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SFEMS to present chromaticism from the sixteenth century to the present

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The next program to be presented in the current season of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) will be entitled Chromatic Clusters. The featured artist will be contralto Karen Clark, performing with the instrumentalists of the Galax Quartet. The quartet members are Elizabeth Blumenstock on violin, David Wilson, who alternates between violin and viola, Roy Whelden on gamba and David Morris on cello.

The first half of the program will present Prophetiae Sibyllarum (the prophesies of the Sybil), a sixteenth-century motet by Orlande de Lassus, distinguished because Lassus utilized all twelve tones of the chromatic scale within the composition’s first fifteen seconds. This will be complemented by the “extreme chromaticism” of “Beltà, poi che t’assenti” (Beauty, since you are leaving) from the sixth book of madrigals published by Carlo Gesualdo in 1611. This was originally composed as five vocal lines. In this case Clark will perform the top line (probably originally taken by a countertenor); and the remaining parts will be performed by the Galax Quartet.

The second half of the program will then shift to the “immediate present” with two premieres. The first of these will be the world premiere, of Whelden’s “On the Petaluma River,” a setting of the poem “For Anthea Corinne Snyder Lowry” by Gary Snyder. This will be followed by a song cycle of selections from the nature poetry of Henry David Thoreau entitled Dream Drapery by Joseph Schwantner, which will be receiving its West Coast premiere.

The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place at 4 p.m. on February 2. The venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just off the southwest corner of Franklin Street. Single tickets are on sale for $35 with special rates for seniors ($32), SFEMS members ($30), and students ($12). Tickets may be purchased through an event page on the SFEMS Web site that includes a floor plan indicating where seats are available. Mini-subscriptions for three or more concerts are still on sale and will be available through February 27. The Web page for membership information, which includes discounts on ticket purchases, requires a login. This means that first-time visitors will have to provide an electronic mail address for identification and create a password. That Web page also contains a hyperlink to the SFEMS privacy policy; and, after login, every user has the option of selecting whether or not to receive electronic mail from SFEMS. Members also have the option of purchasing a Flex Pass, which provides for the selection of four tickets, with the option of using multiple tickets for the same concert. Further information may be obtained from the Box Office at 510-528-1725.

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