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Coffee Houses

This all started with the search for a good summer read, and then one thing led to another.  The book I found was a novel about the coffee trade in Holland in the 15th-16th centuries (The Coffee Trader, by David Liss).  Coffee had recently been introduced to Europe, and everyone, for reasons that are totally incomprehensible, took to the dark, bitter liquid made from the coffee bean like Gen Xers to Starbucks.  Go figure.

From this fascinating historical novel, I began thinking about the effect of coffee – and specifically, coffee houses – on the culture of Europe and subsequently, America.  And that (plus Google) led me to Zimmermann’s Kaffeehaus in Leipzig .  No ancestor of Starbuck’s here;  no strangely named, expensive concoctions with little resemblance to actual coffee and consumed by individuals lost in their phones and tablets.  This grand institution was founded in 1702 by Gottfried Zimmermann in Leipzig at 14 Kathrinenstrasse – the  most elegant street in all of Leipzig, and the place where Bach and his buddies hung out (in a manner of speaking).

So I checked out  the Coffee Cantata by Bach, and things just went all over the place from there.  I soon discovered that one cannot talk about Bach and his concerts at Zimmermann’s without learning about perhaps the most famous (certainly the most prolific) composer and musician of his age, Georg Phillip Tellemann. Sit back, read and prepare to be amazed.  (You may want a cuppa to enjoy while I enlighten you….)

Tellemann was born in 1681 in Magdeburg, the son of a Lutheran deacon who had the poor foresight to die when his son (and his other three children) were still quite young.  Early on, young Georg showed a talent for music, but when his widowed mother sought the advice of the Lutheran higherups, she was told, reportedly, that if he followed a career in music, he would be “….no better than a clown, a tightrope walker or a marmot trainer.”  (How does one train a marmot?  I’ll Google that next!)  But the boy won over his mother at last and received some musical education at the Old City School.  No Julliard, apparently, OCS left Georg to pretty well teach himself, and teach he did; he played flute, violin, viola da gamba, oboe, trombone, double bass and a variety of keyboard instruments.  Eat your hear out, Elton John.  Oh, and he also commposed his first opera at age 12.
At 20, Georg set out for Leipzig to study law, apparently thinking that the practice of law might be more profitable than training marmots.  In Leipzig, he met another Georg, that being Georg Friedrich Handel, then 16 years old, and before long, Tellemann was back to composing cantatas for the churches of Leipzig, producing a new one every week!  By 1722, he was the Director of the Leipzig Opera and turned out 4 operas in 3 years. Just weep, Frank Lloyd Weber.

After a long and incredibly productive life, Tellemann died in 1767 at the age of 86 – oh, an in his spare time, he had published his own music.

Now, the road leads back to Zimmermann’s Kaffeehaus.  In 1702, Tellemann founded the Collegium Musicum which was hosted – at no charge – by Gottfried Zimmerman.  Admittance was also free, and herr Zimmermann was able to profit by the patrons’ proclivities for beautiful music and really good coffee.  One of the habituees was none other than Johann Sebastian Bach, who took over the Collegium Musicum in 1729 and directed its productions of recitals and chamber music (see? You knew I’d get to chamber music eventually!) until 1739.  The music essentially died with Zimmermann in 1741, but the building existed on Kathrinenstrasse until the bombing of Leipzing during World War II. It was, sadly, reduced at last to rubble.

All of the above at long last brings up the Coffee Cantata by Bach – see the connection?  Think about the ladies – yes, ladies were allowed to attend the musical events at Zimmermann’s – and gentlemen in their satins and lace thoroughly enjoying their coffee and some of the most remarkable, enduring music the world has ever known.

By the way, you too will enjoy some of the most remarkable, enduring music in the world (sans coffee)  at San Antonio Chamber Music Society concerts.   This season will conclude at Temple Beth-El with “Calmus” – an a cappella vocal quintet from Germany, singing music inspired by Shakespeare. You are going to love it!

– E Doyle

A learning experience

Some things I’ve learned from a knee replacement surgery:

Don’t ever sit in a chair with wheels (unless you want to go to the next room or possibly outside very quickly).

