Showing posts with label Delaware Chamber Music Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware Chamber Music Festival. Show all posts

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Delaware Chamber Music Festival Closes 32nd Season with More Brahms & Jazz

By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival continued its celebration of the music of Johannes Brahms June 23 through 25 with complementary works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Mozart and Turina.

The Festival Quartet includes: Barbara Govatos, violin & DCMF Artistic Director; Hirono Oka, violin; Che-Hung Chen, viola and Clancy Newman, cello.  Guest artists this season were: Kristen Johnson, viola; Marcantonio Barone, Julie Nishimura & Natalie Zhu, pianistsDouglas Mapp, bass; Tina Betz, voice and Jonathan Whitney, arranger and director of Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency. 

Friday, June 23’s concert opened with a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in F major, Op.18, no. 1. The instrumental Brahms owes much to Beethoven, who brought many innovations to his musical genres, not the least of which was the systematic use of interlocking thematic devices to achieve intra- and inter-movement unity in long compositions.

The six quartets that make up the Op. 18 set were Beethoven’s way of announcing to the world that he was to be taken seriously as a composer. It was evident that the musicians viewed the work not as the apogee of 18th Century Viennese Classicism, but rather as a transitional work that looked forward to the composer’s middle period.

That approach was made plain in the slow movement, which was presented as a deeply felt lament. Here Beethoven goes far beyond Haydn, writing in an emotional intensity — the movement is his musical depiction of the tomb scene of “Romeo and Juliet” — that must have shocked his contemporaries. The finale was energetic and incisive, elegant and charming.

Guest artists Hirono Oka (violin) and Marcantonio Barone (piano) collaborated in a tour de force rendering of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, a 1930s work arranged from the ballet Pulcinella. Stravinsky based Pulcinella on music that had been attributed (probably erroneously) to the 18th Century Italian composer Giovanni Pergolesi. The result is not an antiquarian piece but a seamless fusion of the old and the new. Stravinsky maintained the courtly character of the Baroque melodies but spiced up the music with pungent harmonies and updated rhythms.

Oka and Barone respected the 18th Century influences in a refined performance full of spongy Baroque rhythms. But they also played with ample color and expression, making the music sound decidedly contemporary. Oka’s tone was both sweet and luminous and decisive.

The lighthearted character of the Suite Italienne gave way to the symphonic grandeur of Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. Brahms published the work when he was 32 years old, but by then it had gone through several transformations: it began as a string quintet in 1862 and was rescored as a work for two pianos until Brahms gave it its final form.

This is a work of surging passion, tempered only momentarily by the softer-edged Andante. Govatos, Oka, Chen, Newman and Barone conveyed the full-bodied Romanticism of the two outer movements and the driven Scherzo and a plaintive, soulful rendering of the slow movement. Yet as heated as the music got, the ensemble kept the texture remarkably transparent. Viola and cello lines were never buried yet the group produced a solid, powerful sound.

On Saturday, June 24, concertgoers headed to the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in downtown Wilmington for a free concert, marking the first collaboration between the DCMF and the residents of the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency. Six residents were given a week to compose a work that incorporated a classical string quartet 
 a first for these talented young artists.

Each composition was noteworthy but Sasquatch by vibraphonist Grady Tesch brought down the house. Tesch also excelled as a featured player in Mike Talento’s Half and Half and as lyricist and vocalist in Ike Spivak’s Plot Twist, which recounted the musical journeys of jazz luminaries.

Jazz vocalist Isabel Crespo gave a plaintive rendering of her composition Hide and Seek, while trombonist Kristin Monroe ably combined elements of jazz and classical in Coasting Equilibrium, her contribution in the tradition of Astor Piazzolla’s nuevo tango. Libby Larsen kept the musicians moving — especially pianist Julie Nishimura — with the kinetic energy of Four on the Floor.

