Sharon Torello is an active observer of Philadelphia’s music scene, a great booster for all things music here. She points out that this is not a “critical review,” but rather “the viewpoint of a ‘regular member’ of the audience. I think her comparison of the early and modern instruments is about as good as it gets.
“Kile Smith’s Red-tail and Hummingbird followed in the first of two performances. Piffaro played first and Orchestra 2001 repeated the performance following an intermission. I had read Smith’s wonderful blog series that described the inspiration and creative process for his work. This greatly enhanced my experience in hearing it for the first time, and provided me with visual images to match the music. The first thing that struck me was a new appreciation for the talent of the Piffaro musicians. Of course, when Smith composed the work he needed to make sure it was playable by Renaissance instruments, but they are notoriously tricky and temperamental, so I never expected such a rock solid performance. Orchestra 2001’s modern instruments provided a more refined version of the piece that helped me to appreciate not only the beautiful tones of the modern instruments but their fine dynamic control as well. The musicians enhanced portions of Smith’s work through crescendos in tight formations that were not apparent with the ancient instruments. Truth be told, however, I preferred the ancient instruments. Their more rustic construction made for an edgier sound, and since I’m not as familiar with their sonority, the new piece sounded even newer with old instruments. Go figure.
Music next emerged from the rear of the church as Piffaro surprised us by setting up in the choir loft. They performed old and new music again with another work [“Steht auf, ihr lieben Kinderlein!”] by Kile Smith from Vespers.“