Recent Press Quotes

[box type=”info”]For full reviews, please see the Reviews webpage or contact Development & Public Relations Manager Angela Mortellaro at[/box]

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Rediscovered – October 2019

Sorrell’s vivid approach to the pictorial elements to make these familiar works seem freshly minted, full of astonishing incident. Sorrell is part of a new movement in early music, pushing past shock value toward a less dogmatic flexibility. The opening chorus of birds had exhilarating ebb and flow. In the dance-like finale, Sorrell made it clear once and for all that Vivaldi was evoking bagpipes. In the brilliant overall shaping of first movement of ‘Summer’, each return of the heat-weary ritornello grew slightly faster, until the tension exploded in the final squall.

Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (semi-staged production) – April 2018

“Apollo’s Fire perfectly renders Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo… an inventively staged and musically satisfying performance. Apollo’s Fire is as good a period orchestra as any I’ve heard, with well-tuned strings and brilliant winds and brass.”

Handel’s Messiah – December 2018

“Stunned at the new life conductor Jeannette Sorrell brought [to Handel’s Messiah], with the players’ remarkable commitment… Issues of tradition or radical change fall to the wayside as Sorrell and the musicians focus on living in the moment with Handel’s lively muse. Part of their approach is simply being aware of the oratorio’s theatrical nature. In one spot, Sorrell had the chorus members leave the stage and envelop the audience in a radiant ring. I have been waiting for thirty years for a conductor who also seemed to be aware of the awesome strength of “And he shall purify.” Finally I heard it.”

O Jerusalem! – Crossroads of Three Faith – November 2018

On period instruments, a voyage of faith for the 21st century… Apollo’s Fire continues to challenge and enchant. The result borders upon a theatrical experience… In classic Apollo’s Fire manner, the entire evening was delivered with urgency, polish, and flair. To hear an ensemble at the peak of their powers, making vital statements about the world, is a privilege.

Captivating… a ravishing musical landscape. A high level of artistry and passionate music-making… gorgeous and stylish. The concert flowed wonderfully from one musical universe to another… creating a communal atmosphere of celebration and worship. Sorrell should be proud of this enjoyable and unity-striving evening in a time when human divisions are regularly stoked to achieve dangerous ends.”

Handel’s Israel in Egypt – October 2017

A Master Storyteller Adapts an Undervalued Oratorio… Sorrell is a masterful musical storyteller. Her adaptation [of Handel’s Israel in Egypt] gives the work a coherent, compelling dramatic arc, brought off brilliantly by her singers and players. Here, the life and dramatic meaning were foremost, and it was a thrilling reminder of Handel’s greatness. The instrumental solos throughout were brilliant… Sorrell’s adaptation and conducting could open up a new era of appreciation for this great, undervalued oratorio.”

A vivid adaptation of Handel’s ‘Israel in Egypt’… A new performing edition prepared by music director Jeanette Sorrell… seeks to re-establish the dramatic balance… Exhilarating abandon, which Sorrell harnessed wonderfully… Apollo’s Singers were supple and subtle, and sensitive to the drama of the music.”

“Triumphed Gloriously”… Chorus, soloists, and orchestra were uniformly impressive. The chorus, like the text they sang at one point, ‘triumphed gloriously.’ Alternating between the podium and the harpsichord, Sorrell led a highly nuanced performance of Israel in Egypt... unanimous in phrasing, dynamics, and musical rhetoric — and well-calculated in dramatic impact.”

Virtuoso Bach & Vivaldi – February 2017

“Arguably one of best period-instrument ensembles in the world… Apollo’s Fire embodies the most glorious of Baroque ensemble traits. Sorrell emerged with astoundingly intense virtuosic solo passages in Brandenburg No. 5…. Electrified and sparkling. If this concert didn’t shake your rafters, then nothing will.

A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse (Chicago debut) – October 2016

Apollo’s Fire makes blazing Chicago debut… At long last, Apollo’s Fire has descended upon Chicago…. Nearly every bar teemed with ideas… From their hair-trigger dynamic shifts in the opening phrase to the whirlwind final bars, this was as exciting as Baroque music gets… The appreciative audience coaxed them back… their encore was a barnstorming conclusion to an arresting musical evening.

