Everything Old is New Again

(photo credit: Jim Garrison took this spectacular shot from the balcony view at St. Mary Cathedral.)


~ submitted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director 

A fine crowd gathered in St. Mary Cathedral on Friday, January 29 to hear ‘Harmonia Ariosa: Vocal and Instrumental Music from 17th century Austria and Italy,’ performed by Laurie Young Stevens and Friends and presented by Texas Early Music Project. Violinist Laurie Young Stevens is one of Austin’s premier period-instrument performers, and LYS & Friends has become a yearly concert event. If I had friends like Laurie’s, I’d want to show them off, too!

Internationally acclaimed Argentinean violinist Manfredo Kraemer joined in for the first time. He has performed with exceptional early music ensembles like Musica Antiqua Köln and Jordi Savall’s Concert de Nations, and can be heard on countless CDs. What a joy and a pleasure it was to hear him perform works like Schmelzer’s Harmonia a 5 and Biber’s Partita III.

Cellist Phoebe Carrai has become an LYS & Friends regular, and I always look forward to her amazing performances. A highlight this time was a moving canzona by Frescobaldi, in which she made her 17th century cello ring with marvelous sonorities.

Another Friend we’re always glad to see return is recorder virtuoso Paul Leenhouts from the Netherlands. He blew us away (literally!) with his amazing technique, fleet fingers and seemingly boundless lung capacity! The audience loved his performance of Canzone Sesta by Angelo Berardi, judging by the ensuing applause and cheers! Paul also arranged the pieces on the program, and included 3 pieces that he discovered in various libraries and archives around Europe, works never before heard on US soil. It’s amazing to think of ‘new’ early music- pieces that may not have been heard since their first performance (if at all). One of Paul’s finds, Paduana and Gagliarda V by Isaac Posch, was a highlight for me, being exceptionally lovely with just the right amount of Germanic melancholy. My other favorite piece on the program was Georg Muffat’s Passacaglia (sometimes called Chaconne) from Sonata V, a work of absolute soaring beauty that will cure any bout of the blues. You’ll hear it in rotation on KMFA, which I consider a public service.  🙂

Harpsichordist/organist Gabriel Shuford was kept busy all evening playing continuo, but he also had his chance to shine in a solo toccata by Frescobaldi. Frescobaldi was nice enough to warn potential players in the manuscript: “you won’t get to the end without suffering.” But Gabriel didn’t even seem to break a sweat as he wowed the audience with this aural thrill ride, full of bizarre chromatics.

Completing the group of friends were violinist Kathleen Kajioka from Toronto, violist Andrew Justice from Denton, contrabassist David Dawson from Austin, and superlative soprano Jenifer Thyssen, well known to early music fans here in Central Texas.

Keep bringing your friends to town, Laurie! I’m sure I’m not the only one already looking forward to next year’s performance!

(submitted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director )

(Dianne Donovan took this photo of the beautiful church stage)

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