August 18, 2011

The second in Bourbon Baroque’s summer series, Storms for String Orchestra performed last Thursday, August 18, at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, was absolutely brilliant! The program opened with the curious programmatic “battle” piece, Battalia, for string orchestra by Bohemian-Austrian Baroque composer and violinist, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. We know very little about his early education, however, Biber had an impeccable reputation and his violin performance skills were very highly regarded. From the first movement to the ending Lamento, our ears were drenched with beauty, sadness, chaos, gunfire, and even drunken soldiers.

Following the battle by Heinrich Biber was J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in D, BWV 1054 which, by the way, is a transcription of his second Violin Concerto, BWV 1042. Harpsichordist, John Austin Clark, played this piece beautifully – clean crisp runs and meticulous rhythms. The ensemble playing here was amazing – a meeting of the musical minds!
Austin Clark is one of the co-artistic
directors of Bourbon Baroque.
The next delight of the evening was by Claudio Monteverdi, the composer described as marking the transition from the Renaissance style of music to the Baroque period.  His “Zefiro Tornae di Soavi Accenti”, from Scherzi Musicalli II was performed by sopranos, Youngmi Kim and Kelly Bailou. The text is very pastoral with Zephyrus returning with sweet accents and making the flowers dance in the meadows, etc. Youngmi and Kelly  performed this piece with voices of angels. They had the period style under control with straight tones, loud-soft dynamic contrasts and beautiful coloratura lines.

You can’t have a summer Baroque Music concert without playing “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. “The Four Seasons” is a set of four violin concertos published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, entitled Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention). This is probably Vivaldi’s most famous work, and one of the most popular pieces of Baroque music. It was exhilarating to hear violinist, Nicholas Fortin, in the solo role in this piece. His performance was full of excitement, passion, expression, and animation. He is an incredible musician and violinist.  
The concluding work this evening was by French composer and viol player, Marin Marais, born in Paris in 1656. Marin Marais who was a student of Lully, was an extraordinarily gifted composer and performer who left us the most important body of music for the viola da gamba in France. The Symphonies from “Alcione” is a set of dance movements that are just charming and they were” charmingly” played by this very skilled ensemble.

The audience seemed to be fascinated with look and sound of the long necked theorbo and the baroque guitar. I adore having these instruments in a baroque ensemble as they  add another tier of texture to the overall sound. David Walker did a great job juggling the two instruments and never missed a note. It was another great evening in the barn with Bourbon Baroque!

Yew Dell Gardens next concert features pianist and composer Harry Pickens and the Harry Pickens Trio. The September 15 concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members; $20 for non-members and may be purchased at For directions and more information call 502.241.4788. The property is located at 6220 Old LaGrange Road, Crestwood, KY 40014.