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Concert Preview: I-90 Collective opens the First Tuesdays series

August 25, 2009

I-90 Collective

I-90 Collective

On Tuesday, September 1, I-90 Collective will perform a program entitled The Italian Connection at 7:30PM at Trinity Parish Church Parish Hall, 609 Eighth Avenue, Seattle.  This is the first concert of EMG’s second season of its First Tuesdays series.  For more information about First Tuesdays and the artists of I-90 Collective, please click here.

 Tickets will be available at the door, or click here to buy tickets in advance.

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  In the high baroque, virtuosity was more admired than almost any other gift in a musician. Fortunately, the greatest composers of the era used the brilliant technique demanded of performers not for mere showiness but to deepen drama and emotion.  I-90 Collective’s upcoming recital puts the accent on virtuosity with works by Biber, Handel, and Corelli.

   Heinrich Ignatz Franz Biber (1644-1704) was recognized as the greatest violinist of his time, and known as a composer determined to push the technical limits of the instrument for high expressive purposes. Best known today for his experiments in scordatura (radical re-tunings of the violin’s strings) in works like the religiously inspired “Rosary” or “Mystery” sonata cycles, he also pushed the envelope in his abstract works like his third sonata published in 1681, one of a set of eight scored for the classic “trio sonata” ensemble of the period: solo voice, basso continuo (here played by cellist Nathan Whittaker), and an improvising harmony instrument to fill out the texture (in this performance, the theorbo of John Lenti).

   Whittaker and violinist Carrie Krause will play another famous virtuoso sonata of the period, Archangelo Corelli’s celebrated “Folia” sonata from his opus 5 set of 1700, which consists entirely of variations on an traditional eight-bar tune (the “Folly” of the title). Krause and Whittaker up the ante by performing the work without a net, omitting the harmonic fill instrument thus reducing the work from a “sonata à tre” to a “sonata à due” and improvising additional notes to enrich their own lines. (Whittaker has discovered that this was often practiced in the baroque era: “If you were Corelli, touring with your regular basso continuo player, would you have wanted to depend on finding a competent keyboard player in every town you visited?” Whittaker asks.)

    Baroque audiences expected virtuosity from vocalists as well as instrumentalists, and the young Georg Frideric Handel was only too eager to provide them with what they wanted: During his Roman years (1706-1710) he composed numerous brief but spectacular vocal scenas for entertainments at the homes of Rome’s rich and famous: a sort of opera Lite.  In the I-90 recital, soprano Linda Tsatsanis will perform “Figlio d’alte speranze” (“High aspiring youth”) as well as three of Handel’s Nine German Arias. These mysterious pieces were set to German texts, although Handel had long been a citizen of England, and were never published in his lifetime.  Perhaps composed for private performance for the German-speaking court of George I, they were written during the same years as Handel’s greatest operas, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and deserve to be as widely known.

   Taken as a whole, I-90 Collective’s concert kicking off the second season of EMG’s “First Tuesdays” series exemplifies what is best in the ever-evolving world of authentic performance style: a passionate love of the music of the past combined with a determination to rediscover the sources that made it live in order to make it live again.

– Roger Downey

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