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HPSCHD-L  November 2004

HPSCHD-L November 2004

Subject:

The Week's Events in Seattle

From:

David Calhoun <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 15 Nov 2004 04:03:50 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (154 lines)

'Allo -

A report on the week in Seattle might skirt the AMS meeting here, of which
others may have something to say.  Two interesting and very different
programmes implicated me somehow; the third was of only musical interest.

While I was in Berkeley, seemingly not more than three weeks past, I got a
request by this medium for an instrument to be used by the "Orchestra of
New Spain," uncertain whether it should be organ or harpsichord ... and,
for that matter, could I suggest a venue?  They'd heard that the hall at
the new downtown Art Museum lacked charm, and were considering the chamber
room in the new symphony hall a block up the hill ... or maybe I could
suggest something else?

The level of organization suggested that something about this operation (an
expression of which Anna Russell was fond) lacked something; maybe
_gravitas._  But my suggestions met with a reply out of the blue from North
Texas State; "It's Calhoun.  Do what he says."  Which vote of confidence I
found maybe underserved but reassuring, so we forged ahead.  In the event
the sponsors - the Vice Consul of Spain, as it turned out - or someone
chose the harpsichord, and the museum's Plestcheeff Auditorium, which seems
in retrospect to have been the only rational choice since the entire
_razon_ [how _does_ one say "raison d'etre" in Spanish?] was the connection
to a current show centered around the world of Philip II.

I duly delivered, all nicely meantoned, a little broken octave Italian I
supposed suited to the event, and escaped 'till concert time.  As it turned
out, I'd overlooked a detail.  The original enquiry came while I was
between performances of an early _early_ Spanish show by Gilbert Martinez
playing both orgues and cembali and leading a San Francisco Spanish choir,
so I logically lept to the conclusion that such literature, known to me to
be done by Susan Ferre's Texas band, would be on offer here.

Wrong, wrong.  This was a show for Big Band, 5-3-1-1-1, flutes, horns,
guitar and of course keyboard.  The music was by Courcelle (1705-1778,) de
Nebra (1702-1768,) Esteve (c.1730-1790,) de Laserna (1751-1816,) and del
Moral (no dates given, and he's not in my Bakers 5th.)  The band filled the
stage, with the harpsichord in the right place; and the two singers (all
the music was vocal; texts and translations were provided) in front.  Oops.

The impression I got from these unknown, to me, composers, was of imitation
Pergolesi (a sort of reduced "La Serva padrona) and of some somewhat silly
very 16-year-old Spanish Mozart.  Nice enough stuff; but not, I would
think, stuff to justify the formation of an orchestra.  I admit my
iggerence.

Eugenia Ramirez is a Mexico City native who's studied with Nigel Rogers and
Andrew Lawrence-King, i.a.  Her soprano was beautiful and convincing.  Scot
Cameron, from North Carolina with studies at Appalachan State University
and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was less convincing.  Both
his alto and his tenor were pleasing enough, but lacked conviction, or
perhaps personality.  His several duos with Sra. Ramirez were nicely
balanced and fluid; all rather graceful.  The playing was less so.  I had a
general feeling that everything was _tentative;_  as if the band were
unfamiliar either with the scores or the instruments.  Perhaps they didn't
hear each other well on the stage.  The flutes were a little vague; the
natural horns made surprisingly little audible impact from their back
corner, 'tho 'twas a pleasure to see the players tossing the plumbing
around.

Then, there was the keyboard.  Originally the harpsichordist was to have
been a grad student from Denton.  In his absense his professor, Lenora
McCroskey, served nobly, coping with the broken octave _and_ working her
way out of my meantone while more or less sight-reading the gig, all
seemingly in good humour.  Herewith my public apology for having failed to
sort out what it was that we were _doing._

As it turned out one couldn't imagine having done the show anywhere else;
there seems to have been no public announcement of the event, save for a
few local AMS types; one obtained an invite by calling the Vice-Consulate,
which turned out to be the suburban office of Spanish Air Lines.  The
crowd was about right for the room, which the recording dude from KING-
FM found to be just fine up to the top, where there was a slap echo
revealed in the soprano's voice.  Interesting.  The new downtown building
provides a pleasing lobby and Grand Staircase for receptions, including
this evening quite sumptuous foods, a selection of Spanish wines, and
access for the party to the galleries (a detail which the designer of the
space seems to have overlooked; but they're adding to the building and will
soon have some real display spaces.  The construction added to the
pleasures of instrument moving.)  This show, unlike many which come to our
provincial museum, contains some Real Stuff, meeting with approval even
from my critical Chicago native, who insists on comparing everything with
the Art Institute, and can be recommended.

