By Kristin Shafel Omiccioli, KCMetropolis
Indomitable early-music icon Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespèrion XII returned to Kansas City for one of only three performances in the United States of his latest project, “Honey and Blood: The Cycles of Life,” presented by The Friends of Chamber Music at the Folly Theater.
Rumored among local musicians as “the event of the season,” Jordi Savall’s
appearance on The Friends of Chamber Music’s Early Music Series certainly lived
up to the hype. Featuring five vocalists and six instrumentalists from across
Eurasia with him, Savall’s crew exhibited high levels of musicianship,
commitment, and artistry in expressing the musical storytelling of the Balkan
Following the arc of a lifetime, Honey and Blood: The Cycles of Life
is a cohesive, thoughtful five-part musical exploration of the elements of life
the Balkan peoples have in common, despite their individual differences and tumultuous histories: love, emotion, beauty, traditions, family. Arranged by the yearly seasonal changes and their matching stages of life, Savall’s program was
equal parts enthralling and mesmerizing.
The first part, "Creation: The Life, the Meeting," began furtively, with an ominous, improvisatory drone before vocalist Lior Elmaleh took center stage and sang the first lyrics in Hebrew (translated to English in projected supertitles above stage), of universal principles and earthly elements resulting from the great and mysterious Creation. Each “season” received a similar treatment: a continuous, fluid movement between 3–4 folksongs emphasized the how analogous the tunes were not only in harmonic and melodic development but also in poetic sentiment. An instrumental interlude segued into the next set or season.
Each performer enjoyed time in the spotlight throughout the evening. The vocalists were all outstanding talents and distinctly memorable, singing idiomatically according to each song’s language in vastly differing tone colors and qualities. Irini Derebei from Greece had a sensuality about her, lustily belting the words with the best audience engagement. Gürsoy Dinçer of Turkey displayed tenderness in his impressive solo during “Song of young people.” In the "Winter" set, Bulgarian vocalist Stoimenka Outchikova-Nedialkova (dressed in traditional Bulgarian garb) had the most haunting solo of the concert, the wailing, mournful “A Widow Was Weeping.”
Clearly the leader, Savall had a quietly commanding yet egalitarian presence on stage. Everyone was allowed a lengthy, skillful solo, especially during the instrumental interludes and the jovial Gypsy song “Duy, duy, duy denomori
deshudui” which closed the first half. Yurdal Tokcan (oud), Dimitri Psonis (santur and morisca), and David Mayoral (percussion) laid a strong but subtle foundation the entire evening. During the instrumental “Balkan Elegie,” Nedyalka Nedyalko performea sweeping, active solo on the kaval, and Hakan Güngör gave a lengthy, technically impressive introduction to Macedonian folk song “Godini, ludi mladi godini” in the "Autumn" set. Savall himself took few solos on vielle and rebec, most notably on “Duy, duy” and the “Balkan Elegie in the second half,” playing with a concentrated yet expressive approach.
One particularly moving moment was during the first "Winter" set, when French vocalist Marc Mauillon and duduk player Haïg Sarikouyoumdjian were revealed in a house-right box after the lights had been dimmed. Sarikouyoumdjian and Savall
sustained a soft continuous pitch to support Mauillon performance of the stirring Byzantine chant, “En to stavro pares tosa.” Following the chant, Sarikouyoumdjian stayed in the box for the most elaborate instrumental solo on the concert, the Armenian traditional “Exile lament.” The lament was somber, but Sarikouyoumdjian’s technique on the duduk, a muted-sounding double reed wind instrument—from breath support to circular breathing to clear phrasing—was
spellbinding. His performance produced an atmosphere of palpable, lingering stillness in the room which words fail to accurately describe.
Another highlight was the final section of the program, "(Re)conciliation," in which songs of the Sephardic, Hebrew, Christian, Ottoman, and Serbian languages were sung consecutively first and then simultaneously, ultimately unveiling the contrasts and parallels in each. Honey and Blood
was an experience that transported the listener to a specific place and time,
celebrating history, memory, and culture and exposing the brilliance and beauty in life’s simplicities that we all share. At times lively and dance-like, at others subdued and reflective, Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI’s appearance in Kansas City was indeed a night to remember.
Read the review here: http://kcmetropolis.org/issue/november-6-2013/article/honey-and-blood-is-sweet-yet-runs-deep
By Libby Hanssen, Kansas City Star
Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI treated the audience Thursday at the Folly
Theater to a cultural distillation with the group’s latest project, “Blood and
Honey: The Cycle of Life in the Mosaic of the Balkan People.”
Savall brought together an ensemble of international musicians, each
performing in a particular tradition from central sections of Europe and Asia.
