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Matthias Maute and Modern Musick

Early Music Festival on Ionarts:

Jens F. Laurson, Cavalli, "La Didone" (June 18)

Charles T. Downey, Mozart, "Idomeneo" (June 4)
The theme of this summer's Washington Early Music Festival is the music of Italy. There have been several concerts, including two major operatic performances, over the past three weekends, but the festival truly gets under way this week with a series of performances all week long, both at noon and in the evening, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church here on Capitol Hill. We were there last night to hear local group Modern Musick give an all-Vivaldi program to kick things off. I have written before about St. Mark's, one of the loveliest churches in my neighborhood, with its Tiffany stained glass window (Christ Leaves the Praetorium, created in 1888, after an illustration by Gustave Doré).

Matthias Maute, recorderThe audience was of a respectable size, many of them drawn, most likely, by the name of recorder virtuoso Matthias Maute, who joined the group for two concerti as soloist. I heard him last year as a soloist, also on an all-Vivaldi program, with the REBEL Ensemble at the Library of Congress and was mightily impressed. After this concert, he remains the most talented recorder player I have heard live in recent years. His first concerto was an adaptation of a violin concerto (B-flat major, RV 375), which offered plenty of opportunities for Maute to show off his many skills. He can riff off incredible spirals of detached runs, almost all individually set off in astounding clarity, and immediately switch to soaring long high notes, impeccably tuned and unchanging, all with extraordinary breath control. He has great flair in ornamentation as well -- for example, in the second movement of this concerto -- which is crucial in Baroque music, and not all players are created equal in this respect. He was no less impressive in his second concerto (C minor, RV 441). Because it was actually composed for the recorder, its demands seemed to fit more naturally under Maute's fingers.

Other Reviews:

Gail Wein, Washington Early Music Festival (Washington Post, June 21)
Modern Musick gave fine performances of two other concerti, as well, in their chamber-like arrangement (two violins, viola, cello, bass, harpsichord). The best selection was the C minor concerto for strings (RV 118), which showed the group's tendency toward a vivid rhythmic impulse to the best effect. John Moran played the solo part of the cello concerto (A minor, RV 420) with exciting gusto: difficult music on a difficult instrument. The ritornello of this piece's first movement (Andante) has an ear-pleasing double-violin effect, a sort of Venetian split, and the second movement (Adagio) is rousingly earthy. A sacred sonata ("al Santo Sepolcro," RV 130), which I also heard on another all-Vivaldi program last month, introduced a choral work, the Credo in E Minor, RV 591. The St. Mark's Chancel Choir made a good effort on the simple, mostly homophonic choral part (however, emphatically not, as Gail Wein put it in the Post in a rare moment of outrageous hyperbole, a sound that "rivaled the best professional choruses"), over a thrilling running continuo part and quick, buzzing violin accompaniment.

Get out your Ionarts workbooks. All fans of Baroque music and the recorder, in particular, are advised to go to St. Mark's this evening (June 20, 8 pm), when Matthias Maute will give a solo recital on recorder and traverso. The program includes Bach's Partita for Flute, Marais's variations on "La Follia," and an 18th-century transcription of Vivaldi's Spring Concerto for flute.

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