If it’s March, it must be time to celebrate the music of the Baroque, and this Friday, the 14th iteration of the Miami Bach Society’s Tropical Baroque Festival gets under way.
The Society, founded more than two decades ago by the University of Miami’s Donald Oglesby, routinely gathers a number of excellent ancient-music ensembles to its programming, with Jay Bernfeld’s Fuoco e Cenere a repeat visitor. The concerts, which will focus this year on music of Italy, will be held in a variety of venues in Coral Gables.
The festival opens this year with the splendid jazz pianist and dean of the UM School of Music, Shelly Berg, who will take a leaf from the Jacques Loussier playbook and open at Riviera Presbyterian Church with a concert of jazz-influenced Bach and his great Italo-Spanish contemporary, Domenico Scarlatti.
Next, at St. Philip, is Paris-based Fuoco e Cenere (which means “fire and ash”). The group is on the bill twice, first with a program of Biblical cantatas – including by the Frenchwoman Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre — featuring the Israeli soprano Claire Meghnagi on Saturday night, and then next Friday (March 8, Biltmore Hotel) with a concert of Italian Baroque music called The Cardinal’s Music, which with the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and a looming conclave of cardinals seems up to the minute and appropriate. Music by Corelli and Locatelli is on that program, which features harpsichordist Jean Rondeau.
Other important groups on the program include the medieval music ensemble Mala Punica, based in Italy and led by the Argentine recorder virtuoso Pedro Memelsdorff. This group specializes in music of the late Middle Ages, and its Monday concert at Coral Gables Congregational will feature Italian music from around 1400, which is not only pre-Baroque, it’s pre-Renaissance.
Mezzo Eugenia Burgoyne performs Italian music from the period when bel canto was making its first appearance along with the string concerto, on March 5 (at St. Thomas Episcopal) with I Virtuosi delle Muse, a Cremonese octet that specializes in Italian and German music of the 17th and 18th centuries.
France’s Le Poème Harmonique, which focuses on French and Italian music of the early 17th century, presents a program evoking Venice in the early Baroque era, “when art music and popular forms came together and mingled, and feelings and freedom of language had not yet been held in check by rules and codes,” as the group says. The March 7 concert at the Church of the Little Flower will contain music by Monteverdi and Manelli, among others.
The Turin-based harpsichordist Luca Guglielmi explores the roots of sonata form in his March 6 concert at the Coral Gables Museum, in music by J.S. Bach, Hasse, Galuppi, Vivaldi, Marcello and Platti; the recital closes with Bach’s Italian Concerto, one of his loveliest keyboard works.
Local musicians also are involved, with trumpeter Brian Neal and his Brass Miami performing Sunday at the Biltmore to the accompaniment of live fireworks, which should give the proceedings something of a regal flavor. The Festival ends March 9 with Oglesby and tenor Tony Boutté joining forces for a program at the Biltmore of Italian Baroque arias. More information is available by visiting www.tropicalbaroquemusicfestival.org.
Ehnes String Quartet: The Canadian violinist James Ehnes lives these days in Brandon, near Tampa, from where he pursues a well-regarded international career. A couple years ago he formed a string quartet featuring standout players such as cellist Robert DeMaine, newly named principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti and violist Richard O’Neill.
This Sunday afternoon at St. Andrews Episcopal in Palmetto Bay, the Ehnes is featured in the Friends of Chamber Music of Miami series with a program of the String Quartet (in B minor, Op. 11) of Samuel Barber (with its famous Adagio), the Ravel String Quartet (in F), the Italian Serenade of Hugo Wolf, and the Quartet No. 8 (in C minor, Op. 110) of Dmitri Shostakovich. More information and tickets for the 4 p.m. concert can be had by visiting www.miamichambermusic.org.
Rodrigo for harp: Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, easily the best-known of all guitar concerti, is heard this weekend at concerts by the Miami Symphony Orchestra, but in a different guise. Harpist Kristi Shade, harpist for the Chamber Orchestra of New York, will play Rodrigo’s own 1974 arrangement of his concerto for harp. Conductor Eduardo Marturet also will lead his band in the Italian Symphony (No. 4 in A, Op. 90) of Mendelssohn and the Mother Goose Suite of Ravel. Concerts are Saturday night at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and Sunday night at the New World Center in Miami Beach. Visit wwwthemiso.org for tickets or more information.
Shade, a University of Miami graduate, sticks around another day for a concert Monday night at the M Building in Miami, when she will be joined by harpist Kathryn Andrews, the other member of Duo Scorpio, which the two harpists formed in New York; it’s named for their shared zodiac sign, and indeed, the two women were both born on exactly the same day: Nov. 5, 1982.
The pair will play music from its first album, Scorpion Tales, which was released late last year. Tickets and more information for the 7:30 p.m. concert can be found at www.musimelange.com.