“Baroque performance generally inclines towards the buttoned-down. Not so with Apollo’s Fire – a-flicker with dramatic phrasing.

Bach’s St. John Passion – March 2016

“A resplendent performance… The production belonged entirely to Ms. Sorrell, who devised the concept, which she called ‘a dramatic presentation…’ Jesse Blumberg sang the role [of Jesus] handsomely and acted vividly. Nicholas Phan sang the Evangelist beautifully, with unusual animation and dramatic vehemence. Jeffrey Strauss turned Pilate into a living, breathing figure for a change. The other vocal soloists — Amanda Forsythe, soprano; Terry Wey, countertenor; and Christian Immler, baritone — were outstanding.

The orchestra was also excellent… The chorus, equally fine, allowed Ms. Sorrell some exquisite moments. In the two-verse chorale early on, Ms. Sorrell silenced the orchestra for the second verse, letting the magnificent chorus sing a cappella to breathtaking effect…”

“As the closest thing to an opera Bach wrote, the St. John Passion… evokes deep spirituality while teeming with theatricality. No wonder attempts have often been made to stage it, including one two years ago by Peter Sellars and the Berlin Philharmonic that erred…. The drama was blurred.
No such problem afflicted the superlative performance by Apollo’s Fire… Sorrell ensured that there was no lack of drama. She set persuasive tempos…. The excellent orchestra proved capable of producing an engagingly colorful sound at full volume but also finely nuanced effects.

Also in good form was the chorus known as Apollo’s Singers. Consistently alert and dynamic, the group was especially vital… when positioned in the aisles, achieving a kind of surround-sound effect that heightened the drama. Phrasing in the chorales, as shaped by Sorrell, was noteworthy for some lovely detail.

The first-rate soloists are well known… Pure-voiced Amanda Forsythe sang exquisitely in the soprano arias.”

“The ensemble’s lively and gripping version of the oratorio… Sorrell dispatched 8 chorus members to the side aisles during the turbulent crowd scenes, surrounding the audience and virtually making them part of the seething mob. The soloists who portrayed Jesus, Simon Peter, and Pilate had memorized their parts and physically confronted one another. So did the chorus.

The dramatic success of the performance hinged on Sorrell’s skillful, often brisk pacing of the music and Nicholas Phan’s superb storytelling as the Evangelist.

Apollo’s Singers were riveting… Sorrell dictated a variety of nuances that the chorus delivered with fine attention to detail and unflaggingly crisp diction. This absorbing performance was nearly flawless.”

“A magnificent account… So much about the performance under Jeannette Sorrell was alluring that it would be virtually impossible to rank any one aspect over another. Still, if any faction deserves top billing, it’s the Apollo’s Singers. Its singing alone was often enough to give one chills. But the group also provided immersive drama, simulating angry mobs by gathering in aisles amidst the audience and demanding Jesus over Barrabas in stereo surround-sound.
Nicholas Phan… as Evangelist supplied both theatricality and sheer vocal splendor… Soprano Amanda Forsythe and baritone Jeffrey Strauss were their usual enchanting selves. The former’s two arias were moments of pure, angelic radiance; the latter, meanwhile, proved an ideal Pilate, embodying the ruler’s tragic position, his simultaneous need to appease and disinclination to condemn.

That just leaves the orchestra. Any prophet could have foretold it: under Sorrell, playing a work with which it is deeply acquainted, the ensemble… evinced nothing but insight, warmth, and sensitivity.”

The Power of Love Tour – November 2016

“The Apollo’s Fire concert at Cambridge’s First Church… was a total love fest. Soprano Amanda Forsythe was matched by a totally compatible instrumental ensemble. Led by fiery-red head Sorrell… the group plays with rhythmic verve and passion. By the end you half expected the stage to erupt in chaos…”

Tanglewood and BBC Proms Tour Performances – Summer 2015

“Apollo’s Fire under the direction of Sorrell has put Cleveland firmly on the period- performance map.”

