Fruit 'n' Music
Carmel Bach Festival hosts early Italian sizzle.
Thursday, April 6, 2000
Symphony orchestras would have nothing to play were it not for the spade work done by Italian musicians in the early 17th century. On Sunday afternoon, in a program dedicated to those heavy lifters, Il Giardino Armonico electrified a Carmel audience with a program dedicated to the inventors of early instrumental music. The performance was filled with equal portions of brilliant composing and virtuoso playing.
Eight members of Milan-based Il Giardino Armonico presented a bouquet as fragrant as it was colorful, easily explaining why opera star Cecilia Bartoli chose them as partner for her sensational new CD of Vivaldi arias.
In the 17th century, a program like this was often described as "i dolci frutti," a compote of musical berries, grapes, oranges and currants in a fruit liqueur spiced with clove, nutmeg and lemon zest...but I digress...
By specific request of the artists, the program''s first half disallowed applause, filling the space between each piece with transitional "intonations" in the courtly manner of the time. The bigger eye-opener, however, was the range of musical inventions by the likes of Dario Castello, Tarquinio Merula, Biagio Marini, Marco Uccellini and Gian Paolo Cima. While these men laid the rough foundation for the new art of harmony, they preferred to use it for an unapologetic display of macho virtuosity. (Worked for me, and apparently for the many men in the audience who led the standing ovation at concert''s end.)
In sonate, a canzon, and ciacconne, violinist Enrico Onofri and recorderist Giovanni Antonini led their colleagues in robust, flamboyant performances of these early Baroque display pieces. Antiphonal call and response imitated the example of progenitor Giovanni Gabrieli. An altogether exotic alternation between fast and slow, and major and minor tonalities, in an Uccellini sonata reflected the later madrigal innovations of Monteverdi. The play of violin virtuosity in Merula''s Ciaconna a tre provoked giggles of surprise.
Basso continuo was covered by various combinations of harpsichord, theorbo (lute), cello, bassoon and dulciana, a more primitive form of bassoon. Two violins and a viola filled out the band, bringing the total number of players to eight, including of course Antonini. When required, Il Giardino Armonica''s ranks have swelled to as many as 26.
Following the interval, the program jumped to the next century. Antonini returned to cavort himself through two Vivaldi flute concertos, the latter laughingly placed (and spectacularly articulated) in the sopranino register. Between them, Luca Pianca played theorbo splendidly in an elegant sonata by the late Baroque master Johann Adolf Hasse.
The Monterey County branch of the Music Teachers'' Association of California, will hold scholarship auditions and awards for string students (Saturday, 9am-3pm) and for piano students (Sunday, 7:30am-4pm) at the Canterbury Woods Auditorium, 651 Sinex Ave., Pacific Grove. A total of 97 student musicians are slated to audition, and admission is free. For more information, 624-9541.
San Francisco Bach Choir Saturday, 8pm. David Babbitt conducts Der Schwanengesang by Heinrich Schütz. Carmel Mission, Rio Road and Lasuen Drive, Carmel. $22, $15. 441-4942.
Le Trio Gershwin Sunday, 3pm. Chamber Music Monterey Bay hosts program of Gershwin arrangements for guitar, cello, piano. Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. $18. 625-2212.
Cellist Felix Fan Wednesday, 8pm. Carmel Music Society 1999 competition winner, with pianist Alex Solomon, plays works of Foss, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Saariaho, Cassado. Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. $10. 625-9938.