Reviews

  • December 12, 2012 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Apollo’s Fire continues holiday offerings with Handel’s Messiah
    by Donald Rosenberg

    “Music Director Jeannette Sorrell… succeeded in drawing the audience into another world. While the performance Friday was sold out, the Apollo’s Fire forces… approached the piece as if they were telling the story for the first time. Sorrell shaped the score with an alert ear for expressive and dramatic nuance. Apollo’s Singers again explored a magnificent spectrum of shadings. From the lightest of touches to the majestic proclamations, the ensemble provided lucidity and fervor.”

  • December 8, 2012 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Apollo’s Fire revives wondrous ‘Celtic Christmas’ program
    by Donald Rosenberg

    Apollo’s Fire… has shown a welcome knack for crisscrossing between periods and genres. Nowhere is this more evident than in its smashing holiday presentation known as “Sacrum Mysterium,” or “Sacred Mystery – A Celtic Christmas.” Music director Jeannette Sorrell devised the program last year with Sylvain Bergeron, artistic director of Ensemble La Nef of Montreal, and it’s back this season in a version that confirms the brilliance and poignancy of the concept. At Friday’s concert, Sorrell joined… the orchestra’s crackerjack chorus, in a performance at turns mellifluous, cozy and raucous. How can such qualities share the same stage? Sorrell and Bergeron created a narrative that weaves together ancient art and folk traditions with a keen blend of reverence and rousing personality. The sound of a distant bagpipe introduces the evening, with the chorus and soprano Meredith Hall processing down the central aisle. What follows is a mesmerizing array of seasonal delights, which Sorrell and company perform with a special mix of sophistication and zest. The orchestra’s superb CD and DVD of the program have just been released by Avie Records. It likely will keep listeners glued to their speakers or earbuds for decades to come. But seeing “Sacred Mystery” is an altogether different and wondrous experience…

  • June 16, 2012 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    A good dose of Irish traditions
    by Zachary Lewis

    Don’t look to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea if it’s a genuine, well-rounded and singular Irish experience you seek this summer. Rather, go to the Baroque Music Barn in Hunting Valley. Go to Huntington Playhouse in Bay Village. Go to Geauga Lyric Theater in Chardon. Go anywhere, really, this weekend where Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, is presenting “Celtic Crossings: Songs and Stories of the Irish-American Journey.” A sampling of Irish traditional music, dancing and storytelling, performed by experts and natives, the program, part of the orchestra’s “Countryside Concerts,” is a substantial and highly effective dose of culture only a leisurely trip around the Emerald Isle, complete with pints of Guinness, could top.

  • November 14, 2011 – EL PAÌS (The major national newspaper of Spain)

    Classical Fireworks: A Fine Champagne
    by J. Á. Vela del Campo

    It was immediately obvious that the evening would be a party, with fireworks in style. And indeed it was… A standing ovation, as rarely happens at the Royal Theatre. The shadow of the American Louis Armstrong was evoked in spirit to perfection by his compatriots from Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra, thanks to some dazzling variations on the trio sonata “La Follia” by Vivaldi. These musicians rejuvenated the baroque for us with the spirit of jazz, and the joy of playing together… Jeannette Sorrell conducted from the harpsichord with great precision, sensitivity and femininity. It was one of those evenings that leaves you wanting more.

  • November 8, 2011 – THE BOSTON GLOBE

    “Fireworks” Lofted by a French Countertenor
    by Jeremy Eichler

    Easily one of the most enjoyable concerts of the season…. Part of the evening’s success also flowed from the sense of artistic collaboration, as Apollo’s Fire here was far more than a backup band. The group without Jaroussky played two Vivaldi concertos on the first half and later pulled out Sorrell’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s “La Follia’’ trio sonata, uncorking it like a Baroque party piece, dashed off from memory. These excellent young musicians take a highly gestural approach to phrasing and bring across their music with an exuberant physicality, like wind through a forest.

  • November 2, 2011 – THE TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL

    Jaroussky Dazzles in Arias Raised from Opera’s Splendid Shipwrecks
    by Robert Everett-Green

    Apollo’s Fire’s flair for drama was perhaps best displayed in a grand rumpus performance of Sorrell’s arrangement of La Follia, from a Vivaldi triosonata. This party piece, played from memory, featured many steep and rapid changes in tone, texture and rhythmic character. One of the most interesting and rewarding recitals of the season.