“Baroque orchestra conquers Tanglewood… Only a few minutes into the concert, one realized that this was going to be no typical Baroque sewing-machine outing… Sorrell and her group demonstrated… expressive musical response, drive and color. The dramatic cadenza [of Brandenburg Concerto no. 5] of astonishing virtuosity… was indeed hair-raising and brilliantly played. The encore truly brought the house down.”
–BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER (Tanglewood debut, 2015)

“Their programme of mostly Baroque music flickered and danced, distinguished by cultivated string tone and buoyancy of rhythm.”
–FINANCIAL TIMES, London (BBC Proms debut, 2015)

“Building sound, almost instrument by instrument, Sorrell exposed to us clearly the workings of this lovely piece. I can’t imagine a more superbly judged and also fresh experience of the composer. The slow second movement – unshowy but heavenly – almost brought tears to the eyes with its sigh and swell.”
–DAILY TELEGRAPH, London (BBC Proms debut, 2015)

Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 – November 2014

The robust and wonderfully vivacious account… was a voluptuous and hugely gripping approach to Monteverdi’s masterpiece [the Vespers of 1610]. A vast and inviting feast, ranging from exuberant choral explosions to intimate expressions of the amorous. Sorrell and her forces delivered it with superb energy and clarity to put the cap on a wholly exhilarating evening.

Apollo’s Fire on tour gives Ann Arbor a glorious night… a resplendent performance. Apollo’s Fire’s account of [the Monteverdi Vespers] stands out from others… From the opening procession to the florid, antiphonal exchanges between superb tenors at its conclusion, the performance was bracingly theatrical. Two bewitching hours of sometimes tense, often enrapturing, and always vivid musical drama. Apollo’s Singers, the vocal wing of the ensemble… hovered radiantly, sumptuously evoking one hallowed image after another. None of these glories would have been possible without the orchestra – colorfully decked out with sackbuts, theorbos, and a recorder – or Sorrell’s lucid, emotionally rich leadership.”
– THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (review of Monteverdi Vespers in tour in Ann Arbor, Michigan)

May 2014 European Tour

Download 2014 European Tour Quotes [PDF]

“An evening of superlative music-making. The group’s director, harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, put together an ingenious programme which showed off the ensemble’s range of colour, mood and style… playful and flexible. Each piece found its own special colour. Another engaging thing about this group is that it combines European stylishness with “can-do” American entrepreneurism. They seize on unlikely things like American folk music and recreate it with foot-stomping brio – as their first encore showed. And Sorrell arranged [Vivaldi’s La Folia] for the full band and the results were thrilling. The players’ agile grace and unforced lyrical energy made them ideal partners for soprano Sandrine Piau.”

“Maverick energy… Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell knows her repertoire well, and chose a wonderful selection of works to showcase her band. It was great to see the music stands put away for this dancing, stamping piece of musical madness [Vivaldi’s La Folia arranged by Sorrell]. The group are natural communicators. Apollo’s Fire are a wonderful antidote to too much British baroque.”

“A brilliant concert – baroque blues historically interpreted”

“Apollo’s Fire brought a type of American bohemian chic which was a refreshing change from the more staid, often po-faced, British baroque bands. Led by exuberant, flame-haired Jeannette Sorrell, they were flamboyant and fun. And boy, they can play, too. Their party piece – Vivaldi’s trio sonata La Folia arranged as an increasingly frenetic dancing concerto grosso by Sorrell – energetically rounded off a hugely enjoyable concert.”

“The ever-growing reputation of Apollo’s Fire – an ensemble based in Cleveland, Ohio – ensured a substantial and very appreciate audience. This well-planned programme demonstrated to perfection the players’ high artistry. The opening movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D, [arranged by Sorrell] served as a lively opener in which all of the musicians’ stylishness and virtuosity were on display. One immediately sense the intense rapport between the players, and between them and Jeannette Sorrell. The most stunning orchestra item was Sorrell’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s triosonata “La Folia” (Madness). The playing became evermore abandoned until, with tapped cellos adding to the riot of sound, the piece whirled towards a boisterously exhilarating climax. This was a supremely satisfying concert on every level. A further appearance in London by Apollo’s Fire would be very welcome.”