The concert presented by the Friends of Chamber Music was impressive for the musicians’ virtuosity and for the scholarship, citing folk tunes and religious traditions transmitted orally or suppressed during the region’s tumultuous history.
The program examined the musical styles of the peoples who populated the Balkan region, as well as the religious influences of Christianity, Sephardic Judaism, and Islam. Projected supertitles offered translations.
The concert featured similarly structured works, with undulating accompaniment primarily from santur and morisca (Dimitri Psonis) and oud (Yurdal Tokcan), supporting melodic exchanges with the vocalists. Two seamless hour-long
portions, with instrumental pieces and interludes between, enhanced the attitude of collaboration.
Yet these elements served more to illuminate the distinctions of style and tone qualities, not blend them. The vocalists, Stoimenka Outchikova-Nedialkova (in ethnic Bulgarian dress), Marc Mauillon, Lior Elmaleh, Gursoy Dincer and
Irini Derebei, had markedly different approaches: wide, bright timbres versus rounded, nasal resonances versus throaty, fluid lines versus sharp, piercing wails.
This created exciting contrasts, from the “tra las” of the Greek/Turkish “Tillirkotissa,” the amusing Cypriot dance “Koniali,” or the enthusiastic choruses for the Romany “Duy, duy, duy denomori deshudui.”
The instrumentalists were soloists, too, as well as accompanists. Especially impressive were Bulgarian Nedyalko Nedyalkov’s technique on the kaval, a shepherd’s eight-holed flute, the glistening glissandi from Turk Hakan Gungor’s zither-like qanun and the range of colors Spaniard David Mayoral elicited from his collection of hand drums and tambourines.
In a dramatic moment, the house lights dimmed as bells pealed onstage, a spotlight revealing baritone Mauillon and duduk player Haig Sarikouyoumdjian in a balcony to perform the chant “En to stavro pares tosa.” The flowing line was supported by the impossibly held, almost imperceptible low tones of the duduk, followed by a pensive, otherworldly duduk solo.
The final section, “(Re)conciliation,” created a medley of five similar tunes from various traditions, highlighting each musician, ending with everyone performing simultaneously for an amalgam of heritages
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By Christopher Gage, KCMetropolis
The musical genre of string quartet has existed since the Classical period,
yet it has never remained static, always evolving, always adopting new harmonic language, always captivating audiences with its intimacy and charm. The Pacifica Quartet, quartet-in-residence of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, showed the versatility of the genre by playing three incredibly different string quartets for The Friends of Chamber Music on Saturday. The featured works were Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in B-flat major, “Sunrise,” Alfred Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, with Grosse Fuge
, Op. 133.
The musicians played with gusto, adopting a no-holds-barred approach to the
Haydn and dispelling any suspicions of stuffiness. While their playing was
energetic, it was also extremely sensitive: they took great care to communicate with each other at every turn and to articulate every line carefully. The cliché goes that the string quartet is a musical conversation, a characteristic of the genre that was especially evident in this first piece’s second movement when the first violinist and cellist enjoyed a nice dialogue, exchanging lines back and forth. The Haydn was an excellent way to begin the program, allowing the ensemble to flex its muscles and making the audience excited for the music to come.
The Schnittke proved to be the star of the show. With quotations from Orlando di Lasso, Beethoven (incidentally, the Beethoven quartet that would end the evening), and Shostakovich, the piece was both vaguely reminiscent and intensely
unfamiliar. Music in a more modern idiom can make the listener apprehensive, but the four players made the Schnittke accessible and enjoyable.
The Beethoven quartet came after intermission and was perhaps designed to be the real substance of the concert; however, it ended up serving as a sluggish coda to the two excellent pieces that preceded it. This effect was in no way the fault of the performers, who, aside from a momentary unraveling in the Presto, played admirably, but it was instead the result of Beethoven’s daunting composition. The endless lines, meandering harmonies, and extended forms of this Romanti masterwork were emotionally taxing, and, while the Grosse Fuge
did not disintegrate into harmonic oblivion like some Romantic fugues, Beethoven’s treatment of the venerable contrapuntal form was just as complex, involved, and confounding for modern ears as it was for those of his era.