The walker is your friend.  Yes, it’s ugly, scares the cat half to death and is incredibly clumsy, but use it you must unless you feel an urgent need to return to the hospital.

Under no circumstances, turn on the TV during the day.  Unless your selection is far broader than mine, you will “enjoy” incredibly old series such as all the various SVUs and CSIs and be treated to topical comedy shows from the Bush I years.

Radio – remember radio?  The music on KPAC is always there for you and something wonderful by Mozart may even help you forget how much your new knee hurts.  There’s also that collection of CDs awaiting you; never mind about the Christmas ones – it’s too depressing to think about all those people having fun in the snow when you can’t even get out of the house.  Go for the strings:  guitars, violins, violas, cellos (always cellos!).  They soothe.  Brass is just too – well – brassy and winds just make me wish for spring.  Strings are the way to go.

Go for the strings: guitars, violins, violas, cellos (always cellos!). They soothe. Brass is just too – well – brassy and winds just make me wish for spring. Strings are the way to go.

The surgeon is dedicated to the strange notion that hacking into your leg will not have painful after- effects, therefore he has enriched your pharmacy with prescriptions for virtually every pain killer known.  Now, I’m not saying you should eschew chemical assistance in your recovery, just beware.  You have to remember that if you’re taking any of this stuff you cannot drink any, and I mean any alcohol.  Everyone toasting the New Year?  Put water in a champagne glass and pretend.  Furthermore, even if you haven’t had even a teensy-weensy sip of wine, you will most assuredly stagger around like a drunken sailor.  These pharmaceuticals will, I guarantee, cloud your thinking (just try to do a NY Times Crossword puzzle!) and seriously impede judgement (as in, “I don’t think I need the walker anymore”).  So you want to go back to the hospital with a broken hip?

Grin and bear it.  People will send you cards and flowers and chocolates.   You’ll receive charming e-mails.  Don’t mess with the Oxycontin: pain builds character.  Turn on your favorite music, sip some water and aim to be able to make it to the next San Antonio Chamber Music Society concert on April 23.  You can do it!

– E Doyle

Les Amies Outreach Event

Les Amies Outreach at UTSA Recital Hall on February 26, 2017

On Feb. 26th Carol Wincenc, world renowned flutist of the Les Amies Trio, conducted a Master Class at the UTSA Recital Hall for UTSA and YOSA musicians. The class started with all the students (and audience) on stage. The musicians’ flutes became part of their bodies as Carol led us all through a series of stretching and breathing exercises. Everyone was now totally relaxed and completely involved in the Master Class.

Five students, 2 from YOSA and 3 from UTSA then played their pieces with the accompaniment of Mr. Joshua Pepper on the piano. Musicians all received gentle and invaluable advice. A young musician had just started her piece when Carol came onto the stage and proceeded to waltz around with her counting the beat. The musician restarted her piece, a waltz, now with impeccable timing. A student who had played the Saxophone earlier in his musical life had the niceties of the differences in breathing techniques needed for the flute explained to him.

After the musicians had finished all of us were again on the stage with Carol doing post playing breathing and muscle loosening exercises. Happy and excited conversations were heard from everyone. This was indeed a forerunner of the wonderful concert that was in store for the SACMS audience the next afternoon. Grateful thanks to Allyson Dawkins, SACMS Chair of Education and Outreach and to Rita Linard, UTSA Professor of Music for organizing this amazing Master Class.

Submitted by Kenneth Bloom 

Les Amies, Our Friends, Too

Who needs the Oscars when you have friends like Les Amies?

If you had told me that a harp, a flute and a viola made a viable musical combination, I would have questioned your hearing if not your sanity.  OK, so I was wrong and you were right.  Somehow, these three widely different instruments can come together to produce heart-breaking harmonies and timing so precise that it is sometimes difficult to discern which instrument is playing the lead.  Les Amies, three distinguished musicians whose regular jobs are with the NY Philharmonic and teaching at Juilliard, realized they really enjoyed performing and creating music together as a trio – an unlikely trio, I think – and we are all the lucky beneficiaries of that enjoyment.