“Best 5 Classical Music Moments of 2014”

2011 International Tour with Philippe Jaroussky

Download 2011 International Tour Quotes[PDF]

God’s Own Fire – “The Arsenal de Metz was packed to the rafters. What is one to say of the performance of the 14 strings and harpsichord that helped set the Palais Bofill Hall on fire — along with the divinely bewitched singer? They play standing up, and are quite demonstrative under the guidance of Jeannette Sorrell, a conductor/harpsichordist who manages to be everywhere, plays the harpsichord, and who personally elicits the audience’s enthusiasm herself. These winged baroque specialists offered us the surprising and delightful style that they have made their own… Clock-like precision, birdlike lightness, and intoxicating alacrity. Their unleashed impulses made “La Follia” flare up in flames. They pulled us irresistibly into their boundless whirlwind – and we found ourselves happily flying along. It’s all fire and flames. The sparks of each musician, and of all of them, turned the Arsenal into a flaming seraglio.”
–Le Républicain Lorrain, Metz, FRANCE

“It was immediately obvious that the evening would be a party, with fireworks in style. 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”. 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. The concert was impeccable and the Royal Theatre was full to overflowing. It was one of those evenings that leaves you wanting more.”
–J. Á. Vela del Campo, EL PAÍS (national newspaper of Spain), Madrid

“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.”
–Jeremy Eichler, THE BOSTON GLOBE

“People… crowded into Emmanuel Church for [Jaroussky’s] concert with Apollo’s Fire, Cleveland’s premiere period-instrument ensemble, under the tight and lively direction of harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell. Her positively demented improvisational arrangement of Vivaldi’s setting of the famous song “La folia” (Madness) was greeted with almost the same rapture as Jaroussky .”

“A thrilling program. An enthusiastic audience called the singer and the ensemble back for three encores, each exquisitely rendered.”

“Apollo’s Fire, arriving in town to accompany the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky at Hill Auditorium last night, proved every bit as alluring as the singer himself. In fact, it could be argued that one of those instrumental selections, Vivaldi’s “La Follia,” was an evening high point. With Sorrell leading from the harpsichord, the ensemble played these variations, based on a “Renaissance pop tune,” with brio and style and more than a hint of the madness the title implies. It was delicious.”
–Susan Isaacs Nisbett, ANN ARBOR.COM (formerly the Ann Arbor News)

“A… remarkable evening of music took place at Royce Hall [UCLA] last Friday… So much of it is rarely heard on concert stages, and even more rarely with the authenticity and bravura of the Apollo’s Fire baroque orchestra. In the soaring voice and the gripping theatricality of Jaroussky’s performances, and in the dynamic orchestral support of Apollo’s Fire, one could experience a surprisingly convincing aura of what presentations of works such as Oreste, Imeneo and Giustino must have been like. Superbly accompanying Jaroussky, Apollo’s Fire also added equally gripping musical moments of their own. Done brilliantly and memorably.”

“Oh, Give Me a Muse of Apollo’s Fire…! There are concerts that stick in one’s memory forever. Apollo’s Fire’s joint concert with the spectacular countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, entitled Handel and Vivaldi Fireworks, will be exactly that… The audience went wild after each piece Jaroussky sang. We knew this was an Apollo’s Fire concert to remember…. I believe it might be the beginning of, as they say, a beautiful friendship.”
–THE ARTS FUSE: The Culture of New England (Boston, MA)

“Unerring Style from Jaroussky, Apollo’s Fire… Dazzling flights of melody, which Jaroussky executed at breakneck speed with flawless accuracy. Jaroussky combines superior musicianship and an unerring sense of style with a superb vocal instrument, a winning combination. Jeannette Sorrell led the mostly young, mostly female and — in every sense of the word — stylish group of string players from the harpsichord.”
–THE MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER – Virginia Newes, editor (Boston, MA)

“The singing was from start to finish extraordinary – no other single word will suffice. He sang with Apollo’s Fire, the baroque orchestra that Sorrell has made one of the finest in the world. This was the first joint appearance of the singer and this orchestra, but it cannot be the last.”