Oh - and, of course, since this was a strange alien group, I asked them to
have a modest checque for me.  None was forthcoming; my companion of the
evening, an astute businesswoman, noted that one check she did espy
presented to a performer seemed to be unsigned.  We'll see.


Of the Friday program, scarce need be said.  Andrew Manze, who was here
twice a couple of years back with his former Bandzie,  made his first
appearance closing his North American tour with his English Concert (I
think there was some overlap in personnel;  even in London, the best
players get recycled.)  Mainly varied Vivaldi, with some Locatelli and some
snazzy Schmelzer and Biber; the same programme listed in the NYTimes.  When
Pinnock led his band it was something of a vehicle for forceful keyboard
concerti.  Manze's extravagant playing is well known; he is faster, but
also slower and quieter, than anybody else around.  I think that, were I
able to hear it with Manze regularly I'd welcome the injection of some wind
sound from time to time, even so.  Even the best string playing can get a
trifle monochromatic.  The house of 900+ seats, many occupied by AMS folk,
was full, and appreciative.  Encores were the sinfonia introducing
Purcell's "Bell Anthem"  and a finale from an early Mozart divertimento!
There were enough singers around me that we could have continued on into
the anthem, and I'm a bit sorry that we didn't leap in, like a Fox audience
clapping along.  Rejoice in the Lord alway ....

The harpsichord was once again my workhorse '79 Zuckermann small double,
from which nothing fell off.  The interest lay in the addendum to the
contract sent along by fax, specifying that it be tuned - repeatedly - in
the new, _True_ True true Bach Temperament, not yet published.  I don't
know the source of this scheme, nor its immediate relevance to Vivaldi, let
alone Schmelzer.  I _do_ notice that the fifths on naturals are those of
Valotti/Young (I first took them from my Korg, and found only three of the
five pitches usable) and so wide enough to be comfortable for the fiddles,
while of the rest all but one note are _sharp_ of ET related to the
cannonical A, so the strings can play sharp with impunity.  "Remember; it's
always better to play sharp than out of tune."  g# is raised to make it a
better a-flat; f# is raised and a# lowered to improve the f# major triads,
of which I'm told there were quite a lot in this show, notably in the
concluding b-minor for four violins, and which to my ear aren't much worse
than the G triads; the system definitely is not symmetrical, and favors
flats, or so it seems to me.  Whether 'twas worth the extra effort I can't
say; it might be asking a bit much of even these stellar players to play
their Schmelzer and Biber in meantone.   Look for the promised publication
in a theatre near you.

Interestingly, even now several folk asked me whether the band was
traveling with its own instrument. Harpsichordist David Gordon reported
that, even at this late date, touring and taking potluck has some pitfalls.
He didn't identify to me the "only harpsichord in Arizona" with which he
was presented, but did report that in San Diego he was asked to play a
recital on a Maendler-Schram.


For completeness I mention Saturday evening,  a collaboration of Alexander
Ligas' _Cappella Romana,_ which is getting some widening attention for its
work with Byzantian and modern Orthodox music, and _Tudor Choir,_ a Seattle
group after the model of the Tallis Scholars which has also recorded shape-
note hymns.  A total of two dozen or so singests, in the acoustic of
St.Marks Episcopal Cathedral, a thought to gladden the heart of folk from
the cognate organ list.  The first half alternated the two choirs save in
the last piece by Taverner; the second half was one long work by Christos
Hatzis (b.1953,) _Everlasting Light._  (The title is three fold, also in
Latin and Greek; the work is entirely in the last.)  The choir is joined by
justly tuned water glasses (very subtle,) chime, and concert grand marimba,
the last two formidably played by Brett E.E. Paschal.

There was no keyboard of any sort, Gott sei dank.

Onward into the week; and so to bed.

                                                  Calhoun

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