Soprano Mueller, Firebird players scintillate in Vivaldi program

By Dorothy Hindman

Kathryn Mueller performed music of Vivaldi and Bach Wednesday night with the Firebird Chamber Orchestra in Miami.

Seraphic Fire’s Vivaldi concert featuring soprano Kathryn Mueller, trumpeter Billy Ray Hunter, and the Firebird Chamber Orchestra more than delivered on its promise Wednesday night. The compact program, titled “Vivaldi and the Soprano: Vocal Fireworks,” featured three thrilling works from the high Baroque: Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins and Cello in D minor RV 565; his motet In furore iustissimae irae RV 626; and Bach’s Cantata BWV 51 in D minor, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, all skillfully rendered in a sweet but all-too-short hour of music.

With the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, artistic director Patrick Dupré Quigley has assembled a young, attractive ensemble that brings vitality and enjoyment to their performance.  The light crispness associated with Vivaldi’s string writing was super-charged by the lively acoustic of downtown Miami’s St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church, resulting in a clear-etched sound with unusually resonant depth, aided subtly by Olukola Owolabi’s organ continuo.

Right off the bat, the strings commanded attention in the Vivaldi motet with a frenetic opening reminiscent of  his “Winter” from The Four Seasons. Mueller’s dizzying scales matched the strings for flash, her clarion soprano gaining added projection from the acoustic. Lithe and winsome, Mueller effortlessly interpreted Vivaldi’s rapid-fire lines and flourishes with a vibrant tone, terrific intonation, and judicious vibrato.

At her best in slower movements, Mueller played with straight tones, emphasizing dissonances for emotional impact. Most evident in the motet’s “Tunc meus fletus evadet” section, Mueller weaved in and out of the violin lines languorously, and her superb vocal control on the quiet ending was stunning.  Tossing off the extreme ranges of the final Alleluia expertly, Mueller demonstrated evenness and an oboe-like quality.

The Concerto, RV 565, is among hundreds of string concerti Vivaldi wrote while priest at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where the female illegitimate offspring of Venice’s upper class were trained to be virtuosic singers and string players. Vivaldi’s familiar technical demands and driving rhythms are on full display in this work for two violins and cello within a string ensemble setting.

Concertmistress Adda Kridler and principal second violinist Emilia Mettenbrink’s opening canonic salvo created a much larger effect than a duo, answered formidably by cellist Russell Rolen doubled by Sara Sitzer. Kridler burned through her prominent solos, especially in the Largo e spiccato, her tasteful elaborations and shining tone leading the edge of the ensemble sound.  Polyphonic music is always challenging to pull off with clarity, especially in a resonant hall, but Quigley’s sure-handed leadership and attentive balancing featured each musician favorably.

While German doesn’t trip off the tongue as easily as Latin, Mueller retained a flexible lightness on Bach’s Cantata BWV 51. Billy Ray Hunter, principal trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera, contributed a creamy, well-balanced Baroque obbligato, trading off brilliant lines with Mueller’s crystalline tone in the opening section.  Mueller’s subsequent recitative and aria, with Rolen and Owolabi’s refined continuo, delivered a powerful emotional punch.

But it was the chorale movement’s glistening, intricate passagework from the ensemble underlining Mueller’s long lines that really stood out.  Quigley’s tempo for the attacca final aria took a few measures to kick in, but the glorious sound of the full ensemble, and Mueller’s instrumental-like dialogue with Hunter, captured the ecstatic quality of Bach’s Alleluias.

The program will repeat 7:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Boca Raton; 7:30 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church, Coral Gables; 8 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church, Fort Lauderdale; and 4 p.m. Sunday at Miami Beach Community Church.; 305- 285-9060.

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Thu Mar 21, 2013
at 12:13 pm
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