Tina Betz, also executive director of the Light Up the Queen Foundation, applied her dramatic contralto to a powerful rendering of Strange Fruit, a song about lynching made famous by the late Billie Holiday. Douglas Mapp, associate principal bass with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, joined the string quartet to accompany. The song was arranged for this performance by Boysie Lowery director, Jonathan Whitney.

Sunday, June 25’s program opened with Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, K. 136, the first of a group of works known collectively as the “Salzburg” symphonies. The work was performed at the request of DCMF Board President Carolyn Luttrell. Govatos, Oka, Chen and Newman played with a nimbleness and precision that underscored the decorous elegance of a work that can only be described as a masterpiece on the smallest possible scale.

Pianist Natalie Zhu joined Govatos, Chen and Newman in a seductive and sensitive performance of Joaquin Turina’s Piano Quarter in A minor, Op. 67. Composed in 1931, this gently melancholic work resonates with the vivid harmonies and impetuous rhythms of Spanish folk music yet at the same time bears the imprint of impressionists’ influence in its spacious, colorful textures.

The program — and season — concluded with a performance of Brahms’ breathtaking Quintet in G major, Op. 111. Orchestra in conception, this piece creates the effect of far more than five players. This was a passionate performance. Cellist Newman was more than equal to the full opening of the first movement. The Adagio was rapt intensity; the Allegretto wistful and the finale, robust.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Mini-Celebration of Brahms Opens the 32nd Delaware Chamber Music Festival

By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival (DCMF) opened its 2017 season on Friday, June 16 with a celebration of the music of a composer many find difficult to love: Johannes Brahms.

Indeed, the “Brahms problem” never seems to go away. Over and over, we hear complaints that his music is “too romantic,” albeit not excitingly romantic like Chopin or his mentor Schumann. At the same time, he’s charged with being too intellectual and not sensuous enough.

One thing, however, is certain: Brahms’ oeuvre occupies a unique position in the history of Western music. Looking Janus-like both to the music of the past and towards the innovations of future generations, Brahms’ music has shaped our understanding of composers from the Renaissance and Baroque periods to the present-day.

Violinist and DCMF Artistic Director Barbara Govatos has curated a series that acknowledges the tensions between modernism and tradition. Each of the four concerts offers a master work by Brahms as well as works by Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky and others.

The level of playing was extremely high. The Festival Quartet — Govatos, Che-Hung Chen, viola, Hirono Oka, violin — includes musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Guest artists for the first weekend of concerts included pianists Marcantonio Barone, Julie Nishimura and Natalie Zhu.

Friday evening’s program opened with a performance of Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio, a nod to the Festival’s theme “Strings and Keys.” Like Scriabin, color and visual imagery figure prominently in her compositional process. This two-movement work attempts an aural depiction of the colors “Pale Yellow” and “Fiery Red.”

Govatos, pianist Natalie Zhu and cellist Clancy Newman delivered a performance that truly highlighted character of the movement titles: subtle and relaxed for the first, energetic and rhythmically decisive for the second. Perception is personal but if audience response was any indication, both musicians and composer succeeded in achieving the two vastly contrasting moods.

Violist Che-Hung Chen then joined Govatos and Newman in a performance of the Serenade in C major for String Trio by Hungarian composer Erno Dohnanyi. Dohnanyi became a devotee of Brahms while studying at the National Hungarian Academy of Music. Brahms would later promote the fledgling composer’s first published composition, the Piano Quintet in C minor.

Govatos and company offered an impressive performance of the Serenade characterized by a warm tone, a relaxed demeanor and the ability to search out the subtler aspects of the score.

Zhu rejoined the ensemble following intermission for a performance of Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor. The work premiered in Hamburg in 1861 with Clara Schumann at the piano. It was orchestrated in 1937 by Arnold Schoenberg who would call Brahms “the reluctant revolutionary” for the way he developed his thematic material, techniques for which Schoenberg himself would become famous.

