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Venice Baroque Orchestra to play in Los Alamos

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

When most people think of the recorder, the first thing that typically comes to mind is that the instruments are given out for children to play in elementary school, world-renowned musician Anna Fusek said.

Anna Fusek

Anna Fusek

“If you play the recorder, you already play something strange,” she said.

Fusek said her instrument and its sound have evolved over the past several centuries, just like the music played with it.

Tonight, Fusek will be showing off the depth of recorder music as well as presenting an abridged history of Italian Baroque music with the Venice Baroque Orchestra. The VBO and Fusek, who is the featured guest soloist on the orchestra’s current U.S. tour, are stopping in Los Alamos.

The first half of the performance will feature pieces by Vivaldi, whose music is the “core” of the VBO’s repertoire, Fusek said in a Skype interview from the first tour stop in Amherst, Mass.

The Prague-born, Berlin-based musician, who also plays violin and flute along with the wooden recorder, has toured frequently with the famous string ensemble since 2009.

After intermission, the show will take a chronological look at Italian music, starting in the 14th century and moving forward to Vivaldi again. For the various pieces, she will change up her recorders to match what was played in different eras.

“Making this little trip through Italian Baroque music, it gives me the possibility to show the different facets of the recorder, the different recorders, different sounds, the possibility of the instrument,” Fusek said. “I thought it would be nice to do something different than what usually the orchestra does as a program.”

The program’s second half begins with a piece by Laurentius de Florentia dating to the mid-1300s. She said this “simple, very mellow” music can feel like it comes from another planet because of how its rhythmic structures differ from popular styles centuries later.

The program jumps to the 17th century with an overture from Francesco Cavalli’s “Il Giasone.” Cavalli wrote for the royal courts of his time, meaning his compositions needed to be big.

“Not something intimate, chamber music-like, but also something where the court has to feel good and be well-represented,” Fusek said.

The next two 17th-century composers, Spanish-influenced Andrea Falconieri of Naples and Tuscany-born Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli, are known in the chamber music world, but little is left of what they composed. Some music scholars have questioned if Mealli existed at all.

But he has was real, Fusek said. In fact, historians discovered he murdered a man in Messina, Sicily and fled the country. Fusek said what survives today are the sonatas he wrote before the murder when he was living in Austria around 1660. All of his sonatas characterize different musicians he worked with during that time. The Mealli piece that VBO and Fusek will play, “La bernabea,” is believed to be written about an organ player, Fusek said.

“He must have been very temperamental and very moody,” she said with a laugh. “You have six or seven minutes of music and there are like 12 tempo changes. It’s really crazy stuff.” Her recorder for this piece fits in with that “rougher” style, she added. It has larger holes and, because of that, makes a more “round-toney” sound.

That rough tone is left behind with an Arcangelo Corelli concerto that she describes as a more peaceful, classical sound that embodies what most listeners think of when it comes to the Baroque era. Finally returning to Vivaldi, with a three-movement concerto for recorder and strings, she said her instrumentation for his decadent style is a far cry from what’s needed for Mealli.

“What they wanted to hear changed,” she said of 18th-century listeners. “It’s much more subtle, much more refined.”

Other featured musicians include concertmaster Gianpiero Zanocco and cellist Massimo Raccanelli Zaborra. The performance, presented by the Los Alamos Concert Association, begins at 7 p.m. at Crossroads Bible Church.