  • April 16, 2011 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Baroque music is openly amenable to transformation. Even composers of the period were happy to borrow (sometimes from themselves) and tweak to suit an artist or a performance situation.

    So it was no surprise to find that virtually everything on the program Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, offered Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights was an arrangement. What was surprising, and often delightful, was the rambunctious nature of much of the music-making.

  • December 17, 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    In the biggest hit of his fruitful career, “Messiah,” George Frideric Handel applied an especially buoyant touch to the words “rejoice greatly.”

    Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, heeds those words to special effect throughout its performance of Handel’s oratorio. But music director Jeannette Sorrell, the orchestra, Apollo’s Singers and a vocal quartet also rejoice intimately.

  • October 10 , 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Apollo’s Fire music director Jeannette Sorrell rehearses the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra and Apollo’s Singers for this weekend’s performances of Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610.”

    Musicians have to fill in so many blanks when approaching Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers of the Blessed Virgin” that it’s inevitable the results will vary according to interpretive discretion.

  • JULY 4 , 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Apollo’s Fire and guests made their Cain Park debut June 25 performing “Come to the River: An Early American Gathering.” The performers, front from left, are Scott Mello, Abigail Haynes Lennox, Matthew Olwell, Jeannette Sorrell, Sandy Simon, Paul Shipper and Tina Bergmann.

  • June 21, 2010 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    What an endlessly inventive group is Apollo’s Fire! Their current offering, “Come to the River,” billed as “An Early American Gathering,” combines drama, personal recollection, American musical and religious history, and a corncrib full of music. Baroque meets bluegrass, and gospel, and shaped-note, and Celtic, and…

  • JUNE 19, 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Members of Apollo’s Fire, including music director Jeannette Sorrell, perform “Come to the River – An Early American Gathering” at various locations Northeast Ohio through Friday.

    Jeannette Sorrell’s Cleveland Baroque Orchestra is known best as Apollo’s Fire, even when the musicians diverge from their normal period-instrument activities.

  • March 14, 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    It’s easy to get bogged down in a debate about period vs. modern instruments. Does music sound best when the performers are playing instruments the composer might have known? There’s no simple answer.

    Apollo’s Fire found itself (unwittingly) addressing the issue this week when the 1877 Bluthner piano it was set to use in Mozart concerts came under the technical weather due to the Ohio weather. In that historic instrument’s place, Sergei Babayan chose a modern Steinway grand tuned slightly down to match the pitch of Jeannette Sorrell’s Cleveland Baroque Orchestra.

  • February 2, 2010 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Enlightenment and entertainment have been key elements for Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, and music director Jeannette Sorrell throughout their 18-year history.

  • December 12, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    With all due respect to George Frideric Handel, “Messiah” doesn’t hold a monopoly on music that generates holiday rapture.

    Among the frigid-weather concert pieces for which local audiences are responding with hallelujah-like fervor is “Christmas Vespers,” a potpourri of music by Michael Praetorius and friends that Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, has made a biennial event.

  • December 11, 2009 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    Jeannette Sorrell brought the alternately dazzling and charming music of Michael Praetorius to life once again at Trinity Cathedral on Thursday evening, in her compilation program, “Christmas Vespers” — with a little help from Apollo’s Fire’s 20 instrumentalists, 27 adult singers and the 15 young vocalists who make up Apollo’s Musettes. And a near-capacity crowd of happy listeners.

  • November 9, 2009 – PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

    Saturday night’s concert by Apollo Fire was inspired in all the ways one expects of this brilliantly led ensemble. But the smart choice of repertoire and the artistry to perform it memorably were supplemented by an over-arching sensibility absent from most “thematic” concerts.

  • November 9, 2009 – PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

    Long before sampling became a staple of pop and dance music, the original musical loop served as the basis for music 500 years ago. These were called ground basses — short bass lines that repeated while the treble instruments or singers offered melodies and improvisation above. Think Pachelbel’s Canon, however, as a fantastic concert Saturday night at Synod Hall showed, he was a latecomer to this party

  • November 1, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Audiences have come to expect Apollo’s Fire to shed light on whatever music it prepares. This is certainly true when music director Jeannette Sorrell and her Cleveland Baroque Orchestra apply their period-instrument gifts to Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach and friends.