The music they performed for the fourth San Antonio Chamber Music Society concert this season was beautifully suited to their three (and sometimes just one or two) instruments.  It was a trip to another realm, far away from the hum drum and hustle of life (and Oscar Sunday) and out into the stratosphere, where every note and phrase has a life of its own.  They often invited us to “sit back and relax,” and that we did.  The music produced by this unlikely trio was somewhat akin to submerging into a warm bath.  It was peaceful music, such a welcome relief from the world outside Temple Beth-El.  Oscars, schmoscars!

It was a trip to another realm, far away from the hum drum and hustle of life (and Oscar Sunday) and out into the stratosphere, where every note and phrase has a life of its own.

Their program built to the Debussy, their last selection.  The Sonata pour flute, alto et harpe is devilishly difficult to perform with all its twists, turns, changes in tempo and keys, but it could have been written for these musicians.  They performed it effortlessly.

And I don’t know about you, but when as an encore they performed “Scarborough Fair,” I could have just cried.  (By the way, they will be recording a three-part piece including “Scarborough Fair” in the near future.)

So now we have three new amies.  Did you miss the Oscar hoopla?  Not I.  These three consummate musicians have certainly worked very, very hard to be able to produce their sound, but – to use a time-honored Texas saying – we never even saw ‘em sweat.

Harp, viola and flute?  You could have fooled me!

– E Doyle

Les Amies Trio

Join us on Sunday, February 26, 2017

One of the most exciting new ensembles to emerge in today’s music scene, “Les Amies” is the collaboration of three well established, highly esteemed, and much loved artists. New York Philharmonic Principal Players Nancy Allen, harp, and Cynthia Phelps, viola, join internationally renowned flutist Carol Wincenc to form one of the most dynamic trios that this particular instrumental combination can produce. Merging their individual skills of high artistry and extraordinary technical command, they explore a vast range of repertoire rich in color, texture and imagination. Each of these artists stand alone at the top of their field, winning first prizes in such competitions as the Naumburg, Israel International Harp Competition, Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, Concert Artists Guild and Pro Musicis. As soloists, they have been featured with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, New York, London, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minnesota and Hong Kong, as well as the chamber orchestras of England, St. Paul, Los Angeles and Orpheus.

All have performed, toured, or recorded with some of today’s most esteemed chamber groups, such as the Guarneri, Tokyo, and Emerson String Quartets, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where they have also been seen and heard on “Great Performers of Lincoln Center Live”. They appear regularly in today’s top chamber music festivals including Aspen, Marlboro, Santa Fe, La Jolla, Mostly Mozart, Vail, Portland, Seattle and Music from Menlo.

Championing new music has been a priority for these artists; collectively they have commissioned works from the composers Lucas Foss, Joan Tower, Christopher Rouse, Peter Schickele, George Rochberg, Stephen Paulus, and Sofia Guibaidulina, among many others. Their representation on disc includes the recording labels of Deutsche Gramaphone, Telarc, Decca, Arabesque, Naxos, Virgin and Cala records.

As the name “Les Amies” suggests, they are long-time colleagues, and revel in the glory of their blossoming relationship as artists, bringing to their audiences the color and beauty of this unusual trio combination of flute, viola and harp.

“Our critics have looked back on the best of the 2013-14 season. And the winners are … well, the season isn’t a boxing match nor yet a drawing. But quality does separate the champions from the also-rans. Our choices are …. TRIO LES AMIES

Daily News Arts Critics

“I enjoyed hearing chamber music played by principal players of what is arguably the finest orchestra in the country. I also appreciated that the players varied the ensemble: all playing together, flute and viola, harp solo, and a large ensemble. And, finally, I loved the music that Trio Les Amies made. Their performance was intense yet joyful.” Joseph Youngblood

Members:

Nancy Allen (harp)
Cynthia Phelps (viola)
Carol Wincenc (flute)

Program

IBERT
Deux Interludes
Entr’ Acte

BAX
Elegiac Trio

RAVEL
Sonatine en Trio

-Intermission-

DEVIENNE
Duo in C minor Op.3 No.1 for Flute & Viola

FAURÉ
Après un rêve .. for Viola & Harp
Impromptu for Solo Harp
Morceau de Concours for Flute & Harp

DEBUSSY
Sonata pour Flute, Alto et Harpe

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

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