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.
The guest director was German recorder player Matthias Maute, who devised a program titled “Bach, Telemann & the Bohemian Gypsies.” What, you may ask, do gypsies have to do with Bach and Telemann? Possibly nothing in the case of the former and something in the case of the latter.
The works Maute brought along did prove how mutable the music is. The two Bach concertos for recorder were Maute arrangements of harpsichord pieces. Apollo’s Fire music director Jeannette Sorrell, who served as the program’s luxuriant harpsichordist, exerted “revenge” by arranging a Telemann recorder polonaise for her instrument.
In one piece, Maute rolled his eyes like a mad scientist, played in animated unison with the strings and encouraged the violins to go at the music as if they were lusty country fiddlers. In another, violinist Olivier Brault – who’ll serve as concertmaster of Apollo’s Fire for the 2011-12 season – took wild Hungarian flight, sending the intricacies into charismatic orbit.
There was also a Sorrell arrangement of a piece by a “Baroque” composer named Maute (yes, the same), Concerto delle Zingari for Harpsichord, Recorder and Violin. With roots planted in the world of gypsies (zingari), it’s a fair facsimile of an old score, with foot stomping, a Celtic-hued slow movement and a folksy final dance complete with ensemble shout of “Hey!”
Maute teamed here vibrantly with Sorrell and Brault (playing an adorable violino piccolo) and then shared the stage with traverso (transverse flute) player Kathie Stewart in Telemann’s Concerto in E minor for Traverso and Recorder. The program’s only score not arranged, it received a performance of wide dynamic swings, stately phrasing and no-hold-barred gusto.