Avital, Venice Baroque Orchestra strike sparks at Tropical Baroque Festival

By Peter James Learn

Mandolinist Avi Avital performed with the Venice Baroque Orchestra at the Tropical Baroque Music Festival Monday night in Miami Beach.

Mandolinist Avi Avital performed with the Venice Baroque Orchestra at the Tropical Baroque Music Festival Monday night in Miami Beach. Photo: Guy Hecht

Venice Baroque Orchestra, the award-winning, internationally-acