Coming up in Philly Music: Guitar, strings, and a doctor in the house

2 minute read
1807 & Friends will feature the work of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a 20th-century legend. (Photo via the Library of Congress.)
1807 & Friends will feature the work of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a 20th-century legend. (Photo via the Library of Congress.)

Allen Krantz’s annual appearance with the 1807 & Friends chamber series produces some of 1807’s most appealing programs. Krantz’s guitar adds a nuanced, distinctive voice to the strings of the series’ core group, the Wister Quartet. This year the program includes works by Bach and Paganini (who played violin and guitar), but it will finish with pieces by two composers with less recognizable names.

Escaping with the music

The main guitar item is usually a quintet for guitar and strings by Luigi Boccerini, the 18th-century Italian composer who spent most of his career at the Spanish court. This year it will be a quintet by the 20th-century Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who is generally considered one of the century’s leading guitar composers. Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed operas, symphonies, and concertos, in addition to the 200 movie scores he turned out after he came to America to escape fascist anti-Semitism. He met the 20th century’s most famous guitarist, Andrés Segovia, in 1932 and wrote more than 100 pieces for his friend’s instrument. The Wister’s cellist, Lloyd Smith, writes knowledgeable, exceptionally readable program notes and he says the quintet is an “entertaining and uplifting” piece that is “filled with harmonic splendor.”

The quintet will be preceded by the premiere of a string quartet by Dr. Martin Heyworth, a retired University of Pennsylvania medical researcher whose life-long involvement with music began when he started taking piano lessons as a schoolboy. He improvised publicly on an 18th-century harpsichord when he was a medical student, served as a faculty advisor to the Penn Med Symphony Orchestra, and recently published a scholarly paper on Mozart’s annotations of a Haydn symphony. The Wister’s performance of his fourth string quartet will be the first public premiere of one of his pieces. Lloyd Smith calls it “an engaging work” with “a wonderful mix of earnestness, sweetness, drama, intimacy, and humor.”

The 1807 & Friends musicians are primarily active and retired members of the Philadelphia Orchestra who have been enthusiastic chamber players throughout their careers. In recent seasons they’ve been presenting premieres by composers like Marcel Farago, who was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra cello section for 39 years. Premieres are always unpredictable, but their choices have sprinkled their programs with a number of pleasant surprises.

What, When, Where

1807 & Friends will present “The Wister Quartet with Allen Krantz, Guitar” on Monday, March 9 at 730pm at the Academy of Vocal Arts. 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $19 and they’re available online, by phone at (215) 438-4027 or (215) 978-0969, and at the door.

Accessibility entrance is on the north side of Delancey Place, north side, look for the single green door just to the right of 1923 Delancey Place.

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