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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Concert Features Iconoclastic Ensemble

The Community Arts-Music Association (CAMA) is bringing to town the wild card of European ensembles, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), for a concert at 8 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.

The designated hitters — for the orchestra functions as a kind of commune (of the syndicalist, rather than hippie kind) — are violinist-director Nicola Benedetti and concertmaster-director Michael Gurevich.

There are two works by Ludwig Beethoven on the program, the "Symphony No. 4 in Bb-Major, Opus 60 (1805-06)," and the "Violin Concerto in D-Major, Opus 61, (1808)," the latter with Benedetti as soloist.

Although I could not find it baldly stated anywhere on its website, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is referred to everywhere else as "a British period instrument orchestra," and it was founded as such in 1986.

(Obviously, all such labels are anathema to the band, who perceive them as limiting.)

Also, the word "Enlightenment" in the name refers not to the Hindu desideratum, but to the period in the later 18th century when the writers, rulers and social reformers of Europe flattered themselves as "enlightened."

("... for a few years," wrote Lord Clark, "[France's] leaders suffered from the most terrible of all delusions. They believed themselves to be virtuous."] As an early mission statement put it: "The Ethos of the Orchestra is based on democracy."

Until one hears them play, it is plausible to be skeptical of OAE's manifestos which have probably been made way too much of by the press and well-intentioned public relations people — but once they put bow to string, lips to mouthpiece, they make a better case for their approach than any thousand articles in learned journals.

Their enthusiasm and their joy of music, coupled with their impeccable technique, can sweep you right off your feet.

Beethoven seems to speak pretty much the same way to every generation, regardless of the time frame of instruments. The future pulses in his music, seldom the past. He can be voluptuously sentimental; he is rarely nostalgic.

The "Symphony No. 4" is sandwiched between his greatest symphony and his best known. It is a lovely, graceful work, Beethoven inventing neo-classicism.

"Nobody," he said, "who truly understands my music, can ever know unhappiness again."

Tickets to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are $39-$119, and can be purchased at the Granada box office, by phone at 899-2222, or on line, https://ticketing.granadasb.org/single/SYOS.aspx?p=9963.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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