Offerings to suit religious, secular

Fine Arts

April 03, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The separation of church and state may be firm (at least for now), but there can never really be a separation of church and music.

There's simply too much good music that comes under the heading of "sacred," not because it's necessarily holy, but because it deals with religious texts and thoughts. No litmus test is required of listeners, though - they can be as heathen as they like. As is the case with the great religious paintings of the Renaissance, sacred music can be appreciated by anyone.

Understandable, the Lenten/Passover season generates a fair amount of sacred music performances each year. We've already had presentations of Handel's "Israel in Egypt" and Dave Brubeck's "The Gates of Justice." More is still to come:

On Sunday (Palm Sunday) at Second Presbyterian Church, there will be a performance of Robert Sirota's "The Passion of Jesus Christ," a work philosophically in the tradition of Bach's Passions. In this case, there is more than music to consider.

"Deborah Patterson, a very fine painter who lives in the Baltimore area, painted eight large, fascinating, very beautiful paintings on the Passion of Christ," says Sirota, director of the Peabody Conservatory. "I wrote music meant to complement them, providing a kind of characteristic sound for each."

The paintings, measuring 6 x 3 feet, will be illuminated by specially installed lighting as the music unfolds.

Sirota's "Passion," scored for three vocal soloists, chorus, organ, piano and percussion, was first performed locally four years ago. This weekend's performance of the "visual oratorio" will be its third. "Whether it's a great piece or not, people seem to like it," the composer says. "It's developed a little following."

Sirota will conduct the program and also will be represented by an excerpt from a music/theater piece he wrote in 1994 called "Iscariot."

The free concert is at 7:30 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St. For more information, call 410-889-6819.

Another event Sunday offers an opportunity to delve into a different kind of religious-minded music. It's the rich sound of Marcel Dupre, the brilliant and influential 20th-century French organist and composer. His "Le Chemin de la Croix" (The Way of the Cross) from the 1930s began as an improvisation - Dupre had a marvelous ability to spin out complex and colorful music on the spot - and was subsequently written down.

Like Sirota's "Passion," there was a non-musical inspiration behind the work, a poem by Paul Claudel. That poetry will be read by Peabody Opera Theater director Roger Brunyate during the concert, which also has a visual component - slides of artwork by Alan Crite will be shown.

The Dupre score will be performed by Donald Sutherland, head of Peabody's organ department, assisted by six of his students.

The free concert is at 4 p.m. Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St. For more information, call 410-433-6650.

Following up on an extraordinary performance of Telemann's "Der Tag des Gerichts" presented by the International Institute for Culture last fall at St. Ignatius Church, that organization will offer a performance of Bach cantatas this month in the same venue. Once again, Thomas Hetrick will lead a group of singers and an orchestra of baroque instrument specialists (assembled for the occasion by David Douglass, founder of the noted King's Noyse ensemble).

The Telemann concert raised funds for the restoration of the church; proceeds from the Bach concert will benefit the St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, a boys school next to the church.

The program includes two Easter cantatas, No. 42 ("Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats") and No. 85 ("Ich bin ein guter Hirt"), and a funeral cantata, No. 106 ("Actus Tragicus"). The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. April 29. Tickets cost $25. Send a check and self-addressed, stamped envelope to: St. Ignatius Church, 740 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202. For more information, call 410-539-0080.

Non-religious performances

There's plenty of secular music ahead, too. On the chamber music front, several noteworthy concerts are coming up, starting this evening with the Peabody Trio performing at its namesake venue.

A resident faculty ensemble at Peabody Conservatory since 1989 (the year it won the important Naumberg Chamber Music Award), the trio has enjoyed an active concert life in this country and abroad. Founding members Violaine Melancon, violinist, and Seth Knopp, pianist, recently welcomed a new cellist, Natasha Brofsky.

Works by Beethoven and Brahms are on the program at 7:30 tonight at Peabody's Friedberg Hall, One E. Mt. Vernon Place. Tickets cost $16, $8 seniors, $5 students. Call 410-659-8124.

Founded in 1989, the Skampa Quartet from Prague has made a solid international reputation. The group, which became the first quartet-in-residence at London's Wigmore Hall in 1994, will be presented at the Candlelight Concerts series in Columbia this week.

The program includes Mozart's "Dissonant" Quartet, Beethoven's Op. 131, and Janacek's "Kreutzer Sonata" Quartet. The concert is at 8 p.m. Friday at Smith Theatre, Howard Community College, Columbia. Tickets cost $24, $18 seniors, $9 students. Call 410-715-0034 or 301-596-6203.

The Laurel Trio, which has served as resident ensemble at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts and WQXR radio in New York, will visit Goucher College this month. Violinist Sunghae Anna Lim, cellist Amy Levine Tsang and pianist Reiko Uchida will concentrate on 20th- century music at 8 p.m. April 19 at Goucher's Merrick Hall. Admission in free. For more information, call 410-337-6333.

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