This long, heady program was nevertheless not enough to mar the outstanding musicality of the members of the Pacifica Quartet, who brought these pieces to life with rare finesse and vitality. Their astonishing playing of this intimate chamber music captivated the sizable audience in the Folly Theater, and the wide range of their musical abilities was matched only by the vastness of the genre of the string quartet. Hopefully their playing also inspired the next generation
of string quartet musicians from the Kansas City Talent Education School, who performed in the lobby before the recital. REVIEW:The Friends of Chamber MusicPacifica Quartet
Saturday, October 26, 2013
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
For more information, visit www.chambermusic.org
Read the review here at http://kcmetropolis.org/issue/october-30-2013/article/string-quartet-through-the-ages
Calling early music vocal ensemble Blue Heron musical archaeologists does the
group a disservice. They are more akin to the whip-cracking Indiana Jones as
their performance of sections from a newly discovered and reconstructed
Peterhouse partbook for The Friends of Chamber Music was just as thrilling as
any Hollywood adventure.By Lee Hartman, KCMetropolis
What does it take to make old music sound new and important today? I think it
takes skilled, expressive, informed performers dedicated to timeless repertoire
and an audience willing to be transported. Such was the case on Saturday’s
glorious concert by Blue Heron at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for
The Friends of Chamber Music. Scott Metcalfe’s ensemble of thirteen talented
singers puts the sounds of the Peterhouse partbook on fine display.
The Renaissance in England was time of great religious upheaval, with
Catholicism and the Anglican Church battling it out for superiority depending on
the monarch’s personal and political whims. With each new wave of fervor, the
opposition’s manuscripts and people alike were burned. So much was lost during
this time, but a few enterprising and daring people hid their manuscripts away.
It is from one of these hidden tomes, the Peterhouse partbook, that Blue Heron
performed “Music for an English Cathedral.”
The program was structured like a typical Mass Ordinary with the Gloria,
Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei all getting their fair share; the Kyrie was
missing as was typical of 16th-century English
Masses. Interspersed were two antiphons. Nicholas Ludford’s Ave cujus
opened the evening. The stanzas of sopranos with the basses were
exceptionally well sung. Occasionally the countertenors would split their
pitches on their entrances but they quickly recovered. The penultimate stanza
lost energy in all the melismas.
A Sarum plainchant, Deus creator omnium
, substituted for the Kyrie.
The countertenor onset seemed to speak before the ensemble’s unison sound but
that may have been my position in the hall. The chant was performed in a
bouncier manner than I am accustomed to but it did not detract from the
precision of the pitches and unison line.
Robert Jones’s Gloria and Credo from Missa Spes nostra
followed. The tenor
timbre was lost in the Gloria with the altos overpowering it. The final line
“Jesu Christe, cum sancto spiritu in Gloria dei patris. Amen.” was harmonically
more complex than the preceding lines, recalling Robert White’s Lamentations.
The Credo explored different combinations of voice parts, the most striking of
which was the three inner voices on “passus et sepultus est.”
Robert Hunt’s Stabat mater dolorosa
was a stunning piece but all too
often the sopranos were too piercing and intonation was off at cadence points.
Metcalfe showed some weightier attacks but the ensemble did not always respond
to his direction. Hunt’s piece contained a magical bit of text painting during
“In nobis plantet firme grata,” in which there is a lovely blossom of sound in
uprising lines, like a sprouting flower.
Jones’ Sanctus and Agnus Dei closed the program. Both were expertly performed
and ravishing works, though they did cheat with only about one-third of the
group executing the final consonants. Blue Heron is an ensemble to watch. Their
captivating performance and championing of heady-yet-approachable fare is worthy
of accolades and attention.
Read the article online at http://kcmetropolis.org/issue/october-16-2013/article/renaissance-rediscovery
By JOHN HEUERTZ
Special to The Kansas City Star
You’ve seen the bumper sticker with the word “Coexist” spelled out in the
symbols of major world religions? It didn’t work that way in 16th-century
Which is one reason Blue Heron’s concert in Kansas City’s Catholic
cathedral Saturday evening, presented by Friends of Chamber Music, was so
interesting and important.
“Music for an English Cathedral” featured long unsung polyphonic Catholic
liturgical music performed by 13 men and women in five vocal ranges directed by
founder Scott Metcalfe. It included the six unchanging parts of the Ordinary of
the Mass and two votive antiphons honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The music is long unsung because in England the Crown destroyed as much of it
as possible in the mid-1500s. To be fair, it’s also true that Christians
everywhere persecuted other Christians, and almost everyone persecuted the
The reconstruction of England’s rich, sophisticated polyphonic liturgical
tradition is relatively recent, with English musicologist Nick Sandon making a
specialty of what are now called the Peterhouse Partbooks.
Blue Heron sang music of unearthly beauty from Sandon’s reconstructed
partbooks on Saturday night at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It
was interesting because the composers are so obscure, and the scholarship
underpinning the music is important.
Blue Heron brought out the warm, affectionate character of Nicholas Ludford’s
antiphon “Ave, cujus conceptio,” which celebrates what are called the five
Corporal Joys of Our Lady. They were a popular subject in the country once known
as “Our Lady’s Dowry.”
