Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Delaware Symphony Orchestra Closes Its 16-17 Season at Gold Ballroom

By Christine Facciolo

One of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s greatest strengths is its roster of talented musicians that can be called upon to organize performances in a wide range of complexity and moods in a single evening.

The result is often a delightfully strange assemblage of pieces and the orchestra’s final chamber series concert of the season — “David Amado and Friends” 
 in The Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont was one of the most curious, featuring Schubert’s richly lyrical Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 99, Shostakovich’s polystylistic Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 67 and Ysaye’s virtuosic Sonata No. 4 for Solo Violin.

The first item on the program — the Ysaye Sonata 
 was also the most notable outlier. Though not as well-known as Nos. 2 and 3, this sonata is fiercely expressive and violinist Erica Miller captured its virtuosity perfectly. Her mastery of the instrument was complete: her downbow attacks were strong, her intonation precise. She took a rhapsodic approach to the opening Allemnda, showed a reverent calm in the Sarabande and delivered the pyrotechnics of the Finale with poise.

The rest of the pre-intermission portion of the concert was taken up with the Shostakovich trio, one of his most enduringly popular compositions. It was written in 1944 in memory of one of the composer’s closest friends, polymath Ivan Sollertinsky, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack that same year. Shostakovich had also lived through the siege of Leningrad and his anxiety about death permeates the entire work.

Cellist Naomi Gray opened the trio with a note that would be challengingly high, even for a violin. Gray succeeded in striking a delicate balance between beauty and pain which continued as the other instruments joined in. Violinist Luigi Mazzocchi executed the relentlessly jabbing notes of the second movement without sacrificing clarity or intonation. DSO Music Director David Amado’s dramatic phrasing and scrupulous attention to dynamics carried the third movement which consists of a series of heart-wrenching variations over the piano’s bass line. The work culminates in a dance-like finale which features Shostakovich’s first use of Jewish klezmer music, a reference to the influences of the Holocaust around him. The performance concluded with barely audible notes in each instrument’s highest register, moving the whole affair into a different realm.

After intermission, the musicians offered a glittering performance of Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat Major, D. 898. This piece was a perfect showcase for the players’ keen sense of ensemble. The performance was a true dialog between piano and strings as well as between the strings themselves. The first and second movements featured song-like phrases from each other players while the scherzo received a sense of urgency. The Rondo finale was full of surprises as the musicians accommodated the sudden accents, key changes and false endings that permeated the movement.

All in all, the trio played with a joyous emerging that brought Schubert’s trio and the concert — and season — to a rousing conclusion.


Delaware Chamber Music Festival Wraps 31st Season

By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival (DCMF) turned to Scandinavia for the penultimate concert of its 31st season, programming works by some famous and not-so-famous Nordic composers.

The concert opened with a performance of Handel/Halvorsen’s Passacaglia for violin and cello. Halvorsen (1864-1935) was a celebrated violinist, conductor and composer best remembered today for this brilliant extrapolation of Handel’s passacaglia for an intrepid duo of two masterful musicians, in this case Hirono Oka, violin and Burchard Tang, viola. DCMF Music Director and Violinist Barbara Govatos noted that the piece is primarily used for educational purposes, so it was a real treat to hear it performed in concert.

It is indeed amazing to hear how much music a composer can coax out of the scant resources of two stringed instruments. Some of the variations require numerous double and triple stops and multi-note chords to achieve full four-part harmony while others employ swift melodic lines to create a linear harmonic effect over time. The result was a jaw-dropping dialog between two virtuosic performers.

The brilliance of the Handel/Halvorsen segued to the serious of Sibelius’ String Quartet in D minor (Voces intimae) delivered with strength and sympathy. The four musicians showed polish and clear phrasing in the opening Andante; conveyed purpose and excitement in the perpetual motion of the Vivace; captured the dream-like quality of the Adagio; charmed in the Allegretto and brought frantic energy to the closing Allegro.

