounded particularly nice in the sweet song of the second movement, and in the bubbly finale, which the St. Paul’s audience appeared to especially enjoy. And while the ensemble of all five players was fine overall, this was a performance that also was more aggressive than subtle, and perhaps a bit too edgy for more traditional tastes.

The second Mozart selection, which opened the second half, featured Klotz and violinist Robert Davidovici in the G major Duo for violin and viola, K. 423. Here, too, was an intense, committed performance, with broad gestures and themes sharply outlined.

Tuning was slightly ragged in the first movement, but got better as the playing progressed.

Earlier in the summer the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival featured a performance of the other Mozart violin-viola duo (in B-flat, K. 424) that was classic, elegant and somewhat restrained. This reading of the G major duo, on the other hand, was all about passion, especially in the third movement, and particularly from Klotz.

Overall, Klotz and Davidovici were well-matched in this interpretation, and clearly enjoyed playing together.

Davidovici was the soloist in the Second Violin Sonata (in A, op. 100) of Brahms, which closed the first part of the concert. In the sonata, the Romanian-born Davidovici showed himself to be a player in the older Romantic tradition, with a fat sound and a high-strung emotion trembling beneath the surface of the various melodic lines. He is a persuasive advocate for Brahms, with an interpretive mindset that seems to match what the composer was after, and plenty of technique to make his case.

Pianist Ilya Itin proved to be a fine accompanist, and offered up several moments of sheer loveliness, especially in the second movement.
The concert closed with another Brahms work, the Piano Quartet in C minor (Op. 60). Itin, Davidovici, Klotz and Arias were the players, and as might be expected by this point, this was a very warm, red-blooded rendition of this fine piece.

As Davidovici noted in remarks earlier in the concert, the key a composer chooses is quite important, and for Brahms as well as Beethoven, C minor is a key of drama and brooding strength.
Perhaps the high point here was the third movement, with a beautiful, full-throated cello song for Arias, and a joint narrative arc for the music that smartly charted the emotional highs and lows of the music.

(The next concert in the St. Paul series is set for Oct. 19, when Green will lead the klezmer band he founded, Klezmer East, in a program of music from this Jewish folk tradition.)