Christmas With The Camerata
by Jan Jezioro
An unusual Christmas program at St. Anthony’s and an unusual concert time at UB
During the holiday season, the classical concert-goer in Western New York has the opportunity to choose among numerous events, performed by a large variety of musical groups, in many different settings. Sometimes, though, the musical selections offered tend to be somewhat similar, as witness the half-dozen or so local productions of the Nutcracker, or the handful of Messiah’s. It’s good that at least one group, the Camerata di Sant’Antonio have made it a tradition to mark the Christmas season with a program of rarely performed masterpieces, as they will once again on Sunday, December 11, at 7pm, in St. Anthony of Padua R. C. Church, behind Buffalo City Hall.
The long-lived Max Bruch composed prolifically in the German romantic musical tradition, and one of his best known works, the Scottish Fantasy, reflects his lifelong interest in the folk music of different countries. Bruch wrote to his friend, the publisher Fritz Simrock, “As a rule one good folk melody is worth more than two hundred art melodies, since in depth of emotion, power, originality, and beauty nothing compares to the folk song.” Sunday’s program features Bruch’s 1916 work, Serenade for String Orchestra after Swedish Melodies, a set of five imaginative miniatures that at times suggest Grieg’s popular Holberg Suite.
Best known as one of the founding figures of the rigorously modern Second Vienna School, Anton Webern also wrote some early tonal pieces, including Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement), a highly charged work that moves from yearning through dramatic turmoil to a tranquildenouement, inspired by a hiking holiday in the mountains outside of Vienna that he took with his future wife.
For inexplicable reasons, the imaginative and rhythmically exuberant music of baroque German composer and musical theorist Johann Heinichen was largely forgotten until about 20 years ago. Heinichen’s style was shaped by the seven formative years that he spent in Italy, principally in Venice, and he was a colleague of J. S. Bach in 1717 at the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, before gaining the prestigious post of Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, in Dresden. Soloists Paul Schlossman and Christine Ford will perform Heinichen’s Pastorale per la Notte di Natale for two oboes d’amore accompanied by the Camerata strings.
In a neat bit of programming, the concert will conclude with the Cantata No. 142, “Uns ist ein Kind geboren” (Unto Us a Child Is Born) by Johann Kuhnau, who preceded Bach as cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and who also was the harpsichord and organ teacher of Heinichen. Soprano Holly Bewlay, bass Gary Sage, and the choirs of St. Mary of the Cataract, Divine Mercy, and the Camerata Chamber Singers will be join the Camerata for the performance. There will a delicious Christmas reception after the concert.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door. For more information, call 854-2563 or visit www.cameratabuffalo.com.
Burning the Midnight Oil at UB
There has been a trend locally, for several years, to move the starting time of evening classical concerts up, from the traditional 8pm to 7:30pm, as for events at Slee Hall, or even 7pm, as for the Camerata and the Buffalo Chamber Players. This Friday, December 9, a program of night-themed works will be presented by the Contemporary UB Ensemble (CUBE) at midnight, in Slee Hall on the UB Amherst campus, in what may be the ultimate antidote to this trend.
The major works to be performed are Donald Martino’s Notturno, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1973, a virtuosic instrumental sextet for the “Pierrot Lunaire” ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano) plus percussion, and Robert Erickson’s Night Music (1978) for trumpet and an ensemble of nine players. UB faculty member Jonathan Golove, who is better known to local audiences for his cutting-edge performances as a cellist, will conduct both works. “The ensemble is made up graduate and undergraduate music students,” Golove says, “plus UB Symphony Music Director Daniel Bassin as our trumpet soloist in the Erickson, and two esteemed area professionals, violist Donna Lorenzo and clarinetist Amrom Chodos. The Martino group, all masters of music students, plus Donna Lorenzo, represents the realization of a long-term goal of the program, namely, to be able to field a really accomplished group of graduate performance students in a challenging work of modern music.
“Some historic perspective on the idea of nocturne will come from a performance of Chopin’s C-minor Nocturne, accompanied by an electronic version of the work,” Golove explains, “and a group of three nocturnes for cello and piano by Bohuslav Martinu, plus a solo flute work entitled Night Music by Dutch composer Ton de Leeuw. Electronic music created by UB graduate student composer and ensemble member Ethan Hayden will provide the glue before, between, and afterwards, and occasionally during the performance.
“I believe that the composers at Yale did a midnight concert called ‘In Sheep’s Clothing,’ and that it obtained something of a cult following. Let’s hope we can get something started here!”
For more information, call 645-2921 or visit www.slee.buffalo.edu.
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