Violin monster launches Bravissima series.
Thursday, November 8, 2001
''Athletic." "Wild." "Passionate." "Ferocious." These are just some of the words of high praise critics are using to describe the playing of violinist Andrew Manze, who will appear in recital Friday at the Church in the Forest in Pebble Beach. Called "the [Stephane] Grappelli of the Baroque violin" by BBC Music Magazine, Manze''s concerts and recordings have shaken the dust off old music scores and brought fresh perspectives to a repertoire too often played with prim, not to say grim, precision.
This feistier approach is exactly what Nana Faridany, Artistic Director of the Carmel Bach Festival, was looking for when she programmed Manze for the first concert of this year''s Bravissima series, now in its third year as an offshoot of the popular summer festival. Seeking to capitalize on the wide variety of top musicians who pass through the Central Coast on their way to Los Angeles or San Francisco, Faridany has put together a series of five enticing performances.
Faridany says she looks for musicians who combine "eminence and vitality," attributes Manze possesses in spades. Last month Manze released a recording of the Handel Violin Sonatas that is already making several Best of 2001 lists. In 1998 he was named Classical Artist of the Year by Amazon.com and Artist of the Year by his label, Harmonia Mundi. On Friday, listeners can look forward to a program featuring Handel and Bach, notably Manze''s wild-ride interpretation of the famous "Toccata and Fugue" (Bach''s best-known organ work, which for some reason has in our culture come to evoke a mad scientist pounding away in a haunted house).
Manze will be accompanied in Pebble Beach by harpsichordist Richard Eggar, with whom he has collaborated on the stage and in the recording studio since 1984.
Manze recently was promoted to the position of associate director of the prestigious Academy of Ancient Music (founded by Christoper Hogwood), so this solo outing is a rare treat not to be missed.
Future Bravissima concerts are equally promising. In January the accomplished Toronto-based chamber group Tafelmusik will offer an evening entitled "The Grand Tour: music by Corelli, Vivaldi, Lully, Handel, Telemann and Zelenka," framed by humorous and descriptive readings from the travel journals of 18th-century observer Charles Burney, who might have heard just such music on his own European Grand Tours. Said The New York Times: "If smokin'' does not exactly apply to this energized music from the late 17th century, perhaps sparklin'' could be allowed."
For Valentine''s Day weekend, Bravissima will present an evening with Catherine Robbins and Daniel Lichti, whose warm and rich voices have often graced the Bach Festival''s summer concerts. "Songs of Venus and of Mars" will fill the Church in the Forest with the melodies (and the occasional unchurchly sentiments) of Gershwin, Bernstein, Brahms, Schumann and Strauss.
In March, three more beloved Bach Festival performers will come to Carmel. Many patrons were disappointed last summer when Rosa Lamoreaux, Wolfgang Basch and John Butt were unable to present their traditional Thursday afternoon voice, trumpet and organ recital, due to scheduling conflicts at the Carmel Mission. This trio of marvelous musicians sings and plays the Baroque repertoire with impeccable shine and feeling, and their off-season Bach Festival classic offering will no doubt be a special occasion.
Finally, April will bring Magnificat, Warren Stewart''s much-acclaimed Bay Area early-music ensemble. While Faridany delights in programming musical groups from around the world (the British choral group The Sixteen and the Italian chamber orchestra Il Giardino Armonico were last year''s knock-your-socks-off highlight), she hopes also to tap more and more into the diverse classical music resources of the Bay Area.
Magnificat''s specialty is the reenactment of important musical events. For their concert at the Carmel Mission they will perform the Vespers of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, a seventeenth-century Italian nun whose spirited liturgical music has been described by one reviewer as "extraordinarily worldly, even sensual."
There is great diversity in the world of Baroque music, and if Nana Faridany has her way she will bring much of it to the Central Coast. She hopes to program in the future the Jacques Loussier Trio, known for its swinging, jazzy take on the music of J. S. Bach, and she already has confirmed for next year''s season the renowned harpsichordist Ton Koopman, who will present a two-keyboard version of Bach''s Art of the Fugue next September.
Reflecting on the past two years of Bravissima, which saw everything from small intimate recitals to ballets to a moving account of Bach''s life, told with cello music and a recitation of his letters, Faridany says that this "weird and wild mixture of things" is what she likes best about the possibilities the Bravissima series offers.
She especially hopes to program more young groups--ones that are "full of beans," like last year''s Red Priest--groups that are a perfect match for the life-affirming, enduring exuberance of the best Baroque music.