Whenever one has the exquisite pleasure of attending an Apollo’s Fire concert it is a life altering experience bordering on a religious epiphany. Thus it was this past Super Bowl Sunday as a packed house greeted members of the world renowned baroque group at the Rocky River Presbyterian Church.
The Sunday 4 p.m. afternoon performance was entitled “The Intimate Vivaldi” and featured the exceptional Grammy nominated Lute player, Ronn McFarlane. He and other members of Apollo’s Fire played various works of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and his contemporaries including Giovanni Zamboni (no relation to the ice surfacing machine inventor that we know of), Dario Castello, Biagio Marini and Giovanni Legrenzi.
During the concert, I was able to make the acquaintance of seven year old (he’s turning eight in April), Brian, who after finding a brochure at the Ashtabula Arts Center about the performance, talked his parents into driving him through the snow to the performance. Brian loves classical music and in particular, Vivaldi. He has just started taking piano lessons and this was his first live concert. Talking to Brian and his parents brought to mind some very happy memories of when I was his age and my parents would take me to baroque concerts at the Columbus Art Gallery. It was the beginning of my lifelong love of music and the fine arts.
It was a concert in which one could bask in the warmth of extraordinary artistry that filled the huge room from wall to wall. The audience sat with rapt attention as each piece unfolded. Starting out with the lively Vivaldi work “Concerto in C major for Strings and Continuo” in three parts it opened the show on a festive note. They then followed up with “Trio in G minor for Violin & Lute, RV 85” that featured Johanna Novom on violin and Ronn McFarlane on lute. This was followed by the Zamboni work “Sonata No. 9 in C minor for Lute solo in which Mr. McFarlane took center stage. The first half of the concert came to a close with Dario Castello’s piece “Sonata concertata X, libro II”.
After a brief intermission, the group returned sans lute for Biagio Marini’s “Capriccio in G major, op. 8” Che due violini suonano Quattro parti (in which 2 violins play 4 parts) that simply took your breath away. Ronn McFarlane then returned with lute and Olivier Brault on violin as the group launched into Vivaldi’s “Trio in C major for Violin & Lute, RV 82”.
The “Sonata No. 6 for four Strings” then followed with its four somber parts that set up the last two pieces. First, Vivaldi’s “Largo from the “Winter” Concerto, Le Quattro Stagioni, Op. 8” and to close the show, “Concerto in D major for Lute and Strings, RV 93” which brought a sustained standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. The concert was then followed with coffee and hot cider in the foyer with a chance to talk with this exceptional group of musicians. Even with the post concert gathering we were still able to return home just in time for the kickoff. It was a win-win situation.
As I have said before, if you have not attended an Apollo’s Fire concert, you really owe it to yourself and your family to plan on experiencing one. It is an experience that you will not forget.
Upcoming Performances of Apollo’s Fire include:
Saturday, February 9th
E.J. Thomas Hall, Akron
Jeannette Sorrell, conductor & harpsichord
Olivier Brault, violin
Barbara O’Brien, flute
Performing with the Akron Symphony Orchestra
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 1
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
Handel Water Music, Suite No. I & 2
Preconcert lecture begins at 7:00 p.m.
Come to the River
An Early American Gathering
Lake Erie College, Painesville
Come to the River on Tour
March 1, Sandusky concert Association
March 3, University of Florida at Gainesville
March 5, Seton Hill University, Pittsburgh
March 10, Soka Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles
The Intimate Bach, Part II
March 14, Fairlawn
March 15 & 16, Cleveland Heights
March 17, Rocky River
March 20th, A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse, Chagrin Falls
April 20th, Friends of Apollo’s Fire Benefit Gala
A Viennese Ball with Mozart
Mozart & Papa Haydn
April 25, Fairlawn
April 26 & 27, Shaker Heights
April 28, Oberlin
Tickets for local performances start at $21. Student, senior, young adult, and group discounts are available in select seating sections. Student tickets are free in Fairlawn, made possible by the GAR Foundation. Tickets are available through the Apollo’s Fire box office at (216) 320-0012 or online at www.apollosfire.org.
Join the large and lively crowd who come for this popular series of talks, one hour before each performance. Pre-concert talks are sponsored by the Friends of Apollo’s Fire.
Named for the classical god of music and the sun, Apollo's Fire was founded in 1992 by the award- winning young harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell. Sorrell envisioned an ensemble dedicated to the baroque ideal that music should evoke the various Affekts or passions in the listeners. Apollo's Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Sorrell's passion for drama and rhetoric.
Hailed as "one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles" (THE INDEPENDENT, London), Apollo's Fire made its London debut in 2010 in a sold-out concert at Wigmore Hall, with BBC broadcast. Apollo's Fire returned to Europe in fall 2011, as part of a major international tour with French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. The ensemble was met with standing ovations in Madrid (Royal Theatre), Bordeaux (Grand Théàtre de l'Opéra), Lisbon, Metz, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Apollo's Fire has also toured throughout North America, appearing at the Aspen Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival series, the Library of Congress, the Tropical Baroque Festival in Miami, and the Ojai International Festival in California. In October 2010 the ensemble performed the Monteverdi Vespers in an 11-concert national tour. At home in Cleveland, Apollo's Fire enjoys sold-out performances at its subscription series, which has drawn national attention for creative programming.
Apollo's Fire has released 18 commercial CDs, and currently records for the British label AVIE. Since the ensemble's introduction into the European CD market in 2010, the recordings have won rave reviews in the London press: "a swaggering version, brilliantly played" (THE TIMES) and "the Midwest's best-kept musical secret is finally reaching British ears" (THE INDEPENDENT). The 2010 CD release of the Monteverdi Vespers and the 2011 release of Jeannette Sorrell's early American disc "Come to the River" both became immediate best-sellers in the U.S.A.