Pick Your Flavor of Baroque: Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado in February
A preview article by Ruth Carver
The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado brings a unique mélange of tastes and flavors to audiences in the bleak midwinter this February. With pieces voted on by listeners at their recent December concerts, and a mix of other classics, this “A Taste for Baroque” program is sure to have something to suit every palate. As Artistic Director Frank Nowell explains, the program reflects a desire to have a “shared experience of live music” with the performers and the audience. The sheer variety of Baroque-era music means there is something for everyone offered in BCOC’s trademark un-intimidating style.
As he looked through the audience’s December ballots, Nowell admits there were some pieces and composers that were new to even him. Yet the winners in the vote include some crowd pleasers like Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D and George Frideric Handel’s Water Music Suite in G. These are paired with some surprises and works by composers Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Jean-Féry Rebel. Nowell imagines the program as a tasting menu starting with some tasty appetizers, a primi, secondi, and perhaps a few amuse-bouches thrown in as well.
Most of these are pieces the BCOC has not performed before and the core group of strings and continuo players will push their boundaries with this exciting program. Three of the ensemble’s violinists are featured on Telemann’s Concerto for Three Violins, Strings and Continuo, part of his “Tafelmusik” or table music collection, a genre often specifically composed for banquets or celebrations and appropriately included here.
Nowell is joined in this stimulating venture by recorder expert Adam Knight Gilbert who will solo on the Telemann Concerto in the F Major for Recorder, Strings and Continuo. Gilbert also plays several other instruments (bagpipes, shawm, and more) and describes the personality of the recorder as “gentle and innocent.” Telemann expertly utilizes this personality in this charming and virtuosic piece, made even more impressive by the fact that the Colorado climate and altitude can adversely affect wood instruments.
Gilbert is also skilled in improvisation and will lead the ensemble in group improvisations on some familiar themes (La folia and Greensleeves). He explains a simple system for organizing the free-for-all a group improv could become: start with the basic chords and a simple melody, then add rhythmic variations, double octaves, and finally add the passing tones and subtle dissonances that lend zest to the conventions of Baroque music. Gilbert notes the truth of the maxim “mater artium necessitas,” or “necessity is the mother of all art” for improvisation – more rules and restrictions actually lead to greater freedom for the performers. The one guarantee for the audience is a uniquely delicious combination of musical ingredients every time.
The BCOC has a unique apprenticeship program to train young musicians in essentials of performing Baroque music in this type of ensemble. Former apprentice Brune Macary is now a member of the ensemble and says the experience has given her much greater confidence in her skills so that she can focus on musicality and expression. She also plays with Intuit, a Boulder-based band that mixes a wide variety of world music styles with folk/funk – this experience mixed with her BCOC training have pushed her “to find my own voice, my own sensibility.” While it sounds positively modern, this individuality is essential to the Baroque ethos and flavors each of the compositions on this program and BCOC programming overall. The group has had much excitement of late: a new recording called Corelli’s Circle which celebrates Arcangelo Corelli and his contemporaries, and a Confluence Series of unique collaborations. Up next in late January is “Dissolve…” a brew of Baroque music, spoken word, and hip-hop dance, http://www.bcocolorado.org/concerts/events.php
Audiences should leave the “A Taste for Baroque” concert sated and with ears filled with the delights of the late Baroque.
The three performances of the “A Taste for Baroque” program are on February 21, 23, and 24. More details can be found here: http://www.bcocolorado.org/concerts/concerts.php