Winter’s What Me Worry?
The end of the holidays—whether marked by the new year, Epiphany, back to work, or running out of cookies—returns us to winter’s darker realities, though in the Bay Area these are never entirely dark. Winter is when things come to life in California. As we look hopefully this week toward whiteness sufficient to remind our mountains of their surname, we also may look with certainty to a warmth and abundance of music all around us.
This is in many ways the height of the concert season in the SF Bay Area, when some of our principal ensembles like Philharmonia Baroque are at mid-point of their series, while others like American Bach Soloists are only getting started. SFEMS is right in the middle of our 40th concert season—as are our many of our Affiliate groups. What follows is a taste and a guide to some of the musical activities by our resident ensembles and notable guests, coming up in January and February.
SFEMS has two stunning programs coming up this month and next. The weekend of January 20–22, we welcome back the incisive, imaginative, and compelling New York based House of Time. Two of their members, oboist Gonzalo Ruiz and keyboardist Avi Stein, have appeared extensively with Bay Area ensembles as well as guest artist on our series and at the Berkeley Festival, and are recognized as viruosi of their instruments Those privileged to have heard House of Time make its debut at the 2014 Berkeley Festival were blown away by these powerful interpreters of baroque music. Their SFEMS concerts will feature theatrical music or music inspired by theater from three of the baroque era’s greatest composers, Handel, Bach and Rameau.
In February, we are thrilled to present the sublime vocal ensemble ARTEK, another group who delighted Berkeley Festival audiences with their interpretations of Monteverdi and more a few years back. The weekend of February 17–19, they will take us back five centuries, through their interpretation of the great composer’s Seventh Book of Madrigals (1619).
SFEMS’s other series in collaboration with the California Jazz Conservatory also resumes this month. This coming Sunday, January 15, Flauti Diversi will be performing Españoleta, a program of multicultural Mediterranean music from medieval and Renaissance Spain as well as the Arabic world. Next month, on February 19, Laudami will bring dazzling improvisational displays from baroque Italy and show how they influenced the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. These programs take place Sunday afternoons at the CJC in downtown Berkeley.
Many of our Affiliate groups have ambitious projects of their own coming up. One of the key programs through which SFEMS serves our community is the Affiliate program which helps new ensembles get started. This month, a new such group, HIP Forum, makes its debut with a program of Telemann cantatas and chamber music. Some of our more venerable Affiliates also have significant concerts coming up. The New Esterházy Quartet is celebrating its 10th season dedicated to perpetuating the great traditions of the Viennese Classicism. The weekend of February 17–19 they will be back “At the Opera” performing string quartet transcriptions of music by Philidor and Mozart in Berkeley, San Francisco and Palo Alto. Musica Pacifica, who just celebrated their 25th anniversary, are being presented by Noe Valley Chamber Music this weekend and will appear later this spring on our Sunday afternoon concert series at CJC as well as at the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival (see below). Archetti, whose concert with Kathryn Adduci and Clara Rottsalk was a high point of December, will be presented by the Mission Blue concert series, brainchild of former SFEMS president and harpsichord maker Kevin Freyer.
Voices of Music is one of the most innovative and successful new groups to come out of the Bay Area’s early music community in the past dozen years. They are en ensemble of great flexibility, presenting everything from smaller orchestral works to solo recitals. SFEMS takes pride in helping them celebrate their 10th anniversary coming up in March with Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and other Italian baroque cantatas. This month, however, the weekend of January 19, 21 and 22, they are doing three of Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites, performed by three of our great baroque cellists, Tanya Tomkins, William Skeen, and Adaiha MacAdam-Somer.
MusicSources continues its series of keyboard concerts at St. Mary Magdalen Church in north Berkeley. This Sunday, January 15, Director Gilbert Martinez performs a Bach Family program on harpsichord and fortepiano, featuring wonderful instruments from the center’s collection, and including works of J.S., W.F., C.P.E., and J.C. Bach. On February 26, Ignacio Prego, harpsichord, will perform an all J.S. Bach program. Prego is emerging as one of Europe’s most promising young players of the harpsichord.
Another of our local series that has a loyal following for its good energy and spirited performances is Barefoot Chamber Concerts, whose house band, Peter Hallifax and Julie Jeffrey, will be featured in our season finale later this spring. Their own concert series continues in February with a mash up featuring members of Les Violettes and Ensemble Vermillian. Frances Blaker, recorders; David Wilson, violin; and Barbara Blaker Krumdieck, cello; collaborate with Corey Carelton, soprano; Colin Shipman, viola da gamba; and Violet Grgich, harpsichord; to bring a program filled with choice delicacies from the French, German and Italian baroque, including music by Lambert, Couperin, Bononcini, Buxtehude and Bach.
