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Jarring Sounds returns to Noontime Concerts™

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Jarring Sounds, the duo of mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah and Adam Cockerham on guitar, lute, and theorbo, both students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, made its first visit to Noontime Concerts™ (“San Francisco’s Musical Lunch Break”) at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral this afternoon. They presented a program entitled Songs of Love and Loss with texts in English (John Dowland and Henry Purcell), Italian (Claudio Monteverdi, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Barbara Strozzi), and Latin (Antonio Vivaldi). Most of the selections were secular (including an instrumental performance of Dowland’s “The Frog Galliard”), except for the Vivaldi, which was an aria from Juditha Triumphans, an oratorio based on the Book of Judith. This was an arrangement, since the aria was originally scored for mezzo, mandolin, and orchestra.

Taken as a whole, the program covered an extensive period of time with Strozzi (born in 1619) as the earliest composer and Vivaldi (born in 1678) as the latest. Indeed, the Vivaldi was a concert aria, rather than a song, and was the only work on the program in da capo form. More interesting was the distinction involving sensitivity to the semantics of the text. This was the one unfortunate part of the program. Monteverdi was particularly skilled in capturing the meaning of the words he was setting, particularly in his madrigals; and “Se pur destina” was one of the longer of them. Unfortunately, it was also the only one overlooked by the accompanying text sheets. Fortunately, Purcell also had comparable sensitivity; and, between the text sheets and Reutter-Harrah’s diction, one could definitely appreciate his talents.

However, when considering the program in its entirety, I got the impression that the Jarring Sounds duo was still trying to find a way to present their selections as a journey through different perspectives of love and loss. They had already rearranged the program from the order in which it was printed when they gave their performance. It would not surprise me if arrangement was still a work-in-progress that will be refined as they become more familiar with the texts and with how the different composers applied their expressiveness to those texts.

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