From Venice to Boulder: Music of “The Red Priest”

Vivaldi dominates program by Venice Baroque Orchestra

By Peter Alexander Oct. 31 at 10 p.m.

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Venice Baroque Orchestra with recorder soloist Anna Fusek. Photo courtesy of CU Presents.

No composer represents the Baroque era in music better than “Il Prete Rosso” (The red priest), Antonio Vivaldi.

Known for his fiery red hair, he wrote almost countless concertos—more than 500—for just about every possible instrument of his day, including Le quattro stagioni (The four seasons) for violin, four of the most popular and famous of all Baroque concertos. Covering wide realms of genres, he wrote sacred music, still performed, and more than 40 operas, hugely successful in his lifetime but not often performed today.

Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi

His music was known and studied by Bach, who wrote pieces based on some of Vivaldi’s concertos, which still stand as examples of Baroque form, technique and style.

Vivaldi was born and lived most of his life in Venice, so it is no surprise that the Venice Baroque Orchestra (VBO), playing Friday evening (Nov. 2) in Macky Auditorium, brings a lot of Vivaldi’s music with them. In fact, their program is almost entirely music by Vivaldi—concertos and opera overtures, or “sinfonias”—except for a single concerto grosso by Francesco Geminiani, who was a native of Lucca, on the opposite side of Italy from Venice.

Alessandra DiVicenzo, a violist and member of the VBO since it was founded 21 years ago, wrote about the concert from Santa Fe, where the orchestra was on tour earlier this week. “For us Vivaldi has always a place in our programs, since the freshness of his style makes his music very natural and easy to play for us,” she writes.

“Living, or just spending most of the time in Venice could have helped us develop a sensibility about how Venetian and Vivaldi’s music could sound. When you are in Venice you realize that light and water are two elements that give Venice a special touch, so it is easy to think that Vivaldi is like water, light and clear, always changeable and never still.”

The Venice Baroque Orchestra is known for their energetic and brilliant style in playing Vivaldi’s music. This has distinguished them from some of their more staid predecessors in the Baroque performance world, and in particular providees an individual sense of personality to each work they perform.

“To us it seems natural to bring excitement to the playing of Vivaldi’s music,” DiVicenzo writes. “Everything of this can be found in his scores, which are spontaneous, rich of vitality, rhythmic, sometimes nervous, and offering sudden changes of mood—like he surely was!”

Geminiani

Francesco Geminiani

As for the non-Venetian on the program, DiVicenzo writes: “Geminiani is a very interesting composer. Maybe today his name is not so famous to a wide audience, but during the 18thcentury he was a VIP, one of the most acclaimed composers and violin virtuosos.

“He has an energy and vitality very similar to Vivaldi. All audiences appreciate it, so I’m sure Boulder’s audience will like it.”

DiVicenzo wants to call the audience’s attention to some specific aspects of the program, and of Vivaldi’s legacy. “One thing the audience could realize is that Vivaldi played a very important role in the development of the technique of many instruments, including violin, cello and flute. His solo concertos are very demanding for any performer.

“One example is the Violin Concerto in E minor, in which the soloist has very difficult passages for both right and left hand. Also the double concerto for violin and cello requires two soloists with outstanding technique. The breathtaking third movement lets the soloists show all their skill! And the program ends with the recorder concerto “Il Gardellino” (The goldfinch), one of many examples of Vivaldi’s skill in imitating nature by music.”

The concert is the second visit to Macky Auditorium by the VBO. Their previous performance here was in 2014, at which time DiVicenzo commented that the orchestra members travelled with some of the food from home. I asked her if Italians still balked at drinking American coffee.

“American espresso improved enough that Italians drink it,” she wrote. “At the San Francisco airport I heard some of us appreciating the one-shot espresso they were sipping. But nothing has changed in VBO’s equipment.

”The coffee machine continues to travel with us all over the world.”

# # # # #

Venice-1Venice Baroque Orchestra

Program of Baroque Concertos by Vivaldi and Geminiani
With Anna Fusek, recorder; Gianpiero Zanocco, violin;
Massimo Raccanelli and Federico Tiffany, cellos
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Macky Auditorium

Full Program

Tickets

 

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