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Concert Preview: SBO: Vivaldi Folia

December 20, 2010

Byron Schenkman

Early Edition asked Byron Schenkman, Artistic Director of Seattle Baroque Orchestra, to share some thoughts about the upcoming SBO concert Vivaldi Folia on January 2, 2011.  Here’s what he had to say:

It’s Hanukkah this week, a time I often reflect on what being Jewish means to me and how to honor my heritage while also enjoying being a fairly assimilated member of American society.  In that context it’s quite extraordinary to be preparing to perform works by Salomone Rossi, one of the greatest Jewish composers in the history of Western music.  Rossi may have reflected on similar themes at this time of year.  On the one hand he worked with all the greatest musicians of his time (most of whom were Catholic), including Claudio Monteverdi; and Rossi was influential enough that the law that Mantuan Jews were to wear yellow stars of David was waived in his case.  On the other hand he composed and published a huge repertory of sacred Jewish liturgical music.  So as I lit my Hanukkah candles early on Saturday in order for them to burn down in time to go hear the Monteverdi Vespers at St. James Cathedral, I wondered if Rossi had ever lit his candles early to get to his performances with Monteverdi back in the early 17th century.

One of the strongest elements of my cultural heritage is music: my father came from a family of classical musicians and I have relatives in all generations who play music ranging from classical, to bluegrass, to rock and roll.  Jewish music has taken many forms over the centuries and Salomone Rossi’s work is just one especially brilliant example from a particularly exciting time in music history.

Early Music Guild’s performances of the Monteverdi Vespers last weekend have launched us on a wonderful exploration of Venetian Baroque music from Monteverdi to Vivaldi.  For our January 2nd Seattle Baroque concert, we’ll be juxtaposing some of our favorite Vivaldi with music by some of the virtuoso violinists who worked with Monteverdi first at the court in Mantua and later at St. Mark’s in Venice.  Salomone Rossi and Biagio Marini were among the first superstar violinists and their fun and flashy music really paved the way for the popular music of Vivaldi a hundred years later.

I am also especially delighted to be launching the Seattle Baroque Soloists, a new ensemble featuring five principal players from the Seattle Baroque Orchestra:  Ingrid Matthews and Tekla Cunningham, violins; Nathan Whittaker, cello; John Lenti, theorbo, and me on harpsichord.  Our plan is to develop this as a touring ensemble –all five of us perform all over North America in different guises and this is an opportunity for us to join together and represent the home team as it were.  I am tickled to get to work with such a great group of colleagues right here in Seattle!

Seattle Baroque Orchestra: Vivaldi: Folia

Sunday, January 2 at 3PM; pre-concert lecture at 2PM at Town Hall Seattle

Click here for tickets

For more information about this and other Seattle Baroque Performances, visit

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