The ensemble gave a reading that conveyed both the sweetness and simmer of the first movement; the introspective character of the second and the dreamy grandness of the third. The Hungarian, Rondo finale was pure fire, the rhythmic and metric complexities so meticulously executed that the audience rose to its feet with gasps of delight and thunderous applause.

Sunday’s program opened with the Fantasie in F minor for piano, four hands by Franz Schubert. Not a bad choice, since Schubert was one of Brahms’ favorite composers, so much so that he cast the aforementioned piano quartet in the Schubertean mold.

Schubert was after the Mozart the major composer of original four-hand piano music. The Fantasie comes from the last year of the composer’s life. It consists of four movements of unequal proportions. Guest pianists Julie Nishimura and Marcantonio Barone played as one entity, making very clear the architecture of the piece yet never obscuring the wonderful niceties like Schubert’s amazing sense of harmony and canonic writing.

Govatos and Barone did justice to the passion and pathos of Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, a work dedicated to the memory of Spanish poet, playwright and theatre director Frederico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Although Poulenc railed against a “prima donna” violin above an arpeggio piano accompaniment, he followed Brahms’ example in this work by giving each instrument a challenging yet balanced part.

Govatos, Barone and cellist Clancy Newman concluded the concert with a rendering of Brahms’ Piano Trio, No. 2 in C major. The three musicians gave the work the disciplined and coordinated interaction its complex lines demand and judging by audience reaction, achieved the desired result.

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival continues Friday, June 23, 7:30pm and Sunday, June 25, 3:00pm at Wilmington Friends Lower School. A Saturday, June 24, 4:00pm FREE Jazz Concert will also be performed at the Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, in collaboration with the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency Program (Jonathan Whitney, Director. For full details, visit

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wrap-Up: 30 Years of Musical Magic from DCMF

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Where has the time gone? The Delaware Chamber Music Festival (DCMF) has just wrapped up its 30th anniversary season.  The DCMF has been called one of the state’s
“best kept secrets.” Personally, I think there are far too many “best kept secrets” on the local arts scene.

DCMF Music Director and Violinist Barbara Govatos promised a program worthy of the milestone, and she did not disappoint with set lists that blended the traditional and the contemporary, old favorites and some genuine surprises. Where else would one see two double bassists over two weekends?

The first concert (Friday, June 12) opened with Rossini’s String Sonata No. 2 in A Major. Bright, breezy and charming — he wrote it when he was 12 
— it nevertheless requires precision, subtly graded dynamics and purity of tone — all qualities brought by the festival quartet with deft support from debuting guest double bassist Xavier Foley.

A nice contrast was achieved with a Piano Trio by cellist-composer Gaspar Cassado. It is explicitly and ethnically Spanish from its very first chords. Pianist Marcantonio Barone, cellist Clancy Newman and Govatos are persuasive advocates of this piece that Govatos “discovered” on YouTube, and their playing is first class. The evening ended with a performance of Schubert’s much loved “Trout” Quintet. The ensemble built through the introduction to the opening Allegro with a strong sense of where the music should go, continuing with lively rhythms and balance: Again, Foley is present but never weights the players down.

The second concert (Sunday, June 14) opened on a pensive note with a performance of Heidi Jacob’s Winter Light. Inspired by the Bergman film, “In Winter Light,” this serial work has a mournful somberness about it and a highly expressive — not to mention challenging — string part brilliantly executed by Govatos. Collaborating on piano with Govatos was the composer’s husband, Charles Abramovic.

The mood considerably lightened when Abramovic and Russian pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine sat down at the concert grands to perform Brahms’ joyful “St. Anthony Variations.” Abramovic reminded the audience that the work was originally scored for two pianos and played for the first time by the composer and his close friend Clara Schumann. This was a truly superb performance, capturing all the color one would hear in the orchestrated version. I don’t think Brahms and Schumann could have performed it any better.

