We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Erich Hoeprich, Cristoph Hammer. and Jessica Gould

The title of last night's Salon/Sanctuary Concert captivated us because of the apposition of Italian and German.  This resonated with us because of our own title.  As readers may have realized, "Meche" is not an Italian name but a Spanish one and is pronounced to rhyme with "leche".  Consequently "Voce di Meche" is half Spanish and half Italian.

Getting back to last night's concert, it was another triumph for Artistic Director/singer/impresario/scholar Jessica Gould to have assembled a superlative group of musicians to illustrate a fascinating period in European history. With her customary diligent scholarship she has peered at the twilight of the ancien regime through the lens of music. 

Napoleon's success led to a period of populism and accompanying unrest. In times of stress and social change, mankind often turns to the imagined delights of pastoral life for comfort.  Witness all the "farm to table" restaurants springing up lately in NYC!

Original instruments made their appearance (or replicas thereof) lending the sound of authenticity to the evening. Incredibly skillful musicians spoke briefly about their instruments and audience members expressed their interest in the beautiful wooden clarinet with its limited keys and string-bound reed, the wonderful fortepiano which was the link between the harpsichord and our modern piano, and the dulcet-toned "romantic guitar", smaller than the one seen today.

The program opened with Giacomo Meyerbeer's "Hirtenlied", performed by Ms. Gould herself with accompaniment by Erich Hoeprich's clarinet and Christoph Hammer's fortepiano. Our main interest is in vocal music and we were absolutely thrilled by Sei Ariette, composed by Domenico Maria Puccini, grandfather of Giacomo, who used the former's "Te Deum" in his famous opera Tosca. Puccini Grandpere's music was favored by Napoleon who preferred Italian music to French. Ms. Gould brought the songs to vivid life, accompanied by the guitar of master lutenist Diego Cantalupi, who discovered the songs himself in Italy.  They have never been performed in the USA and we felt privileged to hear them. The vocal line foreshadowed that of the Bel Canto period and the subject matter was pastoral in nature.

Further vocal delight was to be found in Ms. Gould's performance of Sechs deutsche Lieder, op 103 by Louis Spohr, once more accompanied by Mr. Hammer on the fortepiano and Mr. Hoeprich on the clarinet, pictured above. We particularly enjoyed the lullaby "Wiegenlied" and the rousing "Wach auf", glorifying the two opposite ends of the sleep cycle. We couldn't help thinking how suitable these gorgeous songs would be for performance at our local music conservatories. This instrumental combination was greatly enjoyed in the salons of Schubert.

The instrumental part of the evening was no less satisfying. Mr. Hammer gave a moving performance of Jan Ladislav Dussek's The Sufferings of the Queen of France, op. 23, a programmatic piece in which Marie Antoinette's anguish seemed most intense in the part where she is separated from her children. The part in which Mr. Hammer's expressive playing limned the "savage tumult of the rabble" was very effective, but the sound of the guillotine dropping was shocking.

We heard a lovely Serenade for clarinet and guitar, op.22 by the Viennese Benigne Henry in which the "Rondeau" had a lovely lilting and recurrent theme. Mr. Hoeprich and Mr. Cantalupi seemed destined to love making music together.

Similarly, Mr. Hammer and Mr. Catalupi didn't miss their chance to enjoy making music together with a delightful tidbit that was not on the program--two rondos by the Barese composer Mauro Giuliani, little known but much enjoyed.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a student of Mozart, is not much heard today but in his time he was considered the greatest pianist in Europe, a title later assumed by Franz Liszt. His Bagatelle op. 107, No 3 provided a golden opportunity for Mr. Hammer to have a solo.

Mr. Hammer was joined by Mr. Hoeprich for Carl Maria von Weber's Silvana Variations, op. 33, a highly melodic work that was filled with invention. We particularly enjoyed the Lento movement  in March tempo which made us think of a walk to the gallows, filled as it was with depth of feeling. It came to a gentle ending, making way for the duple metered Allegro which swung along until achieving a peaceful coda.

And finally, Johann Kaspar Mertz' Nocturne op. 4, no. 1 received a meditative and soulful performance from Mr. Cantalupi.

We very much enjoyed hearing music that was new to us and hearing such gifted artists in varying combinations.

Those familiar with Salon/Sanctuary Concerts know that one can always expect to discover something new and fulfilling!

(c) meche kroop

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