By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org
We had some savory tastes of the Bloomington Early Music Festival over the weekend, bringing a melodic finish to a month of May which, up to then, had not too much classical music to show for it and bringing also a reminder of a festival that used to fill the last 10 days of the month with a lush buffet of early music for Bloomington music lovers.
Those fighting mightily to revive the festival tradition are, wisely, moving carefully and slowly, testing the waters, so to speak, using mostly local talent, current Indiana University Jacobs School of Music students and alumni, thereby striving to determine the depth of community interest at low cost. The official opening of the BLEMF weekend on Friday evening indicated the level of enthusiasm is high, what with a larger than expected audience and warm response. Of course, all of the programs were free of charge, which is not a completely fair indicator. But the enthusiasm with which the various attractions were greeted did strongly suggest that support exists.
Forgotten Clefs [Check out the Photos Here!]
The rotunda of the Monroe County Courthouse proved an excellent choice for Friday evening’s concert by this six-member Renaissance Wind Band. The very live acoustics added thrills to the sounds produced by shawms (ancestor of the oboe), dulcians (bassoons), recorders, sackbuts (trombones), percussion, and bagpipe.
Folks sat on stairs as well as three levels in the rotunda; the musicians performed on the middle one, the second floor balcony, and all those strange sounds magically blended into a small orchestra of instruments that seemed to belong, that seemed to complement one another.
Forgotten Clefs’ bill of fare: French popular songs from the 15th and 16th centuries, songs about love and romance and everyday life that were arranged into wordless pieces by various composers so the tunes could be enjoyed even more broadly. Led by Charles Wines, a performer on bagpipes, shawms, dulcians and recorders, these young musicians of our day sounded as if they had just arrived by time machine from way back then.
The ensemble has been chosen to perform at the upcoming Boston Early Music Festival, arguably the most prestigious of our nation’s all. That’s a coup, a deserved one; they’re fine musicians with an intriguing product to sell. Two suggestions for the Boston gig: (1) Work on choreography; smooth out the sometimes awkward incomings and outgoings as personnel demands shift; (2) Provide program notes to give listeners a clearer picture of what they’re experiencing.
Due le Fils [Check out the Photos Here!]
Two former students of Stanley Ritchie, the eminent Jacobs School faculty violinist whose students back in the early 1990s were instrumental in getting the first BLEMF going, joined for another unusual program, this on Saturday afternoon in the First Presbyterian Church. Martin Davids came down from Chicago and Antonin Stahly flew in from Paris to honor their professor with works by Joseph-Barnabe Saint-Sevin, an 18th century violinist of repute who, at age 16, became a member of the Paris Opera orchestra. He remained for 20 years.
When those years were done, he wrote “Deuxieme Suite d’Airs d’Opera,” 13 pieces based on melodies from operas performed at the time. The duo played those pieces with great verve and passion, transmitting floods of captivating sounds. They added a minuet from Saint-Sevin’s “Principes du Violon,” plus an encore of Bach dedicated to their mentor, in sum more than an hour of exuberant violin playing; these fellows learned much from their master.
A Lully Jubilee [Check out the Photos Here!]
Baroque Violinist Reynaldo Patino, currently working on a doctorate, decided he wanted to contribute his musicianship to the festival not only as violinist but as music director. He put together an elaborate program for Saturday evening at First Presbyterian: extended Prologues from two operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully plus instrumental selections from works by Lully contemporaries Francois-Andre Philidor, Jean-Henri d’Anglebert, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. A six-musician ensemble, Les Hautbios du Rey, led by Keith Collins authoritatively played the music of the contemporaries. For the Lully, there was an orchestra of 11 and eight singers who served as chorus and soloists.
The Prologues chosen were from “Armide” and “Prosperpine,” both products of the 1680s. The opener for “Armide” offers some amazing music attached to a moral discourse between Wisdom and Glory. Early on, Wisdom voices the sentiment that “All the universe must yield to the august hero whom I love …. He is master over a hundred several peoples, and even more than this, he is master of himself.” At this point came the unveiling of a large photo showing the image of Stanley Ritchie, prompting the laughter of surprise and cheers. The performance was splendid, crowned by two sopranos: Christine Lynch as Glory and Kathryn Summersett as Wisdom.
The “Prosperspine” Prologue closed the program and provided more music of substance and persuasion. Here, we were told of the victory of Peace over Discord. The Discord of Kevin De Benendictis stood out, but again, all the elements — choral, solo and instrumental — fused like a charm.