They then switched pianos for a performance of Brubeck’s jazz ballet Points on Jazz, a work that had personal significance for both performance. Moutouzkine recalls playing it with his mother, while Abramovic remembers Brubeck from an LP his parents owned. Like fusion cuisine, fusion music isn’t for everyone, but to quote Duke Ellington, "...there are only two kinds of music: good and bad." And this was definitely good and well-played.

The third concert (Friday, June 19) carried the theme “A Little Night Music” and featured the festival debut of double bassist Brent Edmondson, a Newark, Del. native.

One would expect to hear Mozart’s iconic Serenade in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusic —always a pleasure 
 but not before something a bit more contemporary in the form of George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for Violin and Piano. This is truly night music: delicate and serene. The violin is heard in the highest register with wide-ranging intervals from time to time. There are long silences and occasional hints of birdsong. Only in the second Notturno does the music become a bit edgy. Govatos and Barone do the honors of exploiting the various timbres of their respective instruments: plucking, rapping on crossbeams, touching the strings on nodal points or simply depressing the keys.

Schubert explores the music of the night in his mystical Notturno, a single movement for piano trio in which the strings — Govatos and Newman — matched the gentility of Barone’s piano work. Their pizzicato was delicate throughout — not the standard pluck-away — as the musicians found their way through the muscularity of the dotted rhythms and the sonorous and lyrical slow bits.

Many have been fascinated with Boccherini’s La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid with its vivid evocation of bells, beggars, drums and the rosary. Here the quartet with the participation of Edmondson dispatched it with an elegant precision.  Barone provided an interlude of pure piano simplicity with his masterful performances of Faure and Chopin nocturnes.

The festival concluded on Sunday, June 21, with the core quartet taking on a musically and emotionally challenging set. Czech folk rhythms, national fervor, memories of youth and private anguish — the composer is coming to terms with his deafness 
 unite in the intimacy of Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1, From My Life. From the opening impassioned viola solo executed here by Burchard Tang to the closing pages of the finale which reduxes the dramatic falling fifth of the opening and introduces a whistling high E which signals the tinnitus that plagued the composer later in life, the quartet drills into Smetana’s anguish, creating the shivers it should.

Janacek’s First Quarter (Kreutzer Sonata) draws loosely on themes from Tolstoy’s novella: suspected betrayal, regret and disillusionment. This is music that can turn on a dime from introspection to unbridled exhibition, using small but potent motifs, a dazzling array of rhythms and an equally broad range of coloristic techniques and a chromaticism firmly rooted in the early 20th Century. The playing is positively explosive, concluding a strong season on an equally strong note.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Summing Up the 2014 Delaware Chamber Music Festival

Delaware Chamber Music Festival Quartet, L-R:
Clancy Newman, Burchard Tang, Hirono Oka, Barbara Govatos 
Alas, all things must end — as did the Delaware Chamber Music Festival today (Sunday, June 22, 2014).

The programming must be commended for variety and standards.  Barbara Govatos and friends have consistently chosen works from the past which often are seldom used — either because they are not known or because they are so wildly difficult (such as the Tchaikovsky Trio Opus 50 performed in the first concert) — or they choose women composers who never got a fair shake (e.g., Rebecca Clarke's piece in the second concert themed "The Expressive Viola").  And speaking of fair shake, when you hear such artists as Burchard Tang and Che-Hung Chen play the viola up close and personal, it shows the audience that the viola deserves a role as solo instrument.

The incredible ability of Marcantonio Barone and the joy with which he and Charles Abramovic tore through excerpts of the Brahms Hungarian Dances for piano, four hands; the energy and excitement of Benito Meza's clarinet giving new impetus to Louise Farrenc (a woman composer who DID get a fair shake, but was later relegated to the attic); the introduction of new works by Clancy Newman and Kenji Bunch.  All are enough to make this series an experiment in innovative programming for some of the best musicians in the region.  How lucky we are, too, that The Music School of Delaware is such an acoustically inviting venue, convenient to Wilmington and Philadelphia as well as points south.