Comments from the London Press – 2010

“The U.S.A’s hottest baroque band”

“Apollo’s Fire has forged a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music… European ears have begun to appreciate the blend of intellect and artistry concocted by harpsichordist Sorrell and her colleagues. Their seductive vision of musical authenticity is guided by a shared commitment to honest emotional expression, rooted in period style yet never its slave.”

“An unusually star-studded night at the Wigmore Hall, for one of early music’s better-kept secrets – The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra. Sorrell’s arrangements are gloriously liberal… the whirling strains of [Vivaldi’s] La Folia remade as an infectious group showcase.”
–THE TIMES, London

“Visually charged, minutely stage-managed musical theatrics from Jeannette Sorrell and her irrepressible team of musicians… Utterly sensational, every phrase a Baroque curlicue dipped in gold and then embellished still further. Charismatic and boundlessly energetic… this is Baroque music in its unbuttoned state.”

“Under the inspired direction of Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire has become one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles, causing one to hear familiar baroque material anew.”

“Apollo’s Fire is one of the brightest lights of period-instrument playing in the United States… arguably the most distinctive in sound and memorable in style. Its trademark qualities: expressive subtlety, exuberance and passion.”

“This swaggering version… makes the most of the variety of instrumental colour Bach so exhilaratingly put on show. Two harpsichord concertos BWV 1052 and 1056 [are] both brilliantly played, as is the keyboard part in the Fifth Brandenburg, by Sorrell.”
–THE SUNDAY TIMES, London (reviews of Bach Concertos CD)

“The Midwest’s best-kept secret is finally reaching British ears.”
–THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, London (review of Mozart CD)

“A compelling account that can hold its own against any rivals. Exultant… instrumental colours blaze brilliantly.”
–THE TIMES, London (review of Monteverdi Vespers CD)

From around the U.S.

“The renowned baroque orchestra . . . [plays] with personality and temperament.”

“The Cleveland Orchestra has serious competition in the baroque and classical repertories. This period instrument ensemble under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell is consistently accomplished.”

“The period-instrument band from Cleveland is renowned for its authoritative snap.”

“Apollo’s Fire has developed into one of America’s leading Baroque orchestras, and one capable of competing with some of Europe’s much-recorded bands.”

“Led by a brilliant harpsichordist, Jeannette Sorrell, the ensemble exudes stylish energy . . . a blend of scholarship and visceral intensity.”

“They were turning people away at the door . . . That unusually large turnout was warranted by the stylishness and boundless verve of Jeannette Sorrell and her musicians.”

“Sorrell led a revelatory [performance], with impassioned singing and playing bringing Bach’s [St. John Passion] score to life with contemporary immediacy.”

“A stunning achievement . . . It wins out handily over William Christie’s versions and other recent issues.”

“Apollo’s Fire is a superb ensemble that pairs vigor with finesse, enlisting period instruments to play baroque fare in a rigorously informed style.”

“Sorrell has developed one of the most enterprising and plucky early-music ensembles in the nation today.”

“Sorrell and her fine young choir lavish attention on every phrase and inflexion. The exhilaration and sense of discovery is utterly infectious.”

“Apollo’s Fire sounds like it’s been playing together for something like forever. Virtuosity runs rampant among the musicians, starting with Sorrell herself.”

At home… from THE PLAIN DEALER

“The essence of Apollo’s Fire: joy onstage that generates joy in the audience.”

“Sorrell and her crackerjack ensemble play with a depth of sound few baroque orchestras on either side of the Atlantic could muster.”

“Sorrell’s brilliance was stamped on every aspect of the performance . . . She must be one of the best conductors around in this repertoire.”

“Artistic passion, inexhaustible energy . . . and keen musical observations that most performers probably couldn’t imagine . . . ”

“Sorrell and her players make contact with music on both visceral and intellectual levels, and the results are intoxicating.”

“This was virtuosic artistry in the best sense of the word.”

“Stratospheric artistry . . . one of the highlights of the year’s musical season in Cleveland . . .”

“The entire account [of Monteverdi’s Vespers] was an Apollo’s Fire triumph. Sorrell must be one of the best conductors around in this repertoire. In her hands, the glory of Monteverdi’s accomplishment couldn’t have been more radiant or moving.”

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band.” –CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE (UK)

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