Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Picnic Concert (of sorts) in Reading

Every now and then, I like to pass along some concert info about performers who've appeared recently with Market Square Concerts who are performing elsewhere in the area.

Matthew Bengtson, a Philadelphia-based pianist and harpsichordist who played Bach's Goldberg Variations and several contemporary works (including some by Elliott Carter and Jeremy Gill) for Market Square Concerts in January of 2009, will be performing a harpsichord concerto by Francis Poulenc with the Reading Symphony conducted by Andrew Constantine this Saturday evening, April 10th, at 8:00 in Reading's Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

As Matt explains, Poulenc's concerto “requires a harpsichord in the early 20th century style. I will be playing a William Dowd harpsichord (see left) [that is] the largest Dowd ever built, with eight pedals enabling rapid changes of timbral registration. This instrument formerly belonged to Rosalyn Tureck,” one of the great American harpsichordists of the previous generation.

Francis Poulenc wrote his Concert champĂȘtre in the late-1920s, its title redolent of a rustic picnic in the French countryside, though the composer admits the most 'rustic' he ever got would be considered 'suburban' today. He wrote the work for Wanda Landowska, the great Polish harpsichordist who is credited with bringing the instrument back into modern awareness with her performances in the early decades of the last century, and she gave the concerto its world premiere in 1929.

It's composed in an appropriate mix of styles more native to the instrument's baroque and classical heritage with a touch of 20th Century harmonic spice: at one point, Poulenc may evoke the sounds of the great French keyboard works of Rameau or Couperin, a delicious sicilienne of Italian vintage and a headlong romp straight out of Handel's “Harmonious Blacksmith” (you can hear the final movement here, with Aimee van de Wiele, the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire conducted by Georges PrĂȘtre.)

Reading's whole season is a musical journey and even though the first half of this concert is a leisurely stop in France, the main destination is Germany for Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

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Soon, I'll be telling you about the last program in Market Square Concerts' current season with music and poetry from the time of Shakespeare – in fact, it's even on Shakespeare's birthday, April 24th.

Join us that evening at Market Square Church as actor Paul Hecht and soprano Jaqueline Horner-Kwiatek (one of the original voices of Anonymous4) join Parthenia, one of the bright lights of New York City's early-music scene.

Also, don't forget, looking ahead to next month, that Zuill Bailey's “CD Release Party” for the Bach Cello Suites has been rescheduled from February's blizzard to May 5th at 6pm at the Midtown Scholars Bookstore on 3rd at Broad Street. Chances are pretty good the weather's bound to be better!

Also, dates are up for SummerMusic2010 – so reserve July 21, 24th and 25th for some great summertime chamber-music-making.

More to come!

Dr. Dick

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photo credits: 'relaxed' portrait of Mr. Bengtson by David Aretz, from the performer's website; of the Dowd harpsichord, supplied by Mr. Bengtson.

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