Jupiter Ensemble brings Vivaldi to Macky

Not just fast-paced Vivaldi, program is ‘more floating than serious’

By Peter Alexander March 20 at 6:10 p.m.

If you think all Vivaldi sounds the same—fast-paced, chugga-chugga “sewing-machine music”—the Jupiter Ensemble has a surprise for you.

The youthful early-music ensemble brings an all-Vivaldi program to Macky Auditorium as part of the CU Presents Artist Series Wednesday (7:30 p.m. March 22). When they played the same program in New York’s Weill Hall, the Times critic Zachary Woolfe characterized their performance as “slow, serene, more floating than serious. . . . A broad range of (Vivaldi’s) artistry was on display.”

Jupiter Ensemble and Lea Desandre. Photo by Alina Sepp.

Formed in 2018 by French lutenist Thomas Dunford, the Jupiter Ensemble is a flexible group of early-music specialists based in France. In addition to Jupiter’s roster of instrumental players, the Vivaldi program also features the youthful, 30-something mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre singing arias from four of Vivaldi’s underappreciated operas.

Lea Desandre

The group is taking their all-Vivaldi program (listed below) on tour around the United States. In addition to the virtuoso arias that Desandre will sing, the program includes concertos for lute and cello, interspersed between the vocal numbers to give Desandre some much needed breaks between numbers. 

Continuing his NYT “Critic’s Pick” review of Jupiter’s Vivaldi, Woolfe wrote, “the young early music ensemble . . . made a delightful debut in Carnegie Hall’s intimate Weill space.” About mezzo-soprano Desandre, he wrote that her “fast runs emerged with smooth legato flow” and “her clarinet-mellow voice provided the spine of the evening.”

Woolfe was equally complimentary of the group‘s leader. “The lute is not a loud instrument, but Dunford makes it speak,” he wrote. “He wove a subtle but clear, golden filament of sound.”

Once characterized by BBC Magazine as “the Eric Clapton of the Lute,” Dunford decided four years ago to create an ensemble of virtuosos to follow in the footsteps of the early-music pioneers. “All of the artists invited to take part in the (Jupiter) project are brilliant masters of their instruments,” he wrote. “Some of them are already renowned soloists.”

As a child, Desandre joined the chorus of the Paris Opéra, where her idol was the great French singer Natalie Dessay. An early interest in dance turned more to singing, and her early-music experience included work with William Christie, founder of the superstar group Les Arts Florissants, and studies with Véronique Gens and Paul Agnew, both stars on the French early-music scene.

Many of the works on Wednesday’s program can be heard on group’s 2019 CD recording, Vivaldi/Jupiter.

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Jupiter Ensemble

Thomas Dunford, Artistic Director and lute, with Lea Desandre, mezzo soprano; Louise Ayrton, violin; Augusta McKay Lodge, violin; Manami Mizumoto, viola; Bruno Philippe, cello; Douglas Balliett, double bass; and Tom Foster, harpsichord and organ 

All-Vivaldi Program:

  • “Vedro con mio diletto” from Il Giustino
  • “Armatae face et anguibus” from Juditha triumphans 
  • Lute concerto in C Major (arr. from Trio Sonata in C Major
  • “Cum dederit” from Nisi Dominus
  • “Veni, veni me sequere fida” from Juditha triumphans 
  • Lute concerto in D Major 
  • “Gelido in ogni vena” from Il Farnace,
  • “Gelosia, tu già rendi l’alma mia” from Ottone in Villa 
  • Cello concerto in G minor 
  • “Onde chiare che sussurrate” from Ercole su’l Termodonte
  • “Scenderò, volerò, griderò” from Ercole su’l Termondonte 

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 22
Macky Auditorium


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