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A bravura start to the season

Koerner Hall
09/18/2014 -  & September 19, 20, 21, 2014
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto grosso in D Major, op. 6, no. 4
Johann David Heinichen: Serenata di Mortizburg, S. 204
Georg Philip Telemann: Concerto for trumpet and violin in D Major, TWV 53:D5
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for violin in D Major, RV 208 "Il grosso Mogul"
George Frideric Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351

John Thiessen (trumpet)
The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Rodolfo Richter (leader and violin)

R. Richter (Courtesy of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra)

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra kicked off its 35th season with a varied 18th century program adroitly chosen by guest violinist/leader Rodolfo Richter to supplement the concert’s major work, Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. The Brazil-born, London-based musician is a possible successor to Jeanne Lamon, the ensemble’s leader for the past 32 years. The four works leading up to the Handel all date from the second decade of the century and many are works he was probably familiar with.

The five works on the program contain a total of 22 movements. Just as one would hope, each section of every work received its full due, the result being constantly diverting; nothing came close to wearing out its welcome. Rodolfo Richter led with his violin; when his solo playing came to the fore he displayed a notably smooth, glowing tone.

Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major opens with a brief Adagio that hearkens back to Monteverdi, but quickly leaps into an airy, gallant Allegro. There follows a melancholic Adagio, then fanfares issue in a Vivace and concluding Allegro characterized by a piquant underpinning by trumpets and winds. As in all the evening’s works, the ensemble was remarkably tight.

The title of Johann David Heinichen’s Serenata di Mortizburg refers to the hunting lodge of the composer’s employer, the Elector of Saxony. The serenata is a suite starting off with a rustic-sounding Allegro followed by a graceful Sarabande leading to a bouncy Réjouissance. Then follows a movement called La Chasse, almost comical in its giddiness. A pizzicato Aimable provides a restful interlude before a finale that genially sums up the piece.

Telemann’s Concerto for trumpet and violin basically features the latter instrument, with the trumpet providing occasional colour. It opens with a sweeping Vivace followed by a walking-on-eggshell Adagio for violin accompanied by the continuo. The final Allegro demands a real workout for the violinist and dazzling precision from the trumpet; Tafelmusik’s John Thiessen is impressive indeed.

While Richter made a fine impression in the Telemann work, the Vivaldi concerto (nicknamed Il grosso Mogul - “The Great Mogul” - no-one knows why) required - and received - truly dazzling musical feats. The central Grave (recitativo), with the violin accompanied only by the continuo, is eloquently soulful, then the final Allegro is full of whimsical pyrotechnics (all Vivaldi’s). The performance received tumultuous applause.

Handel’s bravura piece was saved for the last and proved to be a bit of an anti-climax after the Vivaldi, although gave much to enjoy in large thanks to the absolute unison achieved - it’s as if all 30 players had synchronized their breathing and heartbeats. It was interesting to hear the parallel between the lively Réjouissance in the Heinichen work (dating from 1719) and the one in Handel’s work (dating from 1749). The Ouverture managed to be fully ceremonial while avoiding pomposity, the Bourée maintained a vital, steady pulse, while La Paix (the piece was commissioned to celebrate a peace treaty) featured an aristocratic, graceful flow. Overall, though, the performance was just a tad indoorsy, especially the final Menuet - I wouldn’t have minded if the brass had really let loose and maybe frightened a few people.

All in all, an excellent introduction to the orchestra’s intriguingly varied season.

Michael Johnson



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