Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Les Violons du Roy Rave Review

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Les Violons du Roy, recorder soloist Maurice Steger light up Shriver Hall

I don't think of the typical Shriver Hall Concert Series crowd as very likely to do a lot of enthusiastic hooting and hollering over baroque music, but that was the reaction given Sunday evening to Les Violons du Roy. No wonder.

This ensemble of 15 from Quebec City delivered a sterling demonstration of period instrument panache, and had the extra advantage of a Pied Piper-like soloist who worked his magic on three concertos.

The whole program had an infectious energy. And, for all of the obvious discipline and fine-honing in the execution, there was an air of spontaneity, too.

If you never thought a "historically informed" performance could be fun, this concert would have turned your ears.

Les Violons du Roy, conducted by founding artistic director Bernard Labadie, got things started with Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat (Op. 6, No. 7).

There were pianissimi of the finest grade. Every crescendo, accelerando, ritardando and other expressive device was achieved with great finesse.

The overall sound of the orchestra was quite warm, far from the dry tone of early music groups in the first days of the authenticity movement; tempos, too, felt more flexible.

When speed was desired, as in the most spirited variations in the "La Follia" Concerto Gross by Geminiani (after Corelli), it hit unabashedly supersonic levels, yet never left a single player in the dust. Solo playing within the ensemble was uniformly impressive, at whatever speed.

The rest of the program was devoted to …

works for recorder and orchestra.

The recorder is one of those instruments that isn't always taken seriously, and isn't always heard to its best advantage. 

(That's one reason there was so much comic mileage in the vintage Saturday Night Live skit about a dicey French restaurant where "for your entertainment pleasure, our daughter Francine will play the recorder.")

Swiss-born Maurice Steger could disarm the most recorder-adverse listener with a single phrase. He combines a startling level of technical bravura with an ability to breathe sincerity and purpose into even the most floridly decorative phrase.

The personality in his playing proved quite persuasive, especially in Telemann's A minor Concerto. Steger's disarming charm made each movement of that work more animated and involving than the last.

The soloist also made much of the Haydn-worthy wit in the music, aided at every step of the way by Labadie and the ensemble.

The Telemann piece was so rewarding on so many levels that it would have been better placed at the end of the evening. The concertos that came after -- by Sammartini and Geminiani -- had their fine points, but paled by comparison, in one way or another.

Still, Steger's delivery remained full of character, and the beautifully dovetailed contributions of Les Violons du Roy remained equally delectable.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bernard Greenhouse and the Beaux Arts Trio

Posted by: sjacobsohn

On this day 41 years ago the legendary Beaux Arts trio graced the stage of Shriver Hall Concert Series in the second of 14 visits spanning from 1968 to 1995. The trio's name has recently been prevalent in the news again because of the sale of one of the greatest cellos in the world - an instrument owned by the late Bernard Greenhouse, founding member of the Beaux Arts trio. The instrument, a magnificent Stradivarius from 1707 that sold for over $6 million last week, was played by Mr. Greenhouse for over a half a century and the touching story of the bond between instrument and artist has been wonderfully told in a serious of New York Times articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/magazine/bernard-greenhouse-cello.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/arts/music/stradivari-cello-sells-for-more-than-6-million.html

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Les Violons du Roy

Posted by: sjacobsohn

January 23, 2012

Les Violons du Roy to make SHCS debut

 

Shriver Hall Concert Series begins 2012 by presenting its annual Paul and Barbara Krieger Early Music Concert, with the Canadian ensemble Les Violons du Roy. The acclaimed group will perform works by Handel, Telemann, Sammartini and Geminiani at 5:30 pm. on Sunday, Jan. 29, in Homewood’s Shriver Hall Auditorium.

Borrowing its name from the renowned string orchestra of the court of the French kings, Les Violons du Roy is widely hailed for the exceptional energy, brilliance and vitality of its performances.

The orchestra, with a core membership of 15 players, makes its series debut with founding artistic and music director Bernard Labadie and recorder virtuoso Maurice Steger.

Since its founding in 1984, the group has specialized in the vast repertoire of music for chamber orchestra performed in the stylistic manner most appropriate to each era. Though the ensemble plays modern instruments, its approach to the works of the baroque and classical periods has been strongly influenced by research into 17th- and 18th-century performance practice; in this repertoire, Les Violons uses copies of period bows. In recent seasons, the orchestra has begun to explore 19th- and 20th-century repertoire.

Les Violons du Roy is at the heart of the music scene in Quebec City, where it has been in residence at the Palais Montcalm since 2007. The group first performed in Europe in 1988 and has given dozens of concerts in France, Germany, England, Spain and the Netherlands. Since its first U.S. performance, in 1995 in Washington, D.C., the group has made regular stops in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

For ticket information, go to www.shriverconcerts.org or call 410-516-7164.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Mstislav Rostropovich

Posted by: sjacobsohn

45 years ago Mstislav Rostropovich, perhaps one of the greatest and most innovative cellists in history, graced the stage of Shriver Hall Concert Series in a recital that included Bach's third suite for solo cello, Brahms' E-Minor cello sonata, and Britten's C-Major Sonata. While scouring youtube for inspiring performances, I came across this 90 minute documentary on the life and legend of Slava. Produced by the BBC, the film is chock full of amazing performance, interesting facts, and moving anecdotes - its well worth watching and we hope you enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Advocating for the Arts

Posted by: sjacobsohn

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a four-day weekend in New York City attending the Chamber Music America conference attending informational sessions, meeting with artists and their agents, and hearing artist showcases. This year's conference was centrally themed on Arts Advocacy with the keynote address presented by Americans for the Arts vice president for policy and research, Randy Cohen. Over the course of an hour, Mr. Cohen made a compelling case for why the arts are such a vital industry contributing considerably to local economies, being the cornerstone of tourism, and improving the communities in which they exist. Over the next couple of blog posts I'll elaborate on this further with the hopes that you may take a few moments to get involved and tell your state and federal representatives why the arts are important to you. If you wish to get involved right away, you can visit the national organization Americans for the Arts at www.artsusa.org or our local advocacy agency Maryland Citizens for the Arts at www.mdarts.org.

Meanwhile, here is a charming video advertisement that provides food for thought… pun intended….

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