For the 2022-23 season, Upper Valley Baroque, a professional instrumental and choral ensemble, is taking “A Journey through Italian Baroque.” After choral music in the fall, the chamber orchestra is turning to the concerto.
“The concerto, the genre, was born in Italy,” explains Filippo Ciabatti, the ensemble’s artistic director.
“We know that all the great composers, Mozart included, came to Naples and Rome and studied. Bach brought the concerto to Germany and transcribed them; Buxtehude did the same.”
The Upper Valley Baroque Chamber Orchestra will present a program of “Italian Baroque Concertos” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, at First Congregational Church in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
The chamber orchestra will perform six virtuosic Italian Baroque concertos. Written by composers Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Giovanni Benedetto Platti, Girolamo Nicolo Laurenti and Francesco Geminiani, they will be performed on period instruments. The soloists are drawn from the orchestra, including concertmaster Susanna Ogata on violin, David Dickey on oboe, Melanie Williams on flute and Clay Zeller-Towson on bassoon.
Vivaldi (1678-1741), called “The Red Priest” for his hair color and onetime occupation, was a virtuoso violinist and wrote the popular “Four Seasons.” Corelli (1653-1713), another virtuoso violinist, is credited with establishing the preeminence of the instrument and as the first coalescing modern tonality and functional harmony.
Platti (1697?-1763), an oboist, also composed works for other instruments and many choral works. Laurenti (1678-1751), another violinist wrote sacred works as well as for his own instrument. Geminiani (1687-1762), yet another violinist, was described by BBC Radio 3 as “now largely forgotten, but in his time considered almost a musical god, deemed to be the equal of Handel and Corelli.”
“It’s my heritage, and Italian music played a very important role in the development not only of European classical music, but also of the concerto genre,” Ciabatti said. “Part of the reason to do that is to highlight some of the soloists of the ensemble. Melanie Williams, who is the flutist, will play a concerto by Vivaldi, “La Notte (The Night)”; our principal oboe, David Dickey, will play a concerto by Platti; one of our concertmistresses, Susanna Ogata, will play a Laurenti violin concerto.
“So, the concert will showcase the great talents the ensemble has,” Ciabatti said. “But the concert will also showcase the Italian concerto with soloists and ensemble.”
The program also showcases the concerto grosso (with section leaders as soloists).
“We will perform two of the great concerto grossi, one by Corelli, of course, the father of the concerto grosso, and one by Geminiani with variations on the theme “La Follia (The Folly),” Ciabatti said.
“Platti was an oboe player, and at the time it was customary for soloists to write their own concerti,” Ciabatti said. “And Laurenti was a famous court violinist who wrote very interesting concertos. Geminiani, at the time, was very famous, then he lost popularity, while Corelli and Handel gained status.”
Upper Valley Baroque was founded in 2021 to introduce and share this repertoire. Performances of Baroque and early music by a variety of ensembles provide educational opportunities, as well as supporting musicians.
Members of the chamber orchestra perform with other Baroque and early music organizations in Boston, New York, around New England and beyond. They are combining their talents to bring this music to life here in the Upper Valley.
“So I put this concert together because it made sense as part of a theme of Italian Baroque music,” Ciabatti said, “and because we wanted to give these wonderful musicians the opportunity to shine and play solos.”
jim.lowe @timesargus.com / jim.lowe @rutlandherald.com