The first concert in the Festival (Friday, June 13) featured a chestnut — Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat major, Opus 1, No. 1 — played with daring and flawless passion by Govatos, Clancy Newman and Marcantonio Barone.  The introduction of a piece so hard it is rarely performed — Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Opus 50 — was a distinctive treat.

The second concert (Sunday, June 15) let the viola shine with a stellar performance of Rebecca Clarke's Sonata for viola and piano.  It also included the Lament for two violas in c minor by Frank Bridge and the Brahms' String quintet in G major, Opus 111.  This concert let us hear more of Burchard Tang's fine viola playing as well as that of Che-Hung Chen.

The third concert (Friday, June 20) was entitled Fresh Ink! as it featured the US Premiere of Clancy Newman's Collision Course for piano, clarinet and cello (2013).  Guest clarinet player Benito Meza not only put his fresh energy to work on the new piece by Newman, but also breathed new life into the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in E-flat major, Opus 44 by Louise Farrenc.  The performance of the 2002 Broken Music for cello and piano by Kenji Bunch was also a new experience, with Bartok fretboard slapping on the cello by Newman and damping of hammers by Marcantonio Barone.  But the boyish vigor with which Charles Abramovic and Barone gleefully played the excerpts of Brahms' 21 Hungarian Dances for piano, four hands, was the freshest 'ink' of the evening.

The final concert (Sunday, June 22) was all string quartets, performed by the Festival Quartet themselves.  They coordinate so well to communicate Franz Josef Haydn's jokes, Dvorak's passion and Schubert's complex and often operatic sounding works.  Each has a special gift that is hard to describe.  Hirono Oka, so shy and quiet in person, pushes her violin bow to create a round, secure, sometimes aggressive sound.  Burchard Tang had some very high and exciting lines, sometimes in duet with the violin and sometimes with the cello.  Clancy Newman had cello notes which soared high in the range with ease and his smooth sound belied his ability to rock out for Broken Music and his own Collision Course.  DCMF Music Director Barbara Govatos, who manages everything from reception cookies to recognizing her music students from decades past, puts all those thoughts down when she bows her head to decide on her tempo and expression before each movement of the grand Schubert quartet.

How sad that we have to wait one more year to hear more!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Music 'Collides' in This Year's Chamber Music Festival

Composer & Cellist, Clancy Newman
By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman

Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, and music for film.

Friday evening (June 20, 2014) witnessed the American Premiere of Clancy Newman's Collision Course as part of the third program of the annual Delaware Chamber Music Festival, held at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington. Collision is in one movement, scored for clarinet, piano, and with Newman playing the 'cello. It is a very listenable work with considerable expressive range, and the audience loved it — their applause accented by enthusiastic bravos. The intense young virtuoso clarinetist was Columbian Benito Meza, and the perpetually masterful Philadelphia pianist was Marcantonio Barone, who also read Newman's poem about the piece, a dramatic and appealing scenario about three musicians on separate ships approaching and then separating.

Newman sometimes performs in Australia, where he received the commission to write his new trio. On the long flight home over the ocean, he had the vision which provided the form for his trio. It reminded me of Charles Ives, the American original and composer of enduring music, who loved it when his bandmaster father arranged for three marching bands playing different music to converge. Some call it cacophony, but Ives made it work and composed much music with several seemingly disparate things happening at once. Newman's approach was a bit different, in that when the three musics do finally converge, the three voices gradually start playing together in a boisterous and celebratory unity. One of my favorite sections was just before the total convergence when the three kinds of music are still distinct and clashing with each other a bit as they grope toward consensus.

I know it is true that part of the fun for the audience was knowing the story in advance and then being able to follow the scenario as it played out in sound. I also felt, with the wisdom of hindsight, that I would have enjoyed hearing the piece knowing nothing about it, and then trying to figure out what was going on. In that case, when the three instrumental styles/ships separate after the collision, it would not be predictable and therefore more mysterious. I also felt that the clarinet "personality" was less defined and arresting as compared with Spain-inspired ardor of the 'cello music and the cocktail charm and finesse of the piano music.

