The Baroque style of music originally had its beginnings in the 1600’s and early 1700’s. The term was used to describe a “flowery” and “expressive” style that used elaborate passages in order to make its “musical point”. Composers such as Handel, Corelli, Bach, Clark, Vivaldi and Pachelbel wrote extensively in this vein. Originally, the music was performed by large orchestras of fifty or more members and was financed by those who could best afford such extravagant and lavish displays of wealth (i.e. the seated royalty of the time).
Thus Baroque became a status symbol of the very rich and well placed. As time went on, the numbers of the musicians were reduced until the Baroque style of music was played primarily my small groups of musicians made up of one or two violins, a viola, cello and harpsichord with double bass, oboe and flute added as needed. This made the music less expensive to perform, more accessible to the general public and more intimate. Unfortunately, it also reduced the grandeur of the event.
Last night the Canton Symphony Orchestra brought back all the spectacle and grandeur that Baroque was originally known for. At times using an orchestra of thirty musicians they filled Umstattd Hall with exquisite renditions of some of the most well loved works from that era.
The concert began with the full contingent playing George Frideric Handel’s “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” from Solomon. This was originally a thinly disguised opera done as an oratorio in order to get it pass the Church censors of the time that had rules against costumed operas depicting Biblical stories.
Next, soprano Erin Cooper Gay took the stage to sing Handel’s “Lascia ch’oi pianga” from Rinaldo accompanied by the strings and harpsichord. Her beautiful voice filled the hall with perfect backing from the musicians. The full complement of musicians (including brass and woodwinds) returned for Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 7 in D Major done in five movements.
For the next work, all of the musicians left the stage except for flute, harpsichord and cello for a delightful work by Johann Sebastian Bach titled “Cantata No. 211, (Coffee, Ah! How sweet coffee tastes) that was introduced by conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann who declared coffee the “devil’s brew” while espousing the qualities of beer (which he was equipped with mug in hand). Soprano Erin Cooper Gay took the stage (coffee cup in hand) and at various pauses in the vocals took sips. It was delightful.
The full orchestral group returned to perform Jeremiah Clarke’s The Prince of Denmark’s March (Trumpet Voluntary) which is played at nearly every wedding that one goes to these day. Fortunately for us, the Canton Symphony Orchestra knows how to play it right with stirring trumpet and brass. Closing out the first portion of the performance was the string section and Harpsichord with soprano Erin Cooper Gay performing Antonio Vivaldi’s “In furore Iustissimae irae RV626” (In the Fury of the Most Just Wrath) which is sung in Latin and was used to celebrate any number of holy days and days of obligation.
After a short intermission, the group made up of twelve violins, four violas, one bass, one cello and the harpsichord performed the highpoint of the evening “Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel. This lilting melody that trades off between three groups of four violinists was absolutely enchanting. It is a piece that you find yourself getting lost in as the music flows through you on gentle wings of white.
Erin Cooper Gay returned with the entire string section less brass and woodwinds to perform Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim” from Sampson. Upon its completion on October 29, 1741 it was performed no less than seven times that season which at that time was a record of sorts.
The final work performed was Handel’s “Water Music” in eight movements. It was written for King George I as musical accompaniment to the King’s barge parties when the royals would travel the Thames during a summer eve in order to dine in Chelsea then return in the wee hours of the morning. King George was so enthralled by the music (played by fifty musicians playing on an accompanying barge) that he had the work repeated three times during the trip. On this night, the Canton Symphony Orchestra gave a truly royal worthy performance of this magnificent work (thankfully without the use of a barge). In fact the entire evening was a true delight.
The Orchestra’s next Masterworks concert will be “Friends and Family” with conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann and Alexander Schimpf, piano. They will be performing works by Charles Ives, Edvard Grieg and Edward Elgar. The performance is scheduled for November 24, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at Umstattd Performing Arts Hall.
Tickets start at a very affordable $18 for Pops and $25 for Masterworks concerts. There are senior, student and group discounts available. Dress is casual and open to all ages. Tickets and the full concert season schedule are available online at www.CantonSymphony.org, by calling 330-452-2094, or by walk-up at individual concerts. Some concerts do sell out in advance.
Be sure to check out the father and son critique of the performance by Brett Amacher and his son, Callum that is found at www.callumndad.com.
Founded in 1937, the Canton Symphony Orchestra is a fully professional ensemble and organization dedicated to performing concerts that enrich, educate and entertain. Under the direction of Gerhardt Zimmermann, the orchestra performs classical, pops, holiday, and educational programs. Most performances are in Umstattd Performing Arts Hall, 2323 17th Street NW, Canton, Ohio (at McKinley High School across from C.T. Branin Natatorium). Parking at McKinley High School is free. For more information, please visit www.CantonSymphony.org.