The final offering of the concert was Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27. Like Sibelius, Grieg attempted the genre several times but left only one mature effort in the form. The Quartet tells the tale of minstrels who sell their souls to a water sprite in exchange for virtuosity. Grieg manages to imbue the work with a richness and scope that evoke the power of an orchestra with just four string players. The ensemble did a stellar job of capturing the romantic drama of the piece. Cellist Clancy Newman offered some remarkable playing at the end of the first movement. All in all, the ensemble maintained a good balance, blend and clarity to the rousing conclusion.

Pianist Marcantonio Barone joined the quartet for Sunday’s finale, which featured a work each from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries.

Barone and Govatos joined together for a performance of David Finko’s Sonata for Violin and Piano (2010). The duo sounded determined to show just how easily they could dispatch this Russian-American composer’s deliberately taut and acerbic music and they did so quite impressively.

Cellist Clancy Newman brought a big rich sound, thoughtful musicianship and technical capability to his performance of Prokofiev’s Sonata in C Major for cello and piano, Op. 119. The sonata opened with grave, low cello phrases, but quickly moved into outbursts of pizzicato around heavily marked themes in the piano. The composer’s naturally good humor returned in the scherzo-like second movement where the piano assumed much of the action. It was prominent again in the third movement but Newman and Barone were never anything less than an equal pair as the cello’s arpeggios were accompanied by piano figures that swept the keyboard.

The concert — and the season — wrapped up with Govatos joining Newman and Barone in a spirited performance of Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, D. 929. It’s hard to believe this lighthearted work was composed the same month (November 1827) as the more somber Winterreise song cycle but we got a gentle reminder in the C minor Andante con moto, with a melancholy exchange between cello and piano. The players showed themselves to be completely in Schubertian sensibility from the dramatic rhythms of the opening movement to the jaunty delivery of the final movement, where despite moments of sadness, Schubertian bonhomie reigned.

See www.dcmf.org.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer in the Parks Returns to Wilmington

Blog content courtesy of a press release from The Grand Opera House...
The Grand Opera House is pleased to announce the start of Wilmington’s Summer in the Parks 2016! This week launched the first of the 9-week season featuring FREE arts activities in 10 different park sites throughout the City of Wilmington.

The programs run Monday, June 20 through Friday, August 19, with 86 daytime events of FREE music, dance, arts & crafts, theatre and storytelling for kids of all ages. Activities will take place Monday through Friday (except July 4 and August 12) at 9:30-10:30am and 12:00-1:00pm, in combination with the City’s Summer Food Service, which distributes breakfast and lunch for neighborhood children.

Please note that the West Side Neighborhood site has moved to Madison Street Tot-Lot, just across from the entrance to William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center, and we look forward to returning to One Love Park after they completed a beautiful upgrade last summer. Come out and join us!

Weekly ScheduleEvery Weekday Morning @ 9:30-10:30am
  • MONDAY | Prices Run (BBW Park at N. Locust & E. 23rd Streets) 
  • TUESDAY | Woodlawn Park (4th & Ferris Streets) 
  • WEDNESDAY | Tilton Park (N. Franklin – W. 7th & 8th Streets) 
  • THURSDAY | Madison Street Tot-Lot (504-506 N. Madison Street) 
  • FRIDAY | Holloway/Compton Park (N. Lombard & E. 7th Streets) 
Every Weekday Afternoon, @ 12:00-1:00pm
  • MONDAY | One Love Park (N. Tatnall & W. 24th Streets) 
  • TUESDAY | Barbara Hicks Park (Bradford & B Streets) 
  • WEDNESDAY | Kosciuszko Park (Sycamore & S. Broom Streets) 
  • THURSDAY | Judy Johnson Park (N. Dupont & W. 3rd Streets) 
  • FRIDAY | Haynes Park (N. Franklin – W. 30th & 32nd Streets) 
So many wonderful artists – many returning and several new this year – provide a safe and creative outlet for neighborhood youth. Artists include: Alfie Moss, Alia Moss-Koonce, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, Dave Fry, Delaware Art Museum, The Delaware Contemporary, Delaware Shakespeare Festival, Elbert-Palmer Percussion Ensemble, First State Ballet Theatre, Fly Motivation, Gabrielle Kanter, GCJ Uniques, Griots Wa Umoja, Illstyle & Peace, Jill Perry Carpenter – Walt the Street Dog, LaFate Gallery, Leslie Carey Band, Minas, The Music School of Delaware – M&M and Friends, Nature Jams, New Wilmington Art Association with Barrel of Makers, Pegasus Trio, Philly Vibes, Pieces of a Dream, Street Xpressions, TAHIRA, Terrance Vann, Vanity Constance and Wilmington Drama League.