Newman is a great performer, and as a composer he has terrific stage instincts — how to grasp and hold an audience. As we leave the era of modern classical music which seemed not to care much about the listener, I applaud this composer/performer, who so warmly embraces his audience.

There is one more remaining concert in this series: Sunday, June 22, at 3:00pm, and Newman will be there with the Festival Quartet regulars, performing music by Haydn, Dvorak, and Schubert.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another Festival Visit...More Excellent Music!

Guest blogger Maxine Gaiber is Executive Director of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and founding board director of the Delaware Arts Art Alliance. Her high school art teacher wrote in her yearbook, "be gentle as a critic," and she is finally following his advice!

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival Quartet.
Each time I attend the Delaware Chamber Music Festival, I am overwhelmed both by the quality of the performances and the enthusiasm of the audience.  And each time I gaze over the variegated sea of shades of gray hair around me, I worry about the future of classical music in the U.S.  Maybe each classical musical group should have a mandatory “bring your grandchild for free” day, so that a new generation can get “turned on” to this rewarding musical genre!
The Friday, June 21 Virtuosos concert was no exception.  I must admit that I lingered over my lo mein too long at the Chinese Festival and missed the Rachmaninoff piano trio, but the rest of the program more than made up for it.
Clancy Newman was brave to take on the well-known Brahms Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor, Op.38, but seemed up to the task.  He gave a lyrical performance filled with stunning musical contrasts and emotional energy.  He plays the cello high up against his body almost like a bass and — surrounding the cello with his arms and head — becomes almost one with his instrument.
The two Paganini pieces which followed, while well performed by Barbara Govatos and Christiaan Taggart, seemed slight and restrained by contrast, as though the musicians were warming up for the jazzy, tango-based Piazolla work which was next on the program.  This first movement of the History of the Tango gave Govatos and Taggart more opportunity to show the range and versatility of their instruments.
Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor, Op.15 was a fitting finale to this virtuoso evening. Newman told the sad story of the composer dedicating the work to his daughter, who died at age 7, but it wasn’t really necessary.  The passionate work is filled with sadness, anger, tenderness, and joy and needs no back story to amplify its power. It is a beautiful ensemble piece that enables all of the instruments to perform as one, as well as shine on their own. Govatos’ firm control of her instrument and her head of unmoving tight curls were in sharp contrast to Newman’s dramatic poses and flying locks of hair, but, visual styles aside, they make beautiful music together and were ably complemented by Marcantonio Barone on the piano.
By the end of the evening, I was shaken and stirred and slightly tipsy from the brilliant concoctions of music that wafted from the stage of the Concert Hall of The Music School of Delaware. Bravo and salud!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Smooth Beginning of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival

Barbara Govatos and Marcantonio Barone
From the first thirty-second note of the Grave in the Beethoven Opus 16, Barbara Govatos, Marcantonio Barone, Che Hung Chen and Priscilla Lee were glued together – making that treacherous journey through the beginning of the quintet with ease and confidence which is rarely managed,  even on recordings.  Mr. Barone even added a short and melodic bridge between the  Grave  and Allegro movements – keeping a Beethoven tradition but making it a fleeting and well-matched bridge to the faster movement.    

The theme of the first evening of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival was Classical Influences.  The Poulenc Sonata for flute and piano, Opus 164 may seem at first to be an incongruous fit for the Mozart and Beethoven, but the extremely soft dynamics of Ms. Guidetti’s flute in the Cantilena movement evoked the quiet of the second movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto.  The Presto giocoso cleared any lingering baroque feeling as the duo gave a brilliant rendition of the modern, dance-like movement.

