Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Arion Baroque Orchestra


Arion Concert, Bourgie Hall, January 13th, 2 p.m.

Andrew McAnerney

The moment Andrew McAnerney’s choir began to sing with Arion Baroque Orchestra’s playing, the world stood still. The choir’s sublime tonal harmony cast a continual spell on us all as Mr. McAnerney gently wafted his baton, conducting the sixteen choral members of his choir, Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal of which he is the artistic director.
Opening the 2019 season with an all-Purcell program, the concert featured three of the 17th-century composer’s solemn anthems which were played at funerals during the English composer’s life. The first one we heard, Thou Knowest Lord the Secret of our Hearts was expressly written for the composer’s own funeral, and was indeed played at his burial in 1695.
Hear my Prayer, O Lord followed, and then came the memorable Jehova, quam multi sun hostes mei.  This almost modern-in-feel daring work was striking in its lyric and expression, as the amazing tenor, Nils Brown, sang with command the first part of the lyric. Then baritone, Normand Richard exclaimed like a call to arms, “Surge Surge Jehova…. “

tenor, Nils Brown
baretone, Normand Richard

The pair expressed this work’s Latin lyric with such intense conviction, we felt we were beginning to feel Purcell’s depth, not to mention, we immediately wanted to go out and relearn our Latin from school.
This third anthem focused on foes. It featured some vivid, even violent descriptions: “Strike all my enemies on the jaw, break the teeth of the wicked.” This, he implores the Lord to do. No mincing words here!
Purcell ‘s sacred music demands a perfect if not restrained balance of unified tonal vocals that highlight polyphonic passages. This was majestically achieved by the singers’ as they followed the direction of their sagacious choir master, Mr. McAnerney.
Versatility, melodic inventiveness and baroque fugues jumped from rhythmic lightness and alacrity to robust attacks such as in the Welcome to All the Pleasures – the final piece on this outstanding program characterized the composer’s musical ingenuity. Never a dull moment!

soprano, Stephanie Manias
What a delight to hear Mme Stephanie Manias angelic soprano voice, and when it intertwined  in one part with soprano, Rebecca Dowd’s, stunning voice, we felt we had touched heaven. It was as if these two twittering song birds guided us there for just a brief moment.  Likewise, counter tenor, Nicholas Burns was hypnotic in his heart-felt mellifluous delivery – a striking comparison to Nils Brown’s dramatic delivery in this joyous work.

counter tenor, Nicholas Burns

One must also mention that Claire Guimond’s Arion Baroque Orchestra made its own celestial instrumental voice heard both in Chaconne pour cordes et basse continue en sol mineur, Z.730, and also in the Overture of the Ode for the Celebration of Sainet Cécile.
Invigorating at times, lofty with lingering sweetness at other times, 
Purcell work is brimming with colourful contrasts as heard in a minuet, jig, and air in the Ouverture et suite pour la piece Abdelazer or The Moor’s Revenge.
It was a matinee concert of divine music; it held up a highly polished mirror to Purcell’s many faces
One hopes Purcell who lived only 35 years is listening to his own music in Heaven.

One hopes to see more collaboration between Arion Baroque Orchestra and the Studio de Musique Ancienne

Don’t miss Arion’s fourth illustrious concert of the season, titled Les Écrivains de l’Âme. It features the compositions of Haydn, Mozart and Rossini with invited guest, clarinetist, Lorenzo Coppola. This concert takes place on March 14-17.

For more information, visit the website: www. arionbaroque.com or call 514-355-1825.


Enrico Onofri

One sure bet with Arion is the program never stints on choices and quantity. Illustrious guests offering world-class virtuoso playing is also a sure bet, such as witnessed during the matinee concert on May 5 inside Arion’s home turf (Bourgie Hall). Titled, A Little Night Music, the concert featured, violinist Enrico Onofri – a popular Arion guest favourite in his dual role as conductor and performer. His comfy rapport with Arion’s baroque string players is utterly pleasing.   
Composers on the program included Biber, Barsanti, Vivaldi, Boccherini and Mozart. Each piece captured the goings-on of night life, especially in Boccherin’s La Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid. Instrumental suitability vividly set the scene for all kinds of various street life. The parade at the end with its final diminuendo was mesmerizing. So softly was the fade of instruments you could almost see the street musicians of the night disappearing in the distance.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor was compelling as flutist Claire Guimond dialogued with violin and basse continue. The expressive performance spun a tapestry of breathtaking techniques, thereby conveying a variety of delicate and robust flavours - colorful music to evoke night-time surprises. This work had an almost avant-garde approach to instrumental roles. The largos and prestos offered exciting contrasts to one another – as did his Sinfonia tirée de la serenade.

All kinds of bowing and rhythms greeted our ears in almost every piece. The concert ended with Mozart’s Serenata nottura, K.239 for two violins, alto, bass, strings and kettledrums. Part-way through, one of maestro Onofri’s strings broke.  The unexpected happens when music of the night reaches the stars.  

Next season's  five concerts feature works by Telemann, Bach, Mozart, and Handel.
Book your tickets now. Call, (514) 355-1825. 
The website is www.arionbaroque.com

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