Blue Heron’s Sarum plainchant Kyrie for Trinity Sunday was animated and
joyous, and Robert Jones, about whom almost nothing is known, wrote the rest of
the Mass parts.
Jones, possibly one of the most interesting unknown English composers ever,
writes music with a wide emotional range and plenty of masterful composer’s
His Gloria was refined, forthright, unafraid and filled with joyous trust in
God. Another example of Jones’ touch is the very moving, dramatic pause in the
music before the words “Et incarnatus est” in the Credo.
His contemporary Robert Hunt, who is even more obscure than Jones, wrote the
powerful Stabat Mater. It is a work that truly did “arouse compassion for the
This ethereal music almost seems a part of nature. It breathes. It’s
expansive and flowing in Blue Heron’s performance of it Saturday evening.
Read the story online here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/14/4552765/concert-review-blue-heron-takes.html
By Paul Horsley, The Independent
Clear and mild with occasional light, gusty winds. A weather forecast, perhaps, but this could also serve as a description of Vladimir Feltsman’s
recital on September 27th at the Folly Theater, the opening of the Friends of Chamber Music’s 38th season. It was a low-key affair, with flashes of brilliance and no small measure of the sharp musical insights for which the great Russian-born American pianist is known.
Vladimir Feltsman opened the Friends of Chamber Music season with tasteful and elegant Haydn and Schubert, willful Liszt, and not quite boiling Scriabin.By Robert Pherigo, KCMetropolis.org
Vladimir Feltsman is a master pianist. He plays with absolute assuredness. His control over the sound that comes out of the piano is a pleasure to hear, playing cleanly yet with a wide range of colors at his disposal. Last Friday night he opened the Friends of Chamber Music season at the Folly Theater playing a program of Haydn, Schubert, Liszt, and Scriabin.
by Lee Hartman, KCMetropolis.orgVladimir Feltsman
(September 27), Pacifica Quartet
(October 26), and Jordi Savall
and Hespèrion XXI
(October 31) all return to Kansas City thanks to the Friends of Chamber Music
. Feltsman performs the works of Liszt, Scriabin, Haydn, and Schubert while the Pacifica Quartet plays Haydn, Schnittke, and Beethoven. The Jordi Savall concert is a must-attend for all music lovers. The noted gambist and collected musicians will present an evening of Balkan
music from its people of disparate religions.
Click here to read the entire article:http://kcmetropolis.org/issue/september-4-2013/article/preview-fall-2013-chamber-music-and-solo-instrumentalists
By Patrick Neas, Special to The Kansas City Star
Cooler weather and darker evenings lend themselves to introspection, and there is no more introspective genre of music than chamber music. The Friends of Chamber Music has several concerts to add profundity to the autumn season.
Pianist Vladimir Feltsman will start things off with a recital on Sept. 27. It’s a nicely balanced program of the classical and
romantic with works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt and Alexander Scriabin. Of special note is Liszt’s “Blessing of God in Solitude,” a dreamy, spellbinding meditation for piano.
If dressing up as a ghoul to beg for candy corn isn’t your trick or treat bag, Friends has another option for Halloween. On Oct. 31 at the Folly Theater, Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI (with guest musicians) will take you on a journey to medieval Istanbul.
Stile Antico's concert of sacred music of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries closed the Friends of Chamber Music's 2013–14 season. The British ensemble's vibrant sound and youthful energy injected new life into these old works.
By Tom Marks, KCMetropolis.comThe Friends of Chamber Music concluded its 2012–13 Early Music Series and concert season on Friday night at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, presenting the British choral ensemble, Stile Antico. The concert, “Treasures of the Renaissance,” was comprised primarily of sacred music of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Stile Antico’s vibrant sound and youthful energy injected new life into these old works, refreshing them in the twenty-first century for Kansas City’s appreciative audience members.
The ensemble opened with Nicolas Gombert’s Magnificat primi toni.
The group’s synchronicity was apparent in this selection. Singing without a conductor, this small choir of twelve voices maintained consistent eye contact, leading each other and maintaining uniformity as an ensemble. Within the Magnificat
, the choir delivered the piece’s varying sections with differing, appropriate moods—most noticeably at the dramatic increase in volume and intensity during the concluding “Gloria Patri.”
Speaking after the opening selection, tenor Andrew Griffiths (who spoke on the ensemble’s behalf throughout the concert), said that their program repertoire was “interesting and varied.” I was initially skeptical about the statement, as much of the program consisted of sacred Latin motets composed approximately within a century of one another. Shortly into the concert, however, Stile Antico demonstrated the diversity of their repertoire, thanks in part to their capable voices, interpretative choices, and attention to each individual piece’s text.