SFEMS 2014–15 Concert Season: Debuts and Imagination

Pallade Musica
Pallade Musica

The San Francisco Early Music Society’s 38th annual concert season charts a journey through a thousand years of European music, from the haunting sounds of the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East, to the brilliance of Venice at the dawn of the baroque, to the lush resonance of Salzburg’s strings. Highlights of the season include the West Coast debut next January of Pallade Music, a young, Canadian ensemble that has generated much excitement in the early music world—and with good reason. Following their grand prize win at the 2012 Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition in New York, Pallade Musica released their debut CD, Verso Venezia, featuring sonatas and canzonas of Castello, Merula, and Legrenzi, to soaring reviews. The group currently is preparing to compete in the semifinals of the International Van Wassenaer Competition, held every two to three years in The Netherlands. 

We also are delighted and honored to present the return of Marion Verbruggen, one of the world’s great recorder players and a longtime friend to our concert series and summer workshops. Called “a miracle of poetry and precision” by The New York Times, Marion has risen to the top of her field over the past four decades, equally renowned as a teacher, performer, and recording artist. She will appear as a guest artist next April with our own Ensemble Mirable, who return to the SFEMS stage with a program of Italian works, including Scarlatti and Vivaldi as well as many earlier masters from the dawn of the baroque.

Magnificat returns in December for our annual holiday concert. Under the direction of Warren Stewart, the much acclaimed ensemble will perform a Mass by Francesco Cavalli, featuring the colorful, potent combination of brass and strings for which 17th-century Venice was famous. Like Magnificat’s other reconstructions of early sacred services, Cavalli’s Mass will be done in full liturgical context with appropriate chant and antiphons.

The other three concerts this season, East of the River, Artifice, and the Dark Horse Consort, all will be regional debuts by new and musically innovative ensembles from our own region and abroad.

East of the River
East of the River

The season opens the weekend of November 21–23 with the West Coast debut of East of the River, founded by internationally renowned recorder players Nina Stern and Daphna Mor. Acclaimed kanun virtuoso Tamer Pinarbasi, Balkan violin sensation Jesse Kotansky, and Yo Yo Ma’s “Silk Road Ensemble” percussionist Shane Shanahan round out the ensemble. They released their first, eponymous CD in 2009 and their most recent CD, Levantera, in 2013. Their SFEMS program draws from this latest recording, exploring medieval music of the Mediterranean and traveling eastward through the Balkans to Armenia and the Middle East.

Magnificat, founded and directed by Warren Stewart, was the first ensemble in the US to dedicate itself exclusively to 17th-century music of all sorts from all parts of Europe—from early opera to music of the Italian convents to Hispano-Aztec Christmas pageant to Charpentier’s Mass at the end of the century. The weekend of December 19–21, Magnificat returns to perform a Mass of Francesco Cavalli, Monteverdi’s successor at San Marco in Venice. Taken from Cavalli’s retrospective collection, Musiche sacre (1656), the elaborate, concertato Mass is one of the composer’s grandest and most celebratory works. This year’s artists will include Clara Rottsolk and Jennifer Paulino, sopranos; Andrew Rader and Clifton Massey, altos; Dan Hutchings and Christopher LeCluyse, tenors; Peter Becker, bass; Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem, violins; Richard Van Hessel and Mack Ramsey, sackbuts; John Dornenburg, violone; and Yuko Tanaka, organ.

The Montreal-based quartet Pallade Musica (Tanya LaPerrière, baroque violin; Elinor Frey, baroque cello; Esteban La Rotta, theorbo; and Mylène Bélanger, harpsichord) make their West Coast debut the weekend of January 16–18. Their program will trace the development of purely instrumental music during the 17th century, from the Stile moderno of Seicento Italy to the dramatic and often erratic Stylus phantasticus that took root in Germany towards the end of the century.

Dark Horse Consort
Dark Horse Consort

The Dark Horse Consort (Greg Ingles, Erik Schmalz and Mack Ramsey, sackbuts; Kiri Tollaksen and Alex Opsahl, cornetts; and Ian Prichard, keyboard) make their Bay Area debut the weekend of February 20–22. Inspired by the bronze horse statues outside Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica, the 4-year-old ensemble recreates the glorious sounds of early baroque brass bands. One of their specialties has been the exploration of blending human voices with brass, a common 17th-century practice. Guest vocalists Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn join Dark Horse for a program of German baroque masterworks by the famous trilogy of Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt, as well as two composers they influenced, Vierdanck and Rosenmüller.

The weekend of March 27–29, SFEMS presents a newly formed ensemble, Artifice, featuring the talents of Cynthia Freivogel, violin; Tekla Cunningham, violin and viola d’amore; Katherine Heater, harpsichord; Daniel Zuluaga, lute, theorbo, and guitar; and Elisabeth Reed, cello and viola da gamba. For their world debut, Artifice will perform a program highlighting the musical culture of Salzburg in the two generations preceding Mozart, including works of Biber, Muffat, and Vilsmayr, whose daring sonatas and elegant concerti still resonate as some of the finest from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The season concludes April 10–12, with performances by Ensemble Mirable (JungHae Kim, harpsichord; Elizabeth Blumenstock and Katherine Kyme, violins; Joanna Blendulf, viola da gamba; and Kevin Cooper, baroque guitar) with special guest artist Marion Verbruggen, recorder. Mirable’s program this time will focus on the Italian baroque from its beginnings, with the canzonas and sonatas of Mancini, Fontana, and Uccellini, through its mature masterpieces, including works of Scarlatti and Vivaldi.

Season subscriptions and individual concert tickets are now on sale. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the SFEMS concert page on this website. Use our online subscription form or phone our box office at 510-528-7725.

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Written by Jonathan Harris