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Archive for Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Baroque concert a treat for music aficionados

February 14, 2006

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The atmosphere was candlelight, the music Baroque and the desserts heavenly at the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra's "Baroque by Candlelight" concert Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church. The popular annual event drew a respectable crowd that seemed entranced by the evening's musical fare. Directed by cellist Steven Elisha, who is in his second season as the orchestra's artistic director and conductor, the 17-member orchestra produced a lush and well-balanced performance of three Baroque favorites.

The opening piece was William Boyce's Symphony in B-flat major. Composed in 1756, it is written in typical Baroque style, and although it is perhaps not as well-known in the modern era as pieces by Boyce's contemporaries like George Frideric Handel, it is a lively and elegant work. The orchestra's balance was particularly good in this number, although there were a few moments of intonation issues from the violins in the lovely second movement. The tempos were bright, if a bit more measured than one might expect.

The second number of the evening was the familiar Cello Concerto in B-flat major, by Luigi Boccherini. This wonderful virtuoso number is the most popular of Boccherini's cello concertos. It is an elegant and charming piece occasionally plumbing emotional depths as well as exploding with energy. Elisha did double-duty in this piece as conductor and soloist. Although one might expect a few moments of miscommunication in this situation, there were very few places in which the orchestra and soloist were not together and balanced. Elisha's performance was dramatic and subtle by turns, with particularly touching moments in the sublime second movement.

Handel's venerable but difficult Water Music Suite No. 1 in F major closed the evening's program. Hearing the 10-piece suite in its entirety was a pleasure and a suitable ending for an evening of Baroque masters. The playing of the oboes, cellos and bass was clear and precise in the familiar "Air." Also notably strong was the delightful "Bouree," in which oboes and violins traded and elaborated on the theme with cool efficiency. The suite relies heavily on the horns, which struggled in this performance more than one might desire; however, they finished the final movements with style and flourish.

Once again, the orchestra volunteers served elegant, tasty desserts and wine after the concert, which gave the audience a chance to greet the performers and express their appreciation for a satisfying musical evening. The "Baroque by Candlelight" concert is becoming a fine local tradition that highlights an often-underrated community organization filled with dedicated and talented performers. Their spring concert in April in celebration of Mozart and Shostakovich is not to be missed.

- Sarah Young is a lecturer in Kansas University's English department.

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