In performance: Washington Early Music Festival (I)
Vivaldi meets France at WEMF
by Joan Reinthaler
France is the focus of this year's Washington Early Music Festival and, in particular, the 500 years that saw an astonishing outpouring of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque creativity. Vivaldi, the quintessential Italian Baroque composer, may, at first glance, seem to be an interloper in these festivities, but the program that the Vivaldi Project, a small string ensemble dedicated to all things Baroque, brought to the sanctuary of St. Columba's Episcopal Church on Saturday was designed to highlight the connections and the differences between the French and Italian Baroque styles.
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Perhaps these differences were most vividly apparent in the excerpts from Michel Corrette's "L'ecole d'Orphée": The first is a lesson on the French taste in violin playing and the second a lesson on Italian style. Played gracefully and with a crisp directness by Elizabeth Field, Vivaldi Project director, the Italian energy and busyness was a wonderful and palate-clearing foil for the mannered affectations of the world-weary French mind.
Throughout a program that included music by Lully, Campra, Muffat, Guillemain, Aubert and, of course, Vivaldi, the ensemble's sound had a warm woodiness about it -- the product of gut strings and more loosely strung baroque bows -- that projected intimacy and a French-friendly personal quality. There was also some ensemble raggedness at the edges, perfect for the sighs in the Campra "Suite" and the bluesy harmonies of the Muffat sonata but not as welcome for the playfulness of the Vivaldi concertos or the alacrity of Guillemain's "Symphony in Italian Style."
The festival continues through June 26 in venues throughout the city. The schedule can be found at www.earlymusicdc.org.
-- Joan Reinthaler
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