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Quicksilver’s Extraordinary Baroque Concert

MSO performs ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’

Nov. 12, 2014
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Early Music Now presented Quicksilver in two terrific concerts last weekend at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. On Friday evening the ensemble performed a program of Italian music of the early Baroque period with sensuality and extraordinarily sensitive, refined ensemble. I’ve rarely heard instrumentalists play with such expressive emotion, surrendering to the phrase more as singers would, but with exquisite taste. The soulful violin playing of Julie Andrijeski and Robert Mealy were matched with beautiful playing from David Morris on cello, Avi Stein on harpsichord, and Charles Weaver on theorbo.

 The program, “Stile Moderno,” reflected the new style that formed in the early 17th century, setting it apart from the aesthetics of the Renaissance. Of particular interest were several pieces by Dario Castello, a master composer who is almost unknown, reminiscent of Claudio Monteverdi. Two stylish violists, Cynthia Black and Daniel Elyar, joined the group for the Saturday evening program, expanding the sound of the ensemble. “The Invention of Chamber Music,” also of 17th century music, brought focus to British, Dutch and German composers. In all the music performed Quicksilver deeply explored dramatic contrasts, bringing to mind the rich chiaroscuro of Baroque painting. These two concerts were the pinnacle of what chamber music can be.

On Sunday afternoon I heard guest conductor Carlos Kalmar lead the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a varied program of old and new. Sergei Prokofiev’s charming Classical Symphony was played with crispness and transparency, but Kalmar’s tempo for the final movement was a bit too fast. Theodore Soluri was stunning as soloist in Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra by Marc Neikrug, a co-commission from MSO and three other orchestras. Soluri stressed the lyricism of the piece, shaping phrases with gorgeous tone.

“Little Blue Devil” from Gunther Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959) is wonderfully evocative, written-out jazz for orchestra, conjuring the coolness of progressive jazz in the year composition. Kalmar’s interpretation of Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition made its effect well enough, although tempos seemed pressed and the rich drama of the piece could have emerged with more persuasion.

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