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.


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 or call 302.658.7897 x3105.