Monday, March 17, 2008

Isabel and McGegan

The rich cultural life of greater San Francisco includes a group called the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan. The concert mistress of this group is the eminent Baroque violinist, Elizabeth Blumenstock. The program lists the pedigree of each player's instrument. Ms Blumenstock plays a Guarneri.

I did not need to go to New York to hear Isabel Bayrakdarian, a soprano in whom I am currently interested, because she came to Berkeley. She popped into my inbox because the Chronicle review of her concert here compared her to Cecilia Bartoli, triggering a Google alert. I can't really be considered a Baroqophile, but it's a lot cheaper to go to Berkeley than New York.

The program of this concert was very musicological, worthy of a Bartoli concert. The theme of the concert was German music in the Baroque that wasn't by Bach. There was an awful lot of it.

Isabel sang opera arias written for the character of Cleopatra, both with Caesar and with Anthony.

Carl Heinrich Graun (1703-1759) Cleopatra e Cesare (1742) [Listed as Cleopatra e Cesare in the program and as Cesare e Cleopatra in the notes. Which is it?] Written for Berlin, text in Italian. This was accompanied by its overture.

Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra (1725) Written for Naples, text in Italian.

George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) Giulio Cesare (1724) Written for London, text in Italian. This is the great da capo aria "Piangero," the only thing on the program I had heard before. It was preceded by its overture.

Johann Matthewson (1681-1764) Cleopatra (1704) Written for the Hamburg Opera, text in German. The Hamburg Opera was the first commercial opera outside Venice, and Matthewson was one of its main composers.

Isabel closed with the death of Cleopatra. The works varied widely from the intensely ornamental of Graun, through the very lyrical Handel "Piangero," to the dramatic Mattheson. She was best at the ends, best in the intensity of her fioratura, best in her dramatic expression, but insufficiently legato for the intensity of "Piangero."

We should note here that Matthewson in 1704 is still in the middle Baroque, and this may explain the interesting variety of his pieces. I swear she sang something in this section that wasn't in the program. It had the text "Gute Nacht." It was very sweet.

To complete the program there were two concertos:

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) Concerto No. 161 for Flute, G major [Can't find a date. This may have been written for Frederick the Great and is Quantz's most famous piece.] The flutist is Janet See, who played on a Baroque transverse flute. The orchestral flutists played recorders.

Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729) Concerto in F major, S 234 Dresden. The outer movements were for two natural horns, played pointing up into the air. The slow movement was a concerto for flute, again with Janet See.

I found the entire concert interesting. There is a recording of the arias.

She doesn't remind me of Bartoli at all. For one thing she's a soprano. Unfortunately, I am every day reminded of the vast differences between the cultural life of San Francisco and Sacramento and am spending a lot of money and time traveling back and forth.

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