    And it also happens when the ensemble ventures away from the Baroque mainstream, as they’re doing this week with selections by composers whose names don’t trip off most concertgoers’ tongues.

  • October 5, 2009 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    Jeanette Sorrell is both a scholarly musicologist and a consummate musician. This past weekend, She could easily have presented an erudite paper, titled something along the lines of “The influence of Venetian church music on the choral style of J. S. Bach”; instead, Ms. Sorrell lead her period-performance orchestra and chorus Apollo’s Fire in a stunning series of concerts pairing Antonio Vivaldi’s well-known setting of the ‘Gloria’ (RV 589) with selections from the first section (Kyrie and Gloria) of the ‘Mass in B minor’ by J. S. Bach: a “Gloria and a half”, as it were. We heard the performance on Saturday, Oct. 3rd at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights.

  • October 3, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Leave it to Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, to open a season in a blaze of glory. Make that Gloria. Come to think of it, make it both.

    Music director Jeannette Sorrell had a smart idea for the first program of her ensemble’s 18th season: sacred choral works by Vivaldi and Bach that include the texts “Glory be to God on high” (“Gloria in excelsis Deo,” in the original Latin).

  • June 22, 2009 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    At the end of ‘Come to the River’, Apollo’s Fire’s latest summer Countryside Concerts production, Jeannette Sorrell had the audience humming along and eventually joining in a southern folk hymn a la Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. Generating that level of audience engagement explains why the series sold out and an extra concert had to be added to the current run. We gathered at the river — or the Lake — for its final performance at the Huntington Playhouse in Bay Village on Sunday afternoon.

  • June 13, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Every program that music director Jeannette Sorrell devises for Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, is a fascinating journey. The itinerary usually takes listeners through well-known or obscure European terrain.

    For her Countryside Concerts this year, Sorrell has come up with something closer to home: a musical travelogue through Appalachia of jubilant and poignant persuasion. The artistry is fresh, impeccable and enchanting.

  • April 27, 2009 – THE CALGARY HERALD

    Apollo’s Fire is a baroque orchestra whose program Sunday night, closing the current Calgary Pro Musica season, was subtitled: Vivaldi and Rameau do Battle with Nature. Calgarians were doing their own battle with nature as our winter weather continues into spring, but it didn’t deter the healthy-sized audience that showed up to enjoy the diverting and diverse program presented by the American guests.

  • March 9, 2009 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    Apollo’s Fire’s upcoming family concerts are titled ‘Stormy Weather: What happens when a baroque orchestra gets caught in a thunderstorm? The musicians play faster!’

    We’re not sure if Sunday afternoon’s Donner und Blitzen affected the tempos of Jeannette Sorrell and her dozen string players, who were performing their fourth straight edition of ‘Virtuoso Fire’, but the moody swings in weather over the last few days must have had both the orchestra and oboe soloist Alex Klein fussing over their senstitive reeds and instruments.

  • March 6, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Competition among composers in 18th-century Venice appears to have been heated. Put it this way (in alphabetical order): Tomaso Albinoni vs. Alessandro Marcello vs. Benedetto Marcello vs. Antonio Vivaldi vs. Francesco Veracini. Thank goodness for the enmity. It fueled creative fires that inspired a bounty of delicious music.

  • February 2, 2009 – CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM

    “Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ is an opera an opera hater can love”, as Allan Kozinn put it in a New York Times review last December. “It’s in English, and it runs less than an hour. Its libretto, drawn from Virgil, is fantastical but not idiotic, and Purcell’s music brings it to life magnificently”. It’s also remarkably adaptable to wildly different approaches in staging — Kozinn happened to be commenting on a production by the Sybarite Chamber Players which relocated the action to Wall Street and turned the plot’s love interest into a planned corporate merger that fell apart when Aeneas was suddenly called back to Italy, all without doing any damage to the music.

  • January 31, 2009 – THE PLAIN DEALER

    Need help preparing a 350th-birthday celebration? Look no further than Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra. Music director Jeannette Sorrell and company are in the midst of throwing a series of enchanting parties for Henry Purcell, the English composer who was born in 1659. Their program of theater music and the opera “Dido and Aeneas” runs through Tuesday at Cleveland’s Josephat Arts Hall.