United States Numerous, Apollo Fireplace’s ‘Storms & Tempests’: Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Alan Choo (violin), Apollo’s Fireplace / Jeannette Sorrell (conductor). First United Methodist Church, Akron, Ohio, 10.11.2022. (MSJ)
Vivaldi – Sinfonia in G minor, RV157; ‘Siam navi all’onde algenti’ from L’Olimpiade; Violin Concerto in E-flat main Op.8 No.5, ‘La Tempesta di Mare’
Lully – ‘Passecaille’ from Persée
Grétry – ‘Vol des nuages’ from Zémire et Azor; ‘Marche égyptienne’ from Caravan de Caire
Dall’Abaco – ‘Passepied’ from Concerto à più istrumenti Op.5 No.3
Handel – ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’ from Giulio Cesare
Graun – ‘Tra le Procelle assorto’ from Cleopatra e Cesare
Marais – Suite from Alcione
It’s enjoyable to come across traditionally knowledgeable stagecraft in a interval instrument live performance. It seems that the Baroque wind machine is basically the identical mechanical contraption of canvas and crank that Richard Strauss utilized in his Alpine Symphony, simply smaller. And to match the thunder of the bass drum was the crash of a steel sheet. However such a flashy battery of percussion was merely dressing to the vitality of Apollo’s Fireplace in full blaze.
The ensemble’s director, Jeannette Sorrell, is a grasp of program constructing. Right here she assembled a compelling arc of French and Italian music, contrasting the magnificence of the previous with the drama of the latter, however additional complicating the distinction by together with each live performance works and excerpts from stage works. This strategy spurs the musicians to transcend the conventions of the unique genres to a form of grand unified concept of efficiency: the operatic arias sound like concertos for voice, and the concertos pop like characters on a stage earlier than you.
Soprano Amanda Forsythe made a welcome return to Apollo’s Fireplace in demanding arias by Vivaldi, Handel, Marais and Graun. Surprisingly sufficient, the show-stealing piece was the Graun. Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759) is a type of composers of the late Baroque/early Classical interval who solely not often surfaces in recordings, and nearly by no means in a reside live performance. Certainly, for some years, his greatest declare to fame has been that his great-great-great-great-grandson was Vladimir Nabokov, the creator of Lolita. But right here he was, represented by the aria ‘Tra le Procelle assorto’ from his opera Cleopatra e Césare. And it seems that it’s a spectacular showpiece for the soprano.
The opera was written for the opening of the Berlin State Opera in 1742 and, if this aria is something to go by, Graun handily fills within the hole between the waning intricacies of the Baroque period and the clear strains of the forming Classical type. (And, holding in thoughts the theme of this system: although Graun was German, he wrote solely in Italian opera type.) One may think about that within the mistaken fingers this aria would possibly come throughout as empty grandstanding: there are quite a lot of scales, quite a lot of intricate passagework. But it surely additionally out of the blue snaps a showpiece like Mozart’s ‘Martern aller Arten’ from The Abduction from the Seraglio into perspective. With out the Graun, we’d not have had the Mozart, for Wolfgang definitely discovered a factor or two from Carl.
Forsythe introduced the Graun aria to life with such vibrancy that one needs it to have its personal standing, no matter Mozart or anybody else. Much more than illustrating wind and climate, her nearly insouciant vocal assurance captured the hauteur of a royal character, the brilliance and wit of a talented composer and a sheer enjoyment of vocal pyrotechnics. She was equally compelling within the alternating dolor and fury of Handel’s ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’ from Giulio Cesare, Vivaldi’s surging ‘Siam navi all’onde algenti’ from L’Olimpiade and the country dancing of the sailors’ scene from Marais’s Alcione.
That latter was a welcome probability to listen to one thing aside from the standard viola da gamba music for which Marin Marais is known. Sorrell assembled a set of highlights from Alcione that included the sailors’ scene, instrumental numbers and the Baroque storm referenced earlier. The music proves that Marais was simply as adept at theater music as he was at chamber music.
A part of good programming technique is to anchor a night of principally unfamiliar fare with a extra acquainted piece. On this case, it was the Vivaldi violin concerto generally known as ‘La tempesta di Mare’, which instantly follows The 4 Seasons in Vivaldi’s Op.8, The Contest between Concord and Invention. Whether or not it was really created from a program a couple of storm at sea or merely given the programmatic title afterward is unknown, however this efficiency with Alan Choo as soloist seized on the colourful contrasts of the work.
It has been a pleasure watching Choo flower over the previous few years. He first got here to work with Apollo’s Fireplace as a technically expert virtuoso, however within the final 5 years has grown daring and daring. 5 years in the past, he stood on stage nearly apologetically however now stands there like a rock star, diving into phrases and discovering the weird passing moments that make Vivaldi so entertaining, irrespective of what number of inventory phrases and chord progressions are used. Doubly spectacular was that Choo didn’t take the remainder of the live performance off: he additionally served as concertmaster, even ensuring his troops have been rallied within the Vivaldi concerto by turning apart and enjoying to them as a lot as to the viewers within the tutti passages.
That’s typical of how this ensemble operates, flexing as a unit. All of them appeared on the verge of taking off dancing (even the continuo gamers!) within the lilting ‘Passepieds’ by Dall’Abaco, of standing nonetheless like statues within the poised ‘Passecaille’ from Lully’s Persée and of high-stepping to Grétry’s unique ‘Marche égyptienne’.
Sorrell and her ensemble proceed to maneuver from energy to energy, to the advantage of each listener.
Mark Sebastian Jordan