The Mozart Piano quartet in G minor, K 478 was played with twenty-first century vigor – sometimes letting the modern piano dominate with the sudden fortes.  Yet Mr. Barone made the piano sing the theme of the second half of the first movement and Ms. Lee’s cello lines could be clearly heard as his accompaniment.  The vocal quality of the high notes of Che Hung Chen’s viola – especially in the Rondeau movement, was delightful. 

Pyxis rehearses with Barbara Govatos
The classical beginnings of the Festival will make way for romantic and even blues influences on Sunday, June 16 when the Pyxis Piano Quartet joins the Festival.  The quartet will also play a Delaware premiere by composer Kathryn Mishell, the winner of the 2010 Sylvia Glickman prize of the International Alliance for Women of Music.  On Friday, June 21, Christian Taggart will be a featured guest playing the Paganini Cantabile for violin and guitar, the Sonata concertante for violin and guitar and some Piazzola.  There will also be a fest of romantic trios played by Marcantonio Barone, Clancy Newman and Barbara Govatos.

The Festival will present a fourth and final concert with a Delaware premiere: String Quartet No. 2 by local composer Ingrid Arauco.  The theme Chip off the old Bach and the Bach Duet for violin and viola in C minor,  the Mozart  Adagio and Fugue in C minor and the Mendelssohn String Quintet in B-flat Major hint that Ms. Arauco’s string quartet will also be a classically structured piece. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Irreverence in a classical setting

Making beautiful music requires two contradictory talents: the ability to play by the rules and the ability to break them. Only through years of practice can a classical musician acquire the technical skills that allows him or her to read the lines and also between them.

Friday’s Delaware Chamber Music Festival concert opened with a refreshing view of how to create a line of best fit between the tightly woven classical writing of composers Felix Mendelssohn and Maurice Ravel to see the jazz, folk and rock influences that permeate good music. After all, what is good music but a display of willful disregard for the rules while communicating within the limits of the composers design?

Barbara Govatos invited three fellow musicians who can deviate and conform: Julie Nishimura, John B. Hedges, and Douglas Mapp. Julie Nishimura, a tiny powerhouse in classical music, had no problem letting her quirky side rule while playing the piano for Four on the floor for violin, cello, bass and piano by Libby Larsen. She leaned left and right, feet swinging on the pedals and she put her whole body into the “slam-‘em-home” walking bass which provided the platform for the other musicians: Barbara on violin, Douglas Mapp on bass and Clancy Newman on the cello.

Clancy Newman played his own composition called Song without words for solo cello in which he played wild rock themes, jazz and blues while using his refined cello technique to touch the gentlest harmonics and also to jab the bow so hard it made an almost drum-like clicking.

A respite was given with David Bromberg’s acoustic guitar accompaniments of Barbara Govatos’ surprisingly good Irish fiddle performances of two ballads: Ashokan Farewell and Amazing Grace. Every now and then she betrayed her training by pulling off a perfect classical trill just after a country shindig slide up to a melody note.

Although I loved John B Hedges piano improvisation when he played his own version of “22-20”, playing soft enough to let us hear David Bromberg’s vocals and guitar, I did not enjoy the Devilwhere for violin, electric guitar and contrabass which he wrote to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival. It was so complex that it took Jim Tisdall to handle the electrified acoustic guitar part. Doug Mapp put his all into the wild bass string-snapping, but the overall effect was more bumpy than fun.

The crew of Nishimura, Govatos, and Newman finished the evening with the fastest rendition of Felix Mendelssohn’s Trio in c minor, opus 66 I have ever heard. Their point seemed to be that even within the strictures of the romantic era style, there is verve and jazz. The message worked much more successfully in the second movement of the Sonata for piano and violin by Maurice Ravel. For this piece, Nishimura was able to zing the syncopated notes just on the edge of the margins left by Ravel and Govatos had no problem moving with that. I feel sure Ravel would have given this piece a standing ovation – two irreverent American musicians using their skilled sophistication to bring a message of wonder about how all styles of music have coinciding arcs.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Flavors of Spain at the DCMF

John-Andrew Fernandez, baritone, didn’t just sing Siete canciones populares españolas by Manuel de Falla, he acted them out. With Fermin Maria Álvarez’ La Partida, the Delaware Chamber Music Festival audience was his.

