Guest Harpsichord Soloist Linda Skernick
The Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, John Yankee music director, will present its spring concert, “A Very Masterful Concert,” on Saturday, March 29, at 7 PM, and Sunday, March 30, at 3 PM, at John Wesley United Methodist Church, 270 Gifford Street, Falmouth.
The orchestra will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major featuring guest harpsichord soloist Linda Skernick of Connecticut; Antonio Rosetti’s Partita No. 15 for Winds; Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”); and Gioacchino Rossini’s Finale from the William Tell Overture.
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) wrote six Brandenburg concertos, which were first performed in 1721 and widely regarded as some of the best instrumental music of the Baroque period. The first concerto to feature a harpsichord, No. 5 was probably written in 1719 to feature a new harpsichord that Bach brought back from Berlin. A virtuoso harpsichordist himself, Bach most likely played the part at the concerto’s premiere.
“The Brandenburg 5 was Bach’s first big solo piece for harpsichord, in the form of the long, technically difficult cadenza in the first movement,” said harpsichord soloist Linda Skernick. “There comes a point where the orchestra falls off, with the solo violin and flute, and the harpsichordist is left flying solo! It’s very exciting!”
Brandenburg 5 also features concertmaster Laura Sonnichsen and principal flutist Lorrie Hassan as soloists, as well as the entire string section of the orchestra.
“All of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos are significant for their unusual combinations of instruments and textures,” said Yankee. “The extensive and demanding writing for harpsichord is what makes No. 5 distinctive, and we are thrilled to have Linda back to play it with us.”
Skernick’s first appearance with the FCPO was in 2011, when she performed Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto IV in A major, BWV 1055.
Skernick has a distinguished career as a harpsichordist. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she has had solo recitals at the Los Angeles Harpsichord Center, Washington DC’s Phillips Collection, the Cleveland and Birmingham Museums of Art, New York’s Lincoln Center, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, as well as at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments and at Wesleyan University.
She has toured with Alexander Schneider’s Brandenburg Ensemble and performed with Gerard Schwarz’s Mostly Mozart Festival, as well as the Seacliff Chamber Players’ Long Island Bach Festival, and many local Connecticut series.
Skernick and Laura Sonnichsen were good friends in the 1970s, but lost track of each other. They came together again through Facebook about three years ago, and when Skernick learned that Sonnichsen had founded an orchestra, she said to her, “We must do a Brandenburg 5 together, at some point. I am so very happy that that moment is here.”
Sonnichsen was glad to comply. “Brandenburg 5 is a great piece for the violin both technically and emotionally. There is constant interaction between all the strings and the three soloists that makes it far more than another performance piece. It is complex and beautiful.”
Flutist Lorrie Hassan is also looking forward to the concert. “Brandenburg 5 is so much fun to play, and it is an honor to have been asked to play it with the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra,” she said.
The Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, John Yankee, music director, first row, center
Francesco Rosetti (1750-1792) was a prolific composer from the classical period and a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart. Rosetti’s Partita in F Major for Winds features the woodwind and French horn players.
“One can hear Haydn’s influence on Rosetti, particularly in terms of melody and wit,” said Yankee.
“The well-known Unfinished Symphony No. 8 by Schubert is a work I’ve been looking forward to having the FCPO perform for quite a while,” said Yankee. “It is both delicate and demanding, and our orchestra is stepping up to the challenge wonderfully.”
No one knows why Franz Schubert (1797-1828) did not complete his Symphony No. 8 in b minor, which consists of only two movements, a dramatic and lyrical Allegro moderato and a calmly beautiful Andante con moto. Some suggest he set it aside because he was seriously ill, because he was intimidated by his growing awareness of Beethoven’s extraordinary talent, or simply because he couldn’t think of a suitable way to conclude the symphony.
In any case, the symphony, composed in 1822, was not performed until 1865, long after Schubert’s death. It was met with wide acclaim and is sometimes called the first Romantic symphony because of its use of expressive melody, strong harmony, and creative use of orchestral tone.
The William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) will close the concert. Familiar to many as the theme from “The Lone Ranger,” this is a high-energy cavalry charge called “The March of the Swiss Soldiers.”
“The brass section drives this piece, the trumpets in particular,” said Yankee. “I felt this would be a good selection for our principal trumpet, Richard Bahman, who is retiring from the orchestra after this concert. He has been a fabulous player and a key member of our orchestra, and will certainly be missed.”
The overture is one of Bahman’s favorites. “The Finale of the William Tell is a good example of the trumpeting style,” he said. “Although the trumpet can play lyrical melodic passages, it is historically known for its proclamation, fanfare style, and bugle calls. After all it was used to bring down the walls of Jericho.”
Admission to the concert is by donation. Suggested donation is $20 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, call Fritz Sonnichsen at 508-274-2632 or visit falmouthchamberplayers.org.