Chicago Baroque Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago Baroque Ensemble 

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With the establishment this season of the Chicago Baroque Ensemble, the range of our town's period-instrument chamber scene at last covers the crucial High Baroque era (1700-1750). While Mary Springfels's Newberry Consort specializes in Medieval and Renaissance literature (thus highlighting the strength of Newberry Library's music manuscript collection) and Kevin Mason's Orpheus Band focuses on 17th-century string repertroie (which often requires a theorbo player), this new group, founded by the well-respected violist da gamba John Rozendaal, explores the fertile fringe of the more familiar territory of Telemann, Handel, and Bach. In Italy the High Baroque belonged to the likes of Antonio Cesti, Arcangelo Corelli, and Alessandro Stradella--lively cosmopolites and clever experimenters who wrote passionate music that reflected the public's thirst for drama. Works by the three composers and Handel will be feature in this weekend's concert. Each composer had spent some time in Rome, where Corelli ended up rich and famous and Handel wrote most of his chamber pieces. Corelli, Cesti, and Stradella all contributed to the flourishing genre of the Roman cantata, whose instrumentation includes a solo voice and a couple of strings. The cantatas they wrote, as a rule composed for high-priced virtuosos, are extravagant in emotional gestures and technical difficulties. Stradella's richly textured Crocifissione evokes pathos; Corelli's La Follia Variations are compelling in dramatic pacing; and Cesti's Apettate adesso carto is a parody of the cantata craze (loose translation: "Listen, I'm Singing Now. What Do You Want Me to Sing!") The sampler here also includes a trio sonata by Handel, which shows the composer's debt to Corelli's Sonatas da camera. The guest soloists are soprano Linda Straub, countertenor Mark Crayton, and harpsichordist James Brown. Sunday, 3 PM, Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, 1967 South Campus Drive, Evanston; 708-491-4852.

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