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by Daniel Hathaway

AFatLECApollo’s Fire will present seven local subscription programs totaling thirty concerts during its 23rd season in 2014-2015. Additionally, Cleveland’s baroque orchestra will make its debut at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in December and at London’s BBC Proms next August, undertake a national tour of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in November, and appear on the Pittsburgh Renaissance & Baroque Society series in April.

The subscription concerts, to be presented in several venues, will begin with “Orchestral Fireworks,” the first of two celebrations of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th birthday. The programs will include works new to Apollo’s Fire’s repertory: the double harpsichord concerto in c (featuring artistic director Jeannette Sorrell and Joe Gascho), the Violin Concerto in E (featuring Olivier Brault) and the second orchestral suite (featuring flutist Kathie Stewart). The four concerts will run from October 9-12. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

SORRELL-Jeannette“It seemed like this was the next challenge,” said Apollo’s Fire artistic director Jeannette Sorrell. “Our Celtic program in particular made me ready to tackle something new.”

That something new will reveal itself this week as Apollo’s Fire presents five performances of “Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews” beginning on Thursday, February 20 at Fairlawn Lutheran Church, with subsequent concerts at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights (February 21), The Temple – Tifereth Israel in Beachwood (February 22 & 25) and Rocky River Presbyterian Church (February 23).

“I’ve always loved this music,” Sorrell told us by telephone from Houston, where she was conducting two complete cycles of Brandenburg Concertos — the kind of repertoire in which she’s made her reputation. “I’ve been working closely with Nell Snaidas and Jeffrey Strauss, who have sung Sephardic music all their lives — Jeff grew up in the cantorial tradition and Nell’s father was part of a Sephardic community in South America. It’s rewarding and brings us back to our roots.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Michael Praetorius

Michael Praetorius

Well before the more pietistic style of Lutheran church music that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote at Leipzig in the second quarter of the eighteenth century came the Italian-influenced, Renaissance style of Michael Praetorius, the subject of Jeannette Sorrell’s well-crafted and expertly performed Christmas Vespers with Apollo’s Fire, which began a four-concert run at Trinity Cathedral on Friday evening before moving on to three different venues around town.

You could hear the difference in approach in Philip Nicolai’s Wachet auf! Everyone knows the glorious, equal-note setting that ends Bach’s cantata of the same name. Not so familiar is the early form of the chorale tune with its dancelike, uneven rhythms, nor its delightful and ornate elaboration by Praetorius from his 1619 collection Polyhymnia caduceatrix. The latter, already bursting at its seams with exuberance, was decorated even further by Apollo’s Fire’s violinists and cornetto players (Olivier Brault, Johanna Novom, Kiri Tollaksen and Nathaniel Cox), who could barely force themselves to arrive at the final chord at several cadences. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

AF-Praetorius-VespersIn her program notes for this week’s concerts Apollo’s Fire artistic director Jeannette Sorrell writes, “Martin Luther had many students and disciples. One of them was named Praetorius, and that student had a son named Michael. Michael became – along with J.S. Bach – one of the two greatest composers in the history of Protestant church music.” Beginning on Friday, December 13 with performances continuing through the 16th at locations in Cleveland and Akron, Apollo’s Fire presents Praetorius Christmas Vespers: A Dramatic Holiday Celebration.

Compiled by Jeannette Sorrell and premiered in December 2005, the Christmas Vespers features the splendor of trumpets, sackbuts, virtuoso cornettos, antiphonal choirs, lutes, strings and recorders. The concerts also feature the Apollo’s Singers and the Apollo’s Fire Musettes, youth who have been chosen by Sorrell to perform Praetorius’s music intended for children’s voices. Returning to Cleveland and the Apollo’s Fire stage are three renowned soloists, sopranos Nell Snaidas, Teresa Wakim, and Amanda Powell.

I’m in love with the German music of this time period, and there’s something about this Christmas Vespers that Praetorius wrote and Jeannette put together. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SORRELL-JeannetteAfter I congratulated her on launching her ensemble’s twenty-second season, Apollo’s Fire founder and artistic director Jeannette Sorrell said, “We’re into adulthood now, and we’re in a really fantastic place regarding our artistic reputation.” Cleveland patrons don’t need to be reminded of the high quality of playing their resident baroque orchestra turns in on a regular basis, but a wider audience is now sitting up and paying attention.

One indication of Apollo’s Fire’s “grown-up” status: the ensemble has recently been picked up by Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI), “a big stamp of approval”, Sorrell said. “We’re the first period instrument orchestra to appear on their roster, and after twenty-one years of honing our craft and trying to perfect our art, it’s great to be getting global attention.”

We reached Jeannette Sorrell via Skype last weekend to chat about the multiple performances of seven programs that local audiences will enjoy in area church venues this season. It all begins with “Virtuoso Orchestra”, which opens on Thursday, October 10 at First Methodist in Akron and will be repeated on October 11 and 12 at Fairmount Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights and on October 13 at Rocky River Presbyterian.

Sorrell promises that the program will live up to its name with dazzling performances including Vivaldi’s concerto for four violins, Bach’s fourth Brandenburg Concerto and a novelty for local audiences, a concerto by J.D. Heinichen. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Michael Praetorius

Jeannette Sorrell brought the alternately dazzling and charming music of Michael Praetorius to life once again at Trinity Cathedral on Thursday evening, in her compilation program, “Christmas Vespers” — with a little help from Apollo’s Fire’s 20 instrumentalists, 27 adult singers and the 15 young vocalists who make up Apollo’s Musettes. And a near-capacity crowd of happy listeners.

Her sidespeople comprised six string players, including viola da gamba, a wind band of ten (recorders, cornetti, Trumpets, three sackbuts and percussionist) a continuo group of four (count them: three long-necked lutes or theorbos! — in addition to organ and harpsichord (Sorrell herself) and seven soloists who moved in and out of the choir during the complicated choreography that brought the right people to the right place for each variously scored piece.

Mostly drawn from the collection called Polyhymnia caduceatrix, compiled in 1619, two years before the composer’s death at the age of 50, but also using material from his Musica Sionae, Puericinium and the dance collection Terpsichore, the program ranged from the simple (chant and liturgical snippets, stark, early Lutheran chorales sung in unison and M.P.’s greatest hit, Lo, how a rose) to the fascinating polychoral complexity of works in the Venetian ceremonial style (Gloria sei Gott, and In Dulci Jubilo). Read the rest of this entry »

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