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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 Timothy Robson

FORSYTHE-Amanda-greenThis weekend Apollo’s Fire, directed by Jeannette Sorrell, gave four performances of their latest program, The Power of Love: Passions of Handel and Vivaldi. The featured soloist was the brilliant young soprano Amanda Forsythe. I heard the Friday night concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, with its newly renovated acoustics which livened up the sound considerably. The music was mostly Handel and Vivaldi, but Jean-Philippe Rameau made a couple of cameo appearances as well.

One of the hallmarks of Apollo’s Fire’s performances is the naturalness and freedom of their music-making. Although very carefully planned and rehearsed, the musicians always project a sense of spontaneity and improvisation. Also, Jeannette Sorrell is not afraid to make things her own, as exemplified in the program by two of her transcriptions of Vivaldi works that opened and closed the concert. The Allegro from the Concerto in D, RV511, originally for two violins, was arranged as a concerto grosso. It was stylishly done, and had the program not stated it that it was an arrangement, few would have been the wiser. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

JELEN-BRAULTScaled down for a Mozart symphony and concerto and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the Akron Symphony was lean and anything but mean on Saturday evening. The thirty-one players on the stage of E.J. Thomas Hall formed a tight, vibrant ensemble that responded like a high-performance sports car under the baton of Christopher Wilkins and the bow of Olivier Brault, and held bassoon soloist Todd Jelen in a warm embrace.

The highlight was a sensational performance of Vivaldi’s vividly pictorial quartet of violin concertos, for which, in a very smart and gracious move, Wilkins handed the conducting duties over to Brault. The Montréal violinist has dazzled Northeast Ohio audiences as concertmaster of Apollo’s Fire, but has rarely found himself in the position of having complete control over a performance.

Positioned in the middle of the string ensemble, Olivier Brault — always dashing and stylish — turned into a blur of kinetic energy, playing like a rock guitarist to his violin colleagues one moment, now swiveling around to communicate with the cellos and basses, then drawing himself in for intimate conversations with solo cellist Miles Richardson and harpsichordist Robert Mollard. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

JELEN-BRAULTA concerto is a normal and popular feature of symphony orchestra programs. On Saturday, January 11, Akron Symphony music director Christopher Wilkins will be offering two of them to the E.J. Thomas Hall audience. Wilkins and the ensemble will begin the evening with Mozart’s ingratiating Symphony No. 29 in A, then bring the ASO’s principal bassoonist, Todd Jelen, to the footlights for Mozart’s sole surviving bassoon concerto. The concert will conclude with Antonio Vivaldi’s popular quartet of violin concertos, The Four Seasons, with guest soloist Olivier Brault.

Brault is well-known to area audiences as the concertmaster for Cleveland’s baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, a position the Montréal-based violinist has held for the last four seasons while continuing to appear with such Canadian ensembles as Les Boréades de Montréal, Ensemble Caprice and La Bande Montréal as well as his own group, Sonate 1704.

He was appointed to Apollo’s Fire when artistic director Jeannette Sorrell felt the need to bring more continuity to the leadership of the orchestra’s strings after a period when the concertmaster’s duties had been shared around among several players. 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 Nicholas Jones

AF-Virtuoso-OrchestraAs Apollo’s Fire heads out on a real tour across North American, last weekend’s set of concerts gave us a virtual tour of some of the top orchestras across Europe—all without leaving our seats. Talk about not leaving a carbon footprint!

As simply and quickly as on Google Earth, listeners swooped from one musical capital to another — from Hamburg on the North Sea, south to Venice on the Adriatic, and across what we now used to call East Germany, from Cöthen and Leipzig to Dresden.

Each of the sojourns featured one of the composers who lived and worked in that town – Telemann in Hamburg, Vivaldi in Venice, and Bach in Leipzig and Cöthen. Dresden—one of the grandest of the orchestras and the pride of the Elector of Saxony—was represented by the little known Johann David Heinichen.

The theme, “virtuoso orchestra,” led music director Jeannette Sorrell to feature concertos in which Apollo’s Fire’s soloists could step forward and dazzle us as their counterparts 300 years ago must have done. 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 Guytano Parks

AF-Intimate-BachApollo’s Fire presented the first of four performances of “The Intimate Bach, Part II” as part of a series entitled The “Fireside” Concerts at Fairlawn Lutheran Church on Thursday, March 14. Three of the ensemble’s principal players, violinist Olivier Brault, flutist Kathie Stewart, cellist René Schiffer and the ensemble’s director, harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, performed music by Bach and Telemann.

The principal players of Apollo’s Fire were of one mind and spirit and their rapport was apparent as they opened the program with Telemann’s Paris Quartet No. 12 in e minor. Phrases were delivered sensitively with nuance and expressive ornamentation. The interplay between the performers in sequential sections and the echoing of phrases in others sounded personal, much like a conversation. Improvisatory writing in the Prelude plus sections of lyricism within the other movements nicely offset the lively nature of this work. Read the rest of this entry »

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Timothy Robson
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