Pablo Zinger was the perfect collaborative pianist for the Spanish program.

Navarra by Pablo de Sarasate was breakneck for two violins and piano – no problem for duo Hirono Oka and Barbara Govatos and Pablo Zinger.

Oka and Govatos joined Burchard Tang, viola and John Koen, cello for Teresa Carreño’s String Quartet in B Minor and La Oracion del Torero by Joaquin Turina – giving Delaware a taste of music truly off the beaten path.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ladies First at the DCMF

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival devoted their June 26 concert to Sylvia Glickman, pianist, composer and advocate for women’ music who died in 2006.

Charles Abramovic played Glickman’s Dances and Entertainments
with insight and gave singular character to each vignette.

Glickman would no doubt have applauded the commission the DCMF gave Ingrid Arauco, an associate professor at Haverford College.

Divertimento is “light, not long for a summer evening. You can look at the pieces as five little experiments, five little essays,” said Arauco. Frank Ferraro played his trumpet delicately, giving Barbara Govatos, violin and Yumi Kendall, cello ample room for dynamic variation and expression.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Couleurs exotiques at DCMF

Carla Dirlikov, mezzo-soprano showed her love for the music of Maurice Ravel in Shéhérazade in the Delaware Chamber Music Festival’s second concert.

Barbara Govatos, violin had both delicate and forceful sounds and remarkable harmonics for Olivier Messaien’s Fantaisie pour violon et piano.

Clancy Newman’s fingers were a blur of motion in the Cello Sonata in D Minor by Claude Debussy.

With the Piano Quartet in G Minor by Gabriel Fauré, Marcantonio Barone played piano for each demanding piece in the first two programs of the series. His brilliant playing supported Barbara Govatos, violin, Pamela Fay, viola and Clancy Newman, cello.

The festival players and guests were more than happy to talk about their playing with the audience after the concert which made you realize that in Delaware, the world is small enough to mingle and yet the music is as good as you will find anywhere.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hungarian Flavors from DCMF

From the gypsy lilt and rubato in the Jenö Hubay Hejre Kati to the Hungarian Dance #5 by Johannes Brahms, Music Director Barbara Govatos played the gamut of range and color of her 1619 Amati violin.

Igor Begelman, clarinet and Jeffrey Lang, horn were jazzy and unfettered in the Sextet in C major by Ernö Dohnányi. The contrast of winds and strings with Barbara Govatos, violin, Burchard Tang, viola and Clancy Newman, cello soared above Marcantonio Barone’s piano.

Kudos to Marcantonio Barone for his telepathic anticipation of each player. The Piano Quartet in G minor by Johannes Brahms was passionate, yet perfect.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Delaware Chamber Music Festival

Delaware Chamber Music Festival 2009


The 24th annual Delaware Chamber Music Festival starts Friday, June 19 at 7:30 at the Wilmington Music School.  The festival core group consists of  Barbara Govatos, violin, Hirono Oka, violin, Burchard Tang, viola and Clancy Newman, cello.


Outstanding guest artists join them for the two-week festival, Charles Abramovic, piano, Frank Ferraro, trumpet, Marcantonio Barone, piano, Yumi Kendall, cello, Igor Begelman, clarinet,  John Koen, Cello,  Carla Dirlikov, mezzo-soprano,  Jeffrey Lang, horn,  John-Andrew Fernandez, baritone,  Pablo Zinger, piano and Pamela Fay, viola.


Music director Barbara Govatos, a native of Delaware, welcomes audiences with a warmth and humor that invites you to enjoy the music.


June 19 and June 26 at 7:30 p.m.

June 21 and 28 at 3 p.m.


See for details.