Friday, November 2, 2018

DSO Opens Chamber Series with Woodwind Program

By Christine Facciolo

In a commendable change of pace, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) opened its Chamber Concert Series with a a memorable evening of music for woodwinds.

The DSO Woodwind Quintet proved to be exciting and dynamic performers by offering a program that was both eclectic and entertaining.

Playing works that were stylistically distinct the five musicians in the group — Kimberly Reighley, flute; Lloyd Shorter, oboe; Charles Salinger, clarinet; Jon Gaarder, bassoon and Karen Schubert, horn — showed the diversity of the woodwind quintet despite the paucity of repertoire for it.

The ensemble warmed up with expertly crafted works by notable French flutist and teacher Claude-Paul Taffanel's Wind Quintet in G minor and his contemporary Charles Lefebvre's Suite for Winds No. 1, Op. 57. The latter is a standard of the wind quintet repertoire, demonstrating a superior understanding of how to orchestrate for these five instruments.

Taffanel’s Suite for Winds is thoroughly French and late Romantic in style with rapidly changing moods.

The most interesting piece in the concert was Paquito D’Rivera’s Aires Tropicales, written in 1994. This charmer of a piece contains a wealth of melodic traditions, playful inventions and enticing rhythms. Noteworthy movements included “Dizzyness,” a tribute to the late, great Dizzy Gillespie, Habanera, a trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon in the style of Ravel, Contradanza, an upbeat Cuban dance honoring Ernesto Lecuonar. Vals Venezolano, a lively Venezuelan waltz and Afro, an energetic dance over an African ostinato.

The evening of varied music concluded with a performance of Aria and Quodlibet for Woodwind Quintet by clarinetist Arne Running (1943-2016). The Aria contains a chorale in the low winds, the repetition of which features Shorter’s oboe singing high above the melodic line. The Quodlibet is sheer fun; a pastiche of tunes from virtually every corner of the musical world.

Pyxis Lights Up Market Street Music Festival Concert Series

By Christine Facciolo
The Sunday, October 14, 2018 concert by Pyxis Piano Quartet — as part of Market Street Music's Festival Concert series — at Wilmington’s First & Central Presbyterian Church revealed once again the abundance of talent within each member of this laudable ensemble.  Members include Luigi Mazzocchi, violin; Amy Leonard, viola; Jennifer Jie Jin, cello and Hiroko Yamazaki, piano.

This 90-minute program offered works from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, including two of the most demanding in the repertoire: Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478 and Mendelssohn’s Piano Quarter in F minor, No. 2, Op. 2.

Mozart seems to have invented the piano quartet. There are no examples of the genre among his contemporaries or immediate predecessors, including the very inventive Haydn. He left only these two work but they count among the very best in the repertoire.

Mozart’s G minor quartet grew out of a commission from the Viennese publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister for three such works. The remaining two were canceled when the publisher felt the finished work was too difficult for the amateur musician 
 the usual market for keyboard-based chamber music.

Pyxis Piano Quartet (L-R): Amy Leonard, violaHiroko Yamazaki, piano; Jennifer Jie Jin, cello Luigi Mazzocchi, violin.
The quartet features true chamber music equality of part-writing, juxtaposing concerto-like passages in the piano with others in which the instrument fades and blends in with the strings in a lively interplay. The musicians effectively kept up the momentum throughout a cliffhanger of a development section which often hints at a resolution only to give way to other material. The second movement captivated with the sheer beauty of the playing, while the ensemble’s gentle handling of the phrasing in the finale provided a joyous conclusion to this darkly dramatic work.

Pianist Hiroko Yamazaki assumed an even more virtuosic role in Mendelssohn’s F minor quartet, while the string players offered less flamboyant bits, albeit ones that carried the thematic material. Leonard’s viola got to show off its high register during the exposition of the second theme. Yamazaki again displayed virtuosic technique in the rolling figurations throughout the Adagio movement which exhibited pure early Romanticism. The strings at last assumed an (almost) equal footing with their keyboard companion in the whiplash final movement.

The concert opened with a fine performance by Mazzocchi and Leonard of Martinu’s Three Madrigals for the (seemingly) austere combination of violin and viola. Each artist exaggerated the sounds of their instruments: Mazzocchi played up the brightness of the violin while Leonard reveled in the richness and warmth of the viola. 

It would have been tempting to blend the sounds but this approach maintained the independent voices when it mattered most. The result was what sounded like a unique instrument with a remarkable range of timbre and pitch. The two instruments matched when in the same range, establishing unity while preserving the individual capabilities of both. This was exploited to maximum effect during the playful competition of the many imitative passages.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Celebrating the Life of a Delaware Arts Pioneer

Fred Carspecken in his gallery.
Photo courtesy of The Hunt magazine.
Delaware arts lovers sadly mourn the passing of Frederick John Carspecken, founder of Delaware’s preeminent art gallery, Carspecken-Scott Gallery. Carspecken died at home on October 14, 2018.

His gallery staff recently sent a message to friends and supporters, saying, in part: 
"It is with great sadness that we bid a final farewell to our fearless leader, Frederick J. Carspecken, 'founder, chairman, president and CEO of Carspecken-Scott Gallery,' as he was notorious for saying in his booming, bombastic voice. He had an outsized, larger-than-life personality and an outrageous sense of humor, one of many endearing qualities that we will sorely miss."

Longtime Carspecken staffer Laurel Christie told us she worked for Fred for over 32 years, and it goes without saying he played a major role in her life. "Fred was a mentor to many and possessed a certain 'joie de vivre' that made him unforgettable," she said. 

In tribute and love for Fred, his staff plans to continue to run Carspecken-Scott Gallery.

Carspecken was born on September 29, 1946, in St. Louis, Missouri to Harold Carspecken and Charlotte Elizabeth, an artist. He had fond memories of going to art museums with his parents, which he credited with inspiring his early interest in art. 

Fred was a graduate of the University of Virginia and served in the US Navy. Following his discharge from the Navy in Pensacola, Florida, he happened into the gallery business. An acquaintance was searching for a gallery manager, and Fred volunteered. After several months, John Schoonover — grandson of noted Brandywine artist, Frank Schoonover — connected with Fred and suggested they start a gallery in Wilmington. Together, they founded Schoonover Galleries in 1970.
Carspecken-Scott Gallery is located at 1707 N. Lincoln Street
in Wilmington's Trolley Square neighborhood.

Carspecken developed a strong love for contemporary art and began plans for his own gallery with that focus. He founded Carspecken-Scott Gallery in 1973. His first exhibition featured pieces by Mary Page Evans, Tania Boucher and Tom Bostelle. Carpsecken was pivtoal in advancing the works of other well-known Delaware artists including Cleveland Morris (former director of the Delaware Theater Company), Peter Sculthorpe, Carolyn Anderson and Carol Spiker, among others.

Carspecken often joked that his vision was to be the 'Guggenheim of Delaware.' Some would argue he succeeded. His gallery was named “Best Gallery” in Delaware Today's Best of Delaware series. 

While Carspecken is may be best known in Delaware’s art community, friends also knew him as an exceptional chef and host with a clever, self-deprecating charm and a wicked sense of humor. Carspecken was also a dedicated member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, serving as an ordained elder, ordained deacon, a Biblical Storyteller and a Stephen Minister.

There will be a celebration of his life on Friday, November 2, 2018, 2:00pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1502 W. 13th Street, Wilmington, DE 19806. All are welcome to attend. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church.