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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 »

by Mike Telin and Daniel Hautzinger

AF-Countryside-Sorrell“I’m excited because I feel like it might be one of the better things that I’ve put together,” Apollo’s Fire artistic director Jeanette Sorrell exclaimed about her new program during a recent interview. While putting together her previous Appalachian-inspired program, “Come to the River,” Sorrell said, “I was pretty much a newcomer to the field. This time I feel I’m starting from a deeper place.”

Beginning on Thursday, June 12, and continuing through Sunday, June 22, at venues throughout the area (see our concert listings page for times and locations), Apollo’s Fire will present “Glory on the Mountain: An Appalachian Journey.” The concerts will feature the mixture of fiddle tunes, ballads, shape-note hymns, and spirituals that typify Appalachian music. (An extra performance on Saturday, June 14 at 3:00 pm has just been announced.)

“With ‘Come to the River’ I spent two years researching fiddle tunes and ballads from Appalachia and it was a wonderful introduction into that repertoire. I had heard some lovely ballads when I was in the Shenandoah Valley as a teenager, but it was not the music that I was performing and studying as my profession,” Sorrell recalled. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

AF SJApollo’s Fire has made a name for itself in over twenty years’ worth of vivid and passionate interpretations of early music on period instruments. Now, founder and artistic director Jeannette Sorrell has taken her ensemble in a new direction with a program of Jewish music from Spain and Italy entitled “Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews,” which is making the rounds of venues in Akron, Cleveland Heights, Beachwood and Rocky River from February 20-25. I heard the performance on February 21 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights.

The creative team that put “Sephardic Journey” together included Sorrell, co-director and soprano Nell Snaidas, bass Jeffrey Strauss and cellist René Schiffer, who brought their collective arranging skills and individual experiences to the task. Schiffer, who transcribed some pieces from recordings, also contributed his own, newly-composed setting of Adon Olam, commissioned by Daniel Shoskes. Read the rest of this entry »

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 Timothy Robson

Schiffer-&-BrinkmannOne of the best things about Apollo’s Fire’s programs is that director Jeannette Sorrell and her musicians plan programs that are entertaining. They are scholarly, but not pedantic; instructive, but not condescending; and the expert musicians give every appearance of enjoying the act of performance, with awareness of their fellow musicians.

Such was the case again on Friday night, November 15, at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights, for the first of four performances of “Tangos and Fandangos,” an exploration of the Mediterranean musical styles from 18th century Spain that crossed the Atlantic and evolved into those sexy South American dances, the fandango and the tango. The full house responded enthusiastically to this unfamiliar music by Santiago de Murcia, Luigi Boccherini, Carl Friedrich Abel, and Apollo’s Fire regular René Schiffer (writing under the nom de plume René Duchiffre).

Baroque guitarists Simon Martyn-Ellis and William Simms opened the concert with 18th century Spanish composer and guitarist Santiago de Murcia’s Fandango (c.1730). The performers entered from opposite sides of the stage, bowed to each other and commenced a musical “duel,” trading phrases in increasing virtuosic variations above the descending bass line that is the hallmark of the fandango. The tension increased until the music dramatically stopped without warning. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Schiffer-&-Brinkmann“A lot of people play the gamba very softly and delicately,” said Apollo’s Fire gambist and cellist René Schiffer, “and I always thought that was wrong. You need to get what you can out of the instrument, and the gamba can be loud, especially when you play chords.”

Apollo’s Fire audiences will experience that brasher voice of the viola da gamba this week, as Cleveland’s baroque orchestra presents five performances of “Tangos and Fandangos with Boccherini and Friends” in area churches. The program includes René Schiffer’s “notorious” Tango Concerto for two gambas featuring Schiffer and his colleague Mime Y. Brinkmann. Elsewhere on the program the two soloists will swap out gambas for cellos to duel away in Schiffer’s Fandango.

“I chose the tango because I thought it was the perfect way to end a baroque concerto,” Schiffer said in a telephone conversation. “It has the strict rhythm of the baroque and an ostinato which relates it to the chaconne or any long piece with the same bass line played over and over again. Of course it is a total joke that two gambas are playing a tango — but at the same time, I think that when they are playing together they often sound like a bandoneón. And the noise that they can make — you never get to do that in a baroque piece.” 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 Daniel Hathaway

Lynn-Benefit

Only six months after receiving a liver transplant at Cleveland Clinic, Michael Lynn gathered a group of friends to present a benefit concert for the program that gave him a new life and restored his career as a performer on the recorder and baroque flute. “A Baroque Musical Conversation” drew a good-sized audience to Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Saturday evening, May 11 for masterful performances of concerted music by Telemann and Handel as well as cameo solo performances of works by Louis Couperin, Handel and Marais.

Lynn, who is professor of baroque flute and recorder and curator of musical instruments at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, was forced to give up performing four years ago due to his illness. His near-miraculous recovery was immediately evident in the opening selection, the Vivace from Telemann’s Concerto in D for two flutes, violin and cello, where he was joined by flutist Kathie Stewart, violinist Julie Andrijeski and cellist René Schiffer, with Jeannette Sorrell at the harpsichord and a backup orchestra of Miho Hashizumi and Rachel Iba, violins, Cynthia Black, viola, and Sue Yelanjian, contrabass. All the performers, who donated their services, have been longtime colleagues in professional period instrument ensembles in the region. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Apollo’sMcFarlane-Ronn Fire has cozy “fireside” events planned for its next two sets of concerts, “Intimate Vivaldi” from January 31-February 3 and “Intimate Bach, Part II” from March 14-17. The Vivaldi set will feature lutenist Ronn McFarlane in the “Red Priest’s” lute concertos and violinists Olivier Brault and Johanna Novom will join McFarlane in chamber music by Vivaldi’s musical forebears and colleagues Giovanni Zamboni, Dario Castello, Biagio Marini and Giovanni Legrenzi, assisted by violist Kristen Linfante, cellist René Schiffer and William Simms on theorbo and guitar.

McFarlane began his career as a blues and rock guitarist, but went on to study classical guitar at the Peabody Conservatory under Paul O’Dette, Roger Harmon and Pat O’Brien. By the late 1970s, McFarlane had switched his musical attention to the lute and helped found the Baltimore Consort.

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
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas