BWW Reviews: Piffaro's RETURN OF THE PIPES Features Royal Favorites
Return of the Pipes, Piffaro
Philadelphia's Piffaro: The Renaissance Band opened its season on the weekend of October 18 with RETURN OF THE PIPERS. Although the title of the concert suggests a celebration of the Renaissance bagpipe, the instrument - whether of melodious sound or of torture is a matter of opinion frequently hotly debated - made its appearance in the opening procession and in a few other numbers, but the real theme was a battle of musical wits among the French, English, and Flemish courts - favored tunes, favored composers, and a certain composer named Henry VIII, who of the three kings at that time - Henry, Francois, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (the one with the most prestigious-sounding title) was the one known as a composer himself.
Featured at the concert series was the winner of Piffaro's 2013 National Recorder Competition, Martin Bernstein, currently a student at Manhattan's Hunter College High and founder of his school's early music ensemble. Beginning the recorder at the age of five, he's currently a student of several fine early music instructors, including Piffaro's own Joan Kimball.
The opening "Suite of Flemish Tunes" included "T'andernaken," a tune familiar to many early music lovers who may not know the name, and which found its way into the concert multiple times, with variations in tune and instrumentation - not because there was no other music, but because it was apparently the popular song of the day in more than one country. Imagine, if you will, your favorite Beatles tune, covered in multiple countries by multiple singers in multiple languages (or one Nana Mouskouri singing in all of them) with multiple orchestrations - that would be the familiar equivalent in modern music. Even good King Henry had a turn at it, and his arrangement, performed by Piffaro along with several of the others, was certainly no less entertaining than the other variations.