Weekly evening concerts will be hosted at selected park sites for all ages to enjoy – including the premiere performance at The Sugar Bowl Pavilion in Brandywine Park!
  • June 29, 6:00-7:30pm, One Love Park | Alfie Moss/Dexter Koonce Project 
  • July 6, 6:00-7:30pm, Haynes Park | Suzzette Ortiz Latin Jazz Ensemble 
  • July 14, 6:00-7:30pm, Tilton Park | Richard Raw 
  • July 21, 6:00-7:30pm, Union Park Gardens | Diamond State Chorus & Simple Gifts 
  • July 27, 6:30-7:30pm, Stapler Park | Diamond State Concert Band 
  • August 4, 6:00-7:30pm, Judy Johnson Park | Pristine Raeign 
  • August 5, 6:00-7:00pm, Stapler Park | Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance 
  • August 10, 6:00-8:00pm, Sugar Bowl Pavilion | The Souldaires with Elbert-Palmer Percussion Ensemble 
Keep up to date with the Facebook page and website, which will be updated with news, photos and individual park schedules.

The Grand would like to thank the City of Wilmington for its generous support to make this important program possible. A special thanks also to Wilmington Parking Authority, Wilmington State Parks, the Friends of Wilmington Parks, and to ALL of you for your ongoing support and participation. We’ll see you this SUMMER in the PARKS!

For information, visit TheGrandWilmington.org/Parks or call 302.658.7897 x3105.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Richard Raw Ends Inaugural Week of Music & Community with CD Release Party at Queen

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

Richard Raw makes it clear, hip-hop is still in its formative years – it is still a young art form, and those who are involved need to change the some of the stereotypes associated with it.
The first stereotype is that hip-hop artists are only out for themselves – whether it’s a matter of proudly proclaiming (in song) how great the artist is or denying any outside help or influence in the business.

At the June 11 Richard Raw CD Release Concert for his new album, Word Warrior, at World Café Live at the Queen, Richard and his team of musicians, singers and friends went out of their way to credit those who have gone before and to pave the way for the next generation of artists. In song, word and action, Richard showed the audience that he benefited from parents, mentors and other artists who made sure he was successful both as a musician and as a human being.


Richard also showcased the talents of other singers throughout the evening. Maya Belardo, Ladyy Defined, Aziza Nailah and Ann Letreece each had time at center stage to share their voices with the audience.
The second stereotype Richard Raw is out to change is the misogynist message some in hip-hop have been parroting.

Between inviting his mother to sit in front of the audience while he sang A Song For Mama and inviting all of the men in the audience to come forward and join him in singing Ain’t Nothing Like a Woman to all of the women in the audience and preaching about the importance of showing respect to the women in our lives, Richard made it clear that he expects hip-hop to change for the better.

The entire show was marked with high energy and a sense of purpose – with themes ranging from reclaiming a proud heritage to dealing with oppression in the workplace to advocating for healthy diets and lifestyles.

With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, there was little doubt about the song Richard would offer as an encore, once again with words of appreciation to a role model.

By the end of the experience, it’s clear that Richard Raw takes the title of Word Warrior seriously – and he’s ready to use every tool at his disposal to fight for his art, for his community, and for the young artists following in his footsteps.

Set List:
Fela Kuti - Lady
Runaway Slave
Rise Up "Part 2"
How We Get So Low/Solo
Lose My Religion
Diamond (by Maya Belardo)
Say Yes (by Ladyy Defined)
On and On (by Aziza)
Shaka Zulu
Watch Your Health
Don't Let Them Take Your Crown
At The BBQ
Let's Groove
Ain't Nothing Like A Woman
I'm Every Woman (by Ann Letreece)
A Song For Mama
Shine Yo Light
Muhammad Ali

Thursday, June 2, 2016

In Heaven with Brandywine Baroque

By Christine Facciolo
No other composer in the history of Western music compares to J.S. Bach. He excelled in virtually every genre — except opera — and invented quite a few himself, including the keyboard concerto.

