The organ towers above the orchestra concert at Verizon Hall
by Michael Caruso
The two most recent Philadelphia Orchestra “virtual” concerts were short-lived but interesting in repertoire. The first, heard the first weekend in May, featured Paul Jacobs on the Fred J. Cooper organ of Verizon Hall while the second, heard the following weekend, was enhanced by an exquisite performance. from Mozart’s “Symphony No. 25 in G minor”. Both were “broadcast” from the Kimmel Center.
Francis Poulenc, like many “modern” French people, was not a particularly pious Catholic in his early adulthood. Although France was once called “the eldest daughter of the Holy Mother Church”, Rome’s influence on French society never recovered from the blows it received from the French Revolution of 1789 and decades that followed. By the time the 20e century at the dawn, Poulenc (1899-1963) was hardly the only one to move away from the Catholic Church, if not necessarily from the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic faith.
It turned out that several personal tragedies in Poulenc’s life resulted in a reassessment of this faith. The result is a series of compositions which praise him and which form part of his greatest works.
One of these modern masterpieces is his “Organ Concerto,” which he wrote between 1934 and 1938. The score balances neoclassicism, the style that characterized much of modern classical music which was not serial in harmonic language, with great spoonfuls of Gallic spirit, sophistication and tangy dissonances.
Of all the individual characteristics of Verizon Hall, probably none has received as much unadulterated praise and admiration as its pipe organ. One of the largest theater organs in the world, it offers a symphonic kaleidoscope of colors and two consoles on which the organist can perform. In the middle of the pipes is a “mechanical action tracking” console with a direct link to the opening and closing of the pipes. On stage, an “electronic pneumatic action” console can be moved so that a soloist can perform with a closer connection to the conductor.
It was on the latter that Jacobs played Poulenc’s “Organ Concerto” in early May. Currently chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, Jacobs is an alumnus of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Double major, he studied with organist John Weaver and harpsichordist Lionel Party. During his studies, he was organist at the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge National Historic Park.
Along with pristine digital and foot technique, Jacobs demonstrated extensive knowledge of Poulenc’s eclectic style, both in composition and organ writing. He established the organ both as an “equal in opposition” sonic to the Philadelphia Orchestra and as a fully engaged collaborator with it. Throughout the rendition, Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin joined Jacobs in both a competitive and sympathetic manner.
The concert also featured a sensitive but exuberant reading of Louise Ferrenc’s “Second Symphony”. Although molded in the style of the symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, it reveals a distinctive musical personality of touching intimacy and great grandeur.
Mozart’s “Symphony No. 25” is often referred to as the “Little Symphony in G minor” to distinguish it from the later masterpiece, “Symphony No. 40”, also in G minor. Although the “25e Symphony ”is perhaps not an unqualified masterpiece in Mozart’s canon, it is a work of exceptional beauty in which the young composer (he was only 17 when he l ‘wrote) displays astonishing control over the classical forms established by his older contemporary, Franz Joseph Haydn, an imaginative ear for orchestration, a lyrical lyrical sense and the ability to invest his music with his own unique brand of humor. earthy and melting beauty.
Nezet-Seguin gave the score a convincing interpretation. All sections of the ensemble – strings, woodwinds and brass – played wonderfully. The individual contributions were eloquently underlined under the sensitive baton of the Maestro, but each line fell into place with an aristocratic and passionate balance.
Despite the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia offered a “virtual” season of performances that included its traditional “Farewell recital»For graduate students. Mezzo Pascale Spinney and baritone Daniel Gallegos, cleverly conducted and beautifully accompanied by pianist Jose Melendez, performed music by Rossini, Strauss, Brahms, Chabrier, Tosti and Mozart in the school’s Furness Lounge. May 8 to 12.
While the entire program was rewarding, it was the final offering of the recital that hit the target the most. Spinney and Gallegos sang “La ci darem la mano” in the role of Zerlina and the Don of “Don Giovanni” by Mozart, considered by many opera lovers to be the greatest opera ever composed. Their sweet reading offered the hesitation of Zerlina and the cunning of the Don through a finely formed song.
You can contact NOTEWORTHY at [email protected].