CONNECTING WITH THE PAST EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL BROADENS HORIZONS IN IMAGINATION AND SOUND
In its 29th season, the Connecticut Early Music Festival’s 2011 concerts will bring listeners on a musical journey from the Middle Ages through the Classical era. The festivals’ six shows are all connected by a common thread, according to Artistic Director Eric Rice — they will examine the interaction between the countries north and south of the Alps, and the musical influences each region had on the other.
“It’s a fascinating period, because people didn’t do much traveling then, but musicians did. And while people think of Italy as the biggest influencer, the movers and shakers were actually from the north,” Rice said. “At the same time, the northern composers were looking at the influence of the Baroque style to bring that back home.”
Those who attend all six concerts, staged over three weekends in June, will have the benefit of the theme to orient them to the music. Performances range from opera featuring Handel’s Serse (Xerxes), to Renaissance music performed by an ensemble directed by
14 Rice, to The Pianos of Vienna and London, featuring a replica of a 1795 Viennese piano and a restored 1806 piano. Certain shows will feature a preconcert talk given by Rice, and receptions with the performers immediately following.
Presenting concerts based on a specific theme is something Rice says the festival does each year, in part because it helps them select which musical groups to feature.
While the term“early music” covers a lot of ground, this year’s festival covers works spanning from the 14th through the 19th centuries, with the most recognizable period from 1700 to 1900, the time of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
Over time, said Rice, people realized that the way music was performed from the 19th century on is not the way it was performed in earlier times, and revivals such as these replicate the sound of the original work to bring the composer’s original intentions to light. Period instruments, including the pianos used in this year’s recital, are essential to this mission and lend variety to the festival’s offerings.
This year’s concerts will be held in various locations including Stonington and Old Lyme, but the majority of the performances will be held at Evans Hall and Harkness Chapel on the Connecticut College campus. Rice is hoping to “reach as far afield as possible” in attracting new audiences, especially young people.
“It’s more expensive to produce than a movie, and it demands more work from the audience,” Rice said. “But people get past that when they realize it actually has a great deal of popular appeal.”
While aficionados of early music will recognize some of the performers, Rice said he hopes people by now have come to understand, and expect, the high caliber of performers the festival employs each year in every show.
He said he feels early music has become a constant on the shoreline, another perk on the list of items making this piece of the world a desirable place to live. “These cultural institutions help make an area what it is,” he said. “Having a lot of options is key.”
Education is also key in getting the community engaged in the world of early music. The festival presents programs in area schools to encourage the younger generation to gain a different perspective.
“The performers we have connect with the past, and that’s not what students come across anymore in music,” Rice said. “We want students to think about what music is, what it does, and how it speaks differently than an old book or painting. We want them to imagine.”
For tickets or more information, visit www.ctearlymusic.org or call 860-439-2787.
OPERA - HANDEL’S SERSE (XERXES)
Featuring the Arcadia Players 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11 Evans Hall, Conn. College
FROM AVIGNON TO THE SISTINE CHAPEL
Ensemble Origo 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12 Christ the King Church, Old Lyme
VIVALDI AND BACK
Sinfonia New York 8 p.m. Saturday, June 18 Harkness Chapel, Conn. College
A MUSICAL BANQUET - 1610
My Lord Chamberlain’s Consort 5 p.m. Sunday, June 19 Harkness Chapel, Conn. College.
THE PIANOS OF VIENNA AND LONDON
Sylvia Berry 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25 La Grua Center, Stonington
Gabrieli, Monteverdi and Schutz 5 p.m. Sunday, June 26 Evans Hall, Conn. College