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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 10:03 pm | Fair 46º


Gerald Carpenter: Academy Chamber Orchestra to Throw 18th-Century Party

Saturday's concert — its last of the season — will feature works by Bach, Handel and Beethoven

The marvelous Music Academy of the West Chamber Orchestra will offer its second and final concert of the season at 8 p.m. Saturday in the lofty, sonorous confines of First Presbyterian Church, at State and Constance streets.

The ebullient baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan will conduct works by Johann Sebastian Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, BWV 1046), George Frideric Handel (Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351) and Ludwig van Beethoven (Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93).

As a definition of the character of a piece of music, the term “baroque” is fairly slippery. My OED says the word is “of uncertain origin,” but that its variants throughout the romance languages all mean a “rough and imperfect pearl.” To historians of the Early Modern Period — including yours truly — “baroque” refers mainly to the aesthetic wing, sponsored or not, of the Roman Catholic “Counter-Reformation.” Its political resonance is, thus, mainly reactionary.

So far, we would have to exclude Bach and Handel, on the grounds that they were both Protestants, and Beethoven, on account of his revolutionary fellow-traveling. With respect to composers, the safest way to go is to file all music written in England and Europe from 1590 to 1750 under “baroque” and let it go at that.

The style, if we can call it that, was born in Italy and was perfected in the course of the 17th century by Claudio Monteverdi, Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Purcell and Heinrich Schütz.

Bach played and studied every score he could lay his hands on by Antonio Vivaldi and Tomaso Albinoni, and transcribed/arranged their concertos often. Handel spent his formative years in Italy, and remained, for all practical purposes, an Italian composer all his life — though, I admit, you can hear a bit of French pomposity in the Music for the Royal Fireworks.

But was Beethoven a “baroque” composer? He has his moments, certainly — such as in the Overture to the Consecration of the House, when he seems to be channeling Handel. The Symphony No. 8, however, I would, if pressed, call “neo-classical.” He is looking back, to be sure, but only as far as Haydn and Mozart, and he seems equally intent on prefiguring the symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn. In any case, however we label it, the work is one of his most lighthearted.

Tickets are $40. To purchase tickets or for more information about the Music Academy, click here or call 805.969.8787.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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