Christine Gevert, the indefatigable choral conductor, early music specialist, harpsichordist, and composer, consistently makes her mark in producing unusual and meticulously prepared theme-centric vocal concerts. In the past, we’ve heard rarities of the Mendelssohns (Felix and Fannie), a U.S. premiere of Telemann’s impressive oratorio the Hamburische Kapitänsmusik, and tonight, an exotic syncretism of indigenous Latin America culture and seventeenth-century western European Christianity.
G. P. Telemann has never escaped his fate of being on the longer side of compositional quantity over quality. A genius in all musical genres, Telemann produced over three thousand works for every imaginable combination of instruments and voices. While many of his works are lost, what remains has been the core of a Baroque revival since the 1960s, spurred, in part, by many amateur Baroque musicians and ensembles.
This year, the fiftieth anniversary of Wanda Landowska’s death, and the one hundred thirtieth anniversary of her birth, while celebrated with some new recordings of her uniquely affecting keyboard playing, has passed by the attention of most music lovers. In Lakeville, Connecticut, though, where Landowska spent the last years of her life, 1949 and 1950, harpsichordist/organist/choral director Christine Gevert has insured that her musical legacy should receive ample notice. From May through October, Gevert’s Crescendo Ensemble has offered concerts, film, and lectures celebrating Landowska’s achievements. As part of this commemorative festival comes this remarkable celebration of the harpsichord, in singular and in plural. It is largely Landowska’s due that the harpsichord was revivified in the twentieth century for early music performance; as well, its reappearance, and Landowska’s championing recitals, offered modern composers inspiration for a wave of newly composed works for this ancient instrument.
t is perfectly fitting that on J. S. Bach’s birthday (March 21) a tribute should be paid to two composers who lived a century later: Felix Mendelssohn (his bicentenary year), and his gifted sister, composer Fanny Hensel. By the early nineteenth century, Bach, who was viewed as an antique keyboard pedagogue, was to await Felix Mendelssohn’s revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829 for posthumous acclaim. Yet, both Felix (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) and Fanny (Mendelssohn Hensel) wrote remarkable and beautiful choral works, assimilating an extraordinary palate of antiquarian musical idioms and styles. Their mastery of such Catholic and Lutheran idioms was largely owing to their common tutelage by Carl Friedrich Zelter, who imparted his love of Bach and Palestrina to this gifted musical pair.