Venice Baroque Orchestra stuns Old Cabell audience

The Tuesday Evening Concert Series presented the Venice Baroque Orchestra in Old Cabell Hall last week, focusing on baroque concertos and overtures and mainly featuring the works of composer Antonio Vivaldi.

The ensemble, which features about 20 musicians, performed with a number of antique instruments rare to the modern state, including a lute, a wooden flute and a harpsichord. They played to a near-full house, with an audience very much engaged by the music throughout the course of the evening.

The concert began with polished, nimble pieces played with grace and liveliness. The first act included concertos supplemented by flute, horn and cello. Each concerto followed a similar formulaic structure, which tended to contrast slow, leisurely, gently pulsing movements with punctuated, quick movements delivering short bursts of rhythmic activity.

The culmination of the first act, “Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for Two Cellos,” signaled a shift from graceful to the passionate tones which would dominate for the remainder of the evening. One of the cellists, Daniele Bovo, played with particular gusto, thrusting his bow vehemently across the cello’s strings. His playing was not only fervent, but natural and genuine as he artfully demanded music out of his instrument.

By the second half, the orchestra had firmly established its style as a group of Italian musicians who prefer robust, hearty interpretations of baroque pieces. The highlight of the second act was a recorder concerto, which featured a sopranino recorder that appeared to be no longer than seven inches. The flautist, Anna Fusek, zipped through her runs with great speed as she flitted through rapid scales with great agility. After only a minute of playing, murmurs could be heard throughout the audience praising her dexterity.

The orchestra finished with a grand concerto in D minor and, after a standing ovation, gave two encores. The second was — fittingly — Vivaldi’s turbulent “Summer” concerto from his famous Four Seasons suite. As they played and concluded their concert, the ensemble clearly enjoyed themselves onstage, speaking softly to each other as they played with grins on their faces. The electrified audience did the same.

Published February 26, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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