In February, two of our regional choirs will perform early music programs. San Francisco Renaissance Voices, directed by Katherine McKee, will perform “Lady, My Lady,” including treasures from three rarely-performed lady masses, Johannes Ockeghem’s Missa Ma Maitresse, Heinrich Isaac’s Missa Virgo Prudentissima, and Robert Fayrfax’s Eterne Laudis Lilium. Secular offerings include troubadour/trouvères songs and early madrigals from across Renaissance Europe and poetry by such writers as Mechtild von Magdeburg and Julian of Norwich. There will be performances in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Belvedere the weekends of February 18–19 and February 25–26.
California Bach Society, Paul Flight director, will have a look at the North German tradition out of which Bach and his family arose. They will perform sacred works by Buxtehude, Nicolaus Bruhns, and Johann Schop, the chorale cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott by Franz Tunder, and Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, a cantata by the young Georg Philipp Telemann. Concerts are the weekend of February 24–26 in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Palo Alto.
Cal Performances has several early music events coming up this winter and spring, including Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI on January 27 and Nicoa Benedetti with Venice Baroque on February 24.
There is considerable activity going on a bit further afield, and those interested in visiting the wine country up north or the redwoods to the south will find a trove of musical as well as other aesthetic rewards. Sonoma has begun receiving more attention since the completion of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University; however, Sonoma Bach and its affiliate groups have done great work building and supporting a growing community of musicians. Their current series features a range of programs and ensembles, from large-scale works with the Sonoma Bach Choir to smaller chamber works, both vocal and instrumental. Their midwinter concert, on January 21, features Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, directed by Elizabeth Blumenstock, Aaron Westman, associate director. Entitled “Electric Baroque,” it features the stunning an innovative music of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. If the violin was the electric guitar of the 17th-century, Biber was surely the century’s Jimi Hendrix. On February 25, Rodney Gehrke, performs a recital of Bach and North German organ music, featuring the rich sounds of Schroeder Hall’s Brombaugh mechanical-action organ, influenced by the potent instruments of the great Hanseatic cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and their environs.
Further to the south, Santa Cruz has been a center of early music as long as the rest of the Bay Area, and our local SFEMS community includes several UC Santa Cruz alumni, including harpsichord builder and former SFEMS president John Phillips as well SFEMS Executive Director Harvey Malloy. The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, shepherded for many years by harpsichordist Linda Burman Hall, is now in its 44th season. This year’s theme is “Alla Rustica,” and their series opens on Saturday February 4 with a “Tour de France” featuring music from the French provinces elicits a sense of the Mediterranean breeze and the rolling fields of central France with popular tunes and dances for Baroque winds. Performed on oboe d’amore, authentic musette bagpipes, vielle, bassoon, and organ, with French Baroque airs. Their second show, on February 25, “The Four Seasons,” featuring Italian and Scottish music, highlighted by images of nature projected on a big screen. Vivaldi’s Quattro Stagione, selections from James Oswald’s Airs for the Seasons, and Johann Christoph Schmidt’s “Chaconne” from Les Quatre Saisons (The Four Seasons) comprise the program, featuring Claudia Liliana Gantivar, recorder; Edwin Huizinga, Baroque violin; Bill Coulter, guitar; Linda Burman-Hall, harpsichord; Barry Phillips, cello; and more! These concerts take place at the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall on the university campus.
Finally, we should note the ongoing recreational and educational activities of our local recorder societies, gamba society and more. Besides the various chapter meetings and monthly Open Mic Night at Hillside Church in El Cerrito, several special workshops are coming up. The Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra is hosting its winter workshop this coming Saturday, led by Tom Axworthy, who will present a musical potpourri featuring works from England, Spain, and Norway. On February 25, the Pacifica Chapter of the Viola da Gamba Society hosts its annual all-day workshop at Stanford University (Braun Music Center, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with faculty John Dornenburg, director, Julie Jeffrey, Elisabeth Reed, and Marie Dalby-Szuts. All sizes and levels are welcome. For more information, contact. www.pacificaviols.org.
That same day, the SFEMS Baroque Workshop will be hosting its own winter Collegium, “Making a Joyful Noise—Concerted Vocal Works from Italy and Germany.” The Workshop takes place at the Eden United Church of Christ, 21455 Birch Street in Hayward. SFEMS Summer Baroque Workshop Director Linda Pearse leads the collegium in an exploration of stylistic changes and compositional developments that occurred in concerted vocal music during the 17th and early 18th centuries, by way of the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Schütz, and J.S. Bach. This workshop is a great way to meet old and new workshoppers and get warmed up for the summer. All money raised goes to support the workshop’s summer scholarship fund.
Note that February also is when registration for our summer workshops opens, so now is not too early to start thinking about and planning (and practicing!) for the summer.