Vivaldi rarities on display at St. Paul’s

By Greg Stepanich

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach has been providing classical music in its sanctuary for a couple decades now, but the current season marks a substantial step up for this Palm Beach County concert series.

Sunday afternoon’s Vivaldi concert was an ambitious one, presented by artistic director Keith Paulson-Thorp’s whimsically named Camerata del Re.  The six members of the group presented seven selections that offered a wide variety of Vivaldi’s work in several categories, from a trio sonata to a flute concerto, from cantata to sinfonia, performed on original instruments.

Perhaps because of the colder weather, tuning was the bugbear of the afternoon, and noticeably affected a good portion of the music-making. And compositions such as these, with much plainer harmonic textures than the music of later eras, leave out-of-whack notes scant room to hide.

That said, there was some very attractive work here, and the audience gave the Camerata a warm reception. Perhaps most notable was the playing of flutist Robert Billington, who offered pretty work in a sonata written by Nicholas Chedeville, a Vivaldi contemporary who published the music under the more famous composer’s name. Billington was also a fluid soloist in Il Gardellino, the D major flute concerto replete with bird song imitations that sounded much mellower than a modern performance thanks to the darker sound of the Baroque flute.

Soprano Anita Smith gave an effective reading of the charming cantata Vengo a voi, luci adorate, and Paulson-Thorp demonstrated how to ad lib, Baroque style, in a forceful performance of the D minor Violin Sonata published as Op. 2, No. 3 (RV 14).

Overall, there was an impressive display of scholarship here, and a good reason to look forward to the Camerata’s appearance in May at St. Paul’s, when it will feature the music of two Bach sons — C.P.E. and J.C. — and two of Bach’s best-known students, Johann Krebs and Karl Abel.  Nonetheless, intonation difficulties will have to be addressed in order for this part of the St. Paul’s series to reach its evident promise and full potential.

The Chagall Trio will be featured at 3 p.m. Jan. 18, in the St. Paul’s series. On the program are the Piano Trio in E-flat (Op. 1, No. 1) of Beethoven and Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor. For more information, call 561-278-6003.)

Greg Stepanich has covered classical music, theater and dance for 25 years at newspapers in Illinois, West Virginia and Florida. He worked for 10 years at The Palm Beach Post, where he was an assistant business editor and pilot of Classical Musings, a classical music blog. He now blogs at, and works as a freelance writer and composer.

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Mon Nov 17, 2008
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