Reviews

Praise for Tableau Baroque’s Program Handel’s Inheritance:

[learn_more caption="Tableau Baroque enlightens with music of Handel and his contemporaries – South Florida Classical Review – July 24th, 2009"]

“Seraphic Fire presented Tableau Baroque in their South Florida debut Thursday night at Saint Martha’s Church in Miami Shores. The program, called “Handel’s Inheritance,” offered a look at the formative years of the Baroque master, as well as several other composers identified with the courts and chapels of 17th century Europe. Drawing the first act to its close was the exquisite duet, Ach, mein herzliebes jesulein, by Johann Schelle (1648-1701). Taken from one of the composer’s sacred cantatas, the music interweaves two countertenors in lovely harmony and counterpoint. Ian Howell and Michael Albert blended perfectly and had the technique to smoothly transition from one register to another without any discernible break. Their tonal production was gorgeous, and a highlight of the concert.

In the second act, “Hamburg, 1704-1706,” sections of Reinhard Keiser’s opera, Claudius were interpolated with the Sarabande from Handel’s Almira, and the aria, Lascia ch’io piango from his opera Rinaldo, and Ian Howell’s beautiful singing of the vocal selections probably left few dry eyes in the audience.

The final act of the evening, “Italy and Hanover, 1706-1711,” consisted largely of the cantata, La Seneca, by the ill-fated womanizer Alessandro Stradella, who was killed after being caught in a compromising situation with a married woman. Scored for countertenor and continuo, the cantata tells of the final moments of the Stoic Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca, who was ordered by Nero to kill himself for his lack of loyalty to the notorious Emperor. The recitative and arioso style writing is deeply moving in both music and prose. It was sung by Ian Howell with power and expressive emotion, the singer projecting his voice strongly while keeping his tone under admirable control.”

- Alan Becker South Florida Classical Review

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[learn_more caption="Music review: Tableau Baroque elegantly demonstrates roots of Handel's art – Palm Beach Arts Paper – July 27th, 2009"]“Tableau Baroque’s program, called Handel’s Inheritance, took a look at the three periods of Handel’s life leading up to his move to England, which became permanent by 1713. Most of the composers on the concert would be unfamiliar names to most concertgoers — Nicolaus Strungk, Johann Schelle, Reinhard Keiser — but it all turned out to be worthwhile, interesting music in which the origins of Handel’s stylistic debts were clearly laid out.

One of the finest unfamiliar pieces was the song Ach, mein herzliebes Jesulein (Ah, my little Jesus, dear to my heart), from a Christmas canata by Schelle, who was the music director at St. Thomas’ in Leipzig nearly half a century before its most famous occupant, J.S. Bach. Howell was joined by group violinist Michael Albert, who also sings countertenor, and the two men’s voice blended beautifully as they sang the devotional words about the Christ child making a shrine in their hearts.

The Schelle was preceded by a pleasant suite in G minor by Strungk, in which Albert, cellist Brian Howard and Lebedinsky demonstrated their fidelity to Baroque style along with an admirable sense of energy, and a solo allemande for harpsichord by Handel’s first and only teacher, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. This floridly ornamented piece was in line with the tradition of earlier keyboard writers such as J.J. Froberger, and Lebedinsky handled its extravagant texture deftly.

The voice we would come to know as Handel’s starts to be more clearly heard in the music of Keiser, who was the conductor at the opera house in Hamburg where Handel played violin and composed his first stage works. Keiser’s opera Claudius (1703), from which Tableau Baroque offered three selections, introduced a composer of real personality, a man who wrote with wit and tunefulness. The March from this opera, played with polish and verve by the three instrumentalists, had a clarity and catchiness that surely gave Handel good direction for his future music. The two-part Overture as well must have provided the template for the kind of distinct contrast that Handel pursued in such pieces thereafter.

The Hamburg years also saw the first use of a melody Handel would later recycle for his 1711 opera Rinaldo, that of the justly celebrated Lascia ch’io pianga (Leave me to weep), which was sung here with radiant tenderness and persuasive dramaturgy by Howell. He has a lovely singing voice, of a light, supple cast, and his ornamentations on the second time through of the aria were modest, tasteful and effective.

The concert’s third and final section, detailing Handel’s years in Italy and Hanover, featured a cantata by Alessandro Stradella, probably the best-known of the other composers on the program. La Seneca, a solo vocal work about the suicide of Seneca mandated by the Emperor Nero, was a good example of the variety that a skillful composer can bring to recitative. It’s an effective piece, though it’s hard to appreciate nowadays, given that music like this is generally heard as warmup to arias. Still, Howell was impressive here, tackling a long, demanding text and making the most of it, adding touches such as wiping his forehead on the words With dry brow and without weeping.

