Music from Estonia, the African diaspora, and songs for Valentine’s Day

BSR Classical Interludes, February 2024, part 2

3 minute read
About two dozen performers in all black stand together in a hall room
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir pays a visit to Philadelphia this week. (Photo retrieved via Wikimedia Commons.)

Punxsutawney Phil may have made his prediction and headed back underground, but the area’s musicians are certainly not hibernating. February is packed with interesting offerings, and here are just a few—masterful choral music ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century, music exploring the African diaspora, a look at a 19th-century Paris salon you may not know about, and romantic music from many times and places.

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir: Music of Palestrina and Pärt
Thursday, February 8, 7:30pm
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 South 38th Street, Philadelphia

Penn Live Arts is presenting this ensemble from Estonia—a country known for the intensity and artistry of its choral singing—in one of the city’s foremost acoustic spaces. Only limited seats remain for the world-renowned choir, coming to Philadelphia for the first time in over seven years. They’ll present works by 16th-century master Palestrina and their equally masterful 21st-century countryman Arvo Pärt, of whom they are the foremost interpreter. From 1987 to 1991, Estonia participated in the powerful four-year-long “Singing Revolution,” where massive groups gathered spontaneously to sing in protest, ultimately affecting a restoration of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.

Delaware Symphony Chamber Concert: Music of the African Diaspora
Tuesday, February 13, 7:30pm
DuPont Country Club, 1001 Rockland Road, Wilmington

This series highlights smaller ensembles of DSO players and for their February concert, a chamber ensemble will play works ranging from compositions by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) to contemporary composers Valerie Coleman, Adolphus Hailstork, Jessie Montgomery, and Carlos Simon. The evening’s works draw on and illuminate the rich and diverse music emerging from the traditions of displaced Africans around the world, particularly the Caribbean, South America, and the United States.

Lyric Fest: Songs for Valentine’s Day: L-O-V-E
Tuesday, February 13, 7pm
Moorestown Community House, 16 East Main Street, Moorestown

Wednesday, February 14, 7pm
Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 South Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

You have two chances to enjoy this eclectic love-themed vocal program that swings from time to time and place to place. Lyric Fest presents the seldom-heard love songs of composers like H.T. Burleigh, H. Leslie Adams, Undine Smith Moore, Adolphus Hailstork, Florence Price, William Grant Still, along with transcriptions of Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole. The concert features Michelle Johnson (soprano), Kenneth Overton (baritone), and Laura Ward on piano in a sweeping love-themed evening celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Music in the Pavilion: In the Paris Salon of Pauline Viardot
Friday, February 16, pre-concert lecture at 6:15pm; concert at 7pm
Van Pelt Library, Kislak Center Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, 3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

The Night Music ensemble—Steven Zohn (flute), Heather Miller Lardin (bass), and Karen Dekker (violin)—is joined by mezzo-soprano (and WRTI-FM host) Meg Bragle for a unique concert. The evening will explore music played in the elegant Paris salon of acclaimed 19th-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot. Her gatherings are credited with launching the careers of Camille Saint-Säens, Jules Massenet, Gabriel Fauré, and Charles Gounod. The evening will also include works by Brahms, Haydn, Rossini, and Viardot herself. A lecture by Hilary Poriss of Northeastern University precedes the concert. Registration is required for this free event.

Main Line Early Music: Galline: Sacred Earth
Sunday, February 18, 3pm
Church of the Good Shepherd Rosemont, 1116 Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr

The latest concert in this always-exploratory series features violin works from the Codex Rost, an important source of 17th-century European instrumental music. The Codex is a collection of works by noteworthy composers including Rosenmuller, Merula, Schmelzer, and (most notably) Biber that showcases the virtuosity of string composition. The concert’s highlight will be Biber’s Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum, a work that reflects his fantastical, improvisational style. The ensemble Galline—Marika Holmqvist and Margaret Humphrey (violins), Rebecca Humphrey (cello), and Barbara Weiss (harpsichord)—will welcome guest artists Amy Leonard and Dan Elyar.

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