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Sprightly playing

A varied programme from a new chamber orchestra
makes a strong impression on LAWRENCE BUDMEN


Over the past two decades Baroque performance scholarship has given performing artists and listeners new insight into period style. Such vanguard artists as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Nicholas McGegan, and Christopher Hogwood have produced performances that are true musical revelations. (It should be noted that the British composer-conductor Constant Lambert was one of the first to investigate historically informed performance practices.) Harpsichordist-conductor Harry Bicket has noted that modern string players need to rethink musical phrasing as well as bowing. Between the pre-World War II efforts of Boyd Neel and today's Baroque specialists lies an artistic gulf. The recently formed Renaissance Chamber Orchestra demonstrated an impressive ability to synthesize the best of period instrument scholarship with traditional models of orchestral excellence in works by Handel and Vivaldi -- part of a varied program on 28 November 2004 at Second Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

Renaissance Chamber Orchestra
Renaissance Chamber Orchestra

Handel's Concerto Grosso in F Op 3 No 4 was characterized by vigorous, sprightly playing. The brilliance and precision of the thirteen member string ensemble's performance was astonishing (especially for such a new group)! Violinist Joan Faigen's solos were particularly virtuosic. (Violinists Mei Mei Luo, Alexander Zhuk, and Yue Tang also played splendidly.) The Largo was embroidered with perfectly gauged Baroque filigree. Conductor Richard Fleischman led a sparkling version of Vivaldi's frequently played Concerto in B minor for Four Violins and Cello Op 3 No 10. Cellist Ian Maksin provided stalwart continuo support for the four intensely musical violin soloists -- Ms Luo, Ms Faigen, Louis Fernandez, and Victoria Stepanenko. The final Allegro was particularly vivacious and idiomatic. A model of stylish Baroque performance (without any of the attendant mannerisms of some period instrument bands)!

Richard Fleischman
Richard Fleischman

The Melody in A minor by Astor Piazzolla (1931-1992) was a sultry, voluptuous Mediterranean vocalise -- played with lush, sweet toned ensemble by the Renaissance players. Fleischman's refreshingly unsentimental approach to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings paid musical dividends. The conductor's unusually taut, lean approach brought a lovely cantabile line to the music (rather than the all too familiar dirge-like quality of many performances). Fleischman took an uninhibited approach to Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances. The rich rubato and wild Gypsy tinge of the string players was intoxicating! Yet the performance was also subtle and musically intelligent. In response to the audience's enthusiastic ovation Fleischman repeated the final Magyar dance movement.

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Copyright © 7 December 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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