Brandywine Baroque devoted the entire program of this year’s Harpsichord Heaven to a performance of the composer’s complete set of concertos for one, two, three and four harpsichords.

Although the piano has dominated the concerto literature for more than 200 years, the keyboard came late to the ranks of concerto soloists. Baroque composers generally regarded the harpsichord as a “utility” orchestral instrument; one that filled in harmonies as opposed to presenting melody. Even Vivaldi — who composed more than 500 concertos — never wrote one for the harpsichord. (He did, however, manage to compose one for the lute.)

Bach was probably the first to compose concertos for the harpsichord. But even these are re-workings of his compositions for other instruments, usually “melody” instruments like the violin or oboe.

As it does every year, the festival brought together an impressive roster of performers and scholars. In addition to Founding Artistic Director Karen Flint, the event featured harpsichordists Davitt Moroney, Arthur Haas, Luc Beausejour, Janine Johnson, Leon Schelhase and Joyce Chen.

Accompanying them were Martin Davids and Edwin Huizinga (violins), Amy Leonard (viola), John Mark Rozendaal (cello), Heather Miller Lardin (bass), Rainer Beckman and Lewis R. Baratz (recorders). John Phillips provided care and tuning of the harpsichords.

The true stars of the event were the harpsichords, as Moroney stated in his pre-concert remarks. Instruments from the Flint Collection included two by the famous Flemish manufacturer Ioannes Ruckers (Antwerp, 1627 & 1635), one by Nicolas Dumont (Paris, 1707) and a recently acquired representative by father-and-son harpsichord builders Nicolas and Francois-Etienne Blanchet (Paris, 1730). Filling out the quarter was a representative by Joannes Goermans (Paris, 1748) on loan from a private collection. The instruments were chosen because they contain d’’’, the highest note of Bach’s harpsichords, explained Moroney.

Oddly enough, the event opened with a performance of the Concerto in A minor for 4 harpsichords, BWV 1065, a faithful transcript not of a Bach composition but of Vivaldi’s B minor Concerto for Four Violins (Op. 3/10). Bach, however, makes it his by expanding both the counterpoint and harmonies and imbuing the solo parts with greater complexity and clarity. Of particular interest is the middle movement where each soloist — Moroney, Flint, Johnson and Chen — produces a different kind of arpeggio on a central propulsive fragment.

Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056 is believed to have been based on a lost violin concerto in G minor. It is unusual in that it sets the soloist off rhythmically from the orchestra, with the strings playing in strict 2/4 time and the soloist playing almost exclusively in triplets. The lovely second movement provides a lyrical respite before a return, with only a slight pause, to the rhythmic vitality of the final movement, replete with felicitous echoes between soloist Luc Beausejour and the orchestra.

Arthur Haas and Leon Schelhase joined together to perform the Concerto in C minor for two harpsichords, BWV 1062. Bach’s well-known Double Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043 provided the basis for this transcription. The opening and closing movements feature much contrapuntal weaving of themes. As for the middle movement, the orchestra takes a back seat as the soloists engage in a kind of Baroque vocal duet. This beautiful movement seems both intense and calm at the same time and one could easily see the emotional involvement on the faces of violinists Davids and Huizinga.

The mood brightened as Karen Flint offered the Concerto in A major, BWV 1055. As always, Flint’s playing was flawless. The outer movements of this concerto are lovely but the middle movement is unbelievably beautiful for its extremely long musical lines which weave so deftly when played, as here, at the proper tempo.

The highlight of the evening, though, was the less hummable — but most frequently performed — Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052. In this virtuosic tour-de-force, Janine Johnson and the accompanying strings wholly delivered on the drama and high-speed prowess of the outer movements, while reaping all poignancy of the middle movement.