Three other works by Handel filled out the section and closed the concert: Quel fior che all’alba ride, a work from around 1741 which the composer recycled for the choruses And he shall purify and His yoke is easy in Messiah, composed that same year. But the original cantata is a beautiful work on its own, demonstrating Handel’s great melodic power and the innate theatricality of his music.

Howell sang it with elegance and grace to expert accompaniment by the rest of Tableau Baroque, and closed the concert with two more Handel selections, two arias from his rarely heard collection of German-language songs, dating from the 1720s. Flammende Rose (Flaming Rose), a confident, upbeat aria, showcased Howell’s fine breath control as he navigated the long lines Handel wrote for the solo singer.

The encore, the aria Susse Stille, sanfte Quelle (Sweet silence, soft source [of tranquility]), a gorgeous song in which the comfort of the grave as a release from life’s woundings is extolled, received the same kind of reading all the works on this program did: Masterfully played and sung, beautifully realized. Not incidentally, this song also showed the melodic profile and harmonic imagination that distinguish Handel’s music as a substantial cut above every other composer on the program, no matter how worthy or adept.

To show not only a composer’s inheritance, but how he transformed and exceeded it, was the ultimate message of this concert, and it was in every way a triumph for Tableau Baroque.”

- Greg Stepanich Palm Beach Arts Paper[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption="Countertenors Are Alive and Well: Ian Howell with Tableau Baroque – Classical Voice North Carolina – February 27th, 2009"]“Tableau Baroque’s program, entitled “Handel’s Inheritance: The Music Behind the Master,” traced the influences of Handel’s youth and his residences in four sets (Halle and vicinity through 1700, Hamburg 1704-06, Italy 1706-11, and London 1711-59). Copious program notes by Howell and Lebedinsky with text translations, and comments from the stage throughout the performance, further connected the audience to the concert’s theme.

The program’s first set consisted of two instrumental works, a Suite in G minor by Nicolaus Adam Strungk for violin and basso continuo — very French in style with clipped dotted rhythms and shifting meters in the two fast movements — and three verses by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow on the chorale Vom Himmel Hoch, performed solo by Lebedinsky on the chamber organ. Howell’s rendition of Johann Philipp Krieger’s strophic song “An die Einsamkeit,” our first hearing of the countertenor voice, was lovely, supple, and crystal clear. To close the set, Albert set aside his violin and joined Howell in a sung duet of one verse of Johann Schelle’s “Ach, mein herzliebes Jesulein,” the organ and cello providing the basso support.

For set two the program shifted to composers residing in Hamburg, with two movements of a Suite by ‘Claudius’ Reinhard Keiser for violin, cello, and harpsichord, then two works by Handel himself — the famous Sarabande from Almira, and its derivative aria “Lascia ch’io piango” from Rinaldo. The set ended with a chaconne from the same Keiser Suite. The separating of movements or sections of a given work to include those of other works, as well as the performance of works related by thematic material (whether chorale melody or melodies from Handel’s own other works) was an ingenious programming idea.

Set three embraced the Italian influences, featuring a Sonata for violin and continuo, Op. 5 No. 3 by Arcangelo Corelli, notable for its exquisite slow movement ornaments. Inserted between its movements were sections of Alessandro Stradella’s lengthy solo cantata La Seneca, the instrumental movements cleverly positioned as to function as programmatic commentary on the serious text.

After intermission came three Handel works: the chamber cantata Mi Palpità il cor with a lively violin obbligato, “Quel fior all’alba ride” for countertenor duet and basso continuo in which one could hear echoes of “His yoke is easy” and “And He shall purify” from Messiah, and “Flammende Rose,” an aria surprising for its German text by Brockes. The cellist was featured in the three-movement Sonata for violoncello and continuo in A minor by Giovanni Bononcini, its last movement a charming French Minuet in rondeau couplets. The group’s encore, Handel’s “Süsse Stille,” another German aria, was a relatively simple and touching song of praise to God as the source of sweet rest.

One can only marvel at the intelligence, sheer musicality, and sonorous beauty generated by these four young dynamos, and thank them for their gifts to us.”

- Laura McDowell Classical Voice North Carolina[/learn_more]

An American ensemble dedicated to the music of the Baroque