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Gypsies Invade Dumbarton Oaks

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Vivaldi: The Baroque Gypsies, Ensemble Caprice, M. Maute

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Telemann: The Baroque Gypsies, Ensemble Caprice, M. Maute

Dumbarton Oaks’ Friends of Music Series
(The Washingtonian, October 19)
In their home in Georgetown, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss had a room dedicated to music performances. Now that their house -- better known as Dumbarton Oaks -- is a museum, it hosts a series of concerts in that room to continue the tradition. It’s one of the most intimate and beautifully appointed venues for chamber music in the city, a place where one can listen to historical music while surrounded by Renaissance tapestries, paintings by Jacques Daret and El Greco, a medieval altarpiece panel by Bernardo Daddi, and a wood Madonna by Tilman Riemenschneider.

The Friends of Music series opened its concert season this past weekend with a performance by the Montreal-based Ensemble Caprice, heard on Monday night. The program was selected to prove a minor point sometimes made by historians about the palette of musical sounds that influenced the compositional style of Antonio Vivaldi. Although based for much of his life in Venice, Vivaldi traveled widely in Europe, including trips to Prague and Vienna to oversee performances of his operas. In addition, his base of operations in Venice, the Ospedale della Pietà, was on the Riva degli Schiavi, the canal where visitors coming from Eastern Europe arrived in Venice. Both of these facts suggest that he was exposed to the playing of itinerant Romani (Gypsy) musicians; that as a talented violinist he may even have played with them; and that he imitated some of their folk idioms in his own compositions. Ensemble Caprice, a small group of musicians playing on historical instruments, tried to demonstrate that connection with selections from Vivaldi’s instrumental works, mostly concertos, alternated with arrangements of folk tunes from the extraordinary 18th-century collection of Romani music Uhrovská zbierka, a book found in a town in modern-day Slovakia.
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