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MUSIC REVIEW

Whole Evening of Vivaldi Proves to Be Worth Effort

January 26, 1998|TIMOTHY MANGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An entire evening devoted to the music of Vivaldi would strike some as too much of a good thing. But Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra made it a worthy pursuit Friday at Pasadena's First United Methodist Church.

Lutenist and music director Michael Eagan steered mostly into unknown waters, choosing from the Italian composer's 700-plus works a number of his more neglected items. And the performances themselves had a redefining quality: Played by only 13 musicians on original instruments, Vivaldi showed delicate and tender qualities often missing from modern-instrument readings.

The program consisted largely of concertos, but some were in name only, having no soloists at all. One of these was the Concerto "Madrigalesco," with dark clouds of slow-moving, wheezing sonorities contrasted with up-tempo fugues.

Another unusual find, the Concerto for Violin "Senza Cantin," requires its soloist to tune the instrument in an unconventional way and, in the finale, avoid the use of the top string altogether. The result wasn't mere trickery but a darker and more robust sound. Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock produced hard-driving solos, cleanly played.

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Pared down to six musicians, the performance of the familiar Concerto for Lute and Two Violins took on a diaphanous texture, Eagan's fragile lute nicely focused at the center of the action.

Oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz gave a nimble account of the Concerto in C, RV 447, using to advantage his period instrument, which possessed a wonderfully mellow tone and ultra-smooth legato.

The continuo constituency was made up of an archlute, a cello, a harpsichord, a violone and a baroque guitar, providing a feathery base for the evening's proceedings. It should prove a distinctive contribution to the group's recording of this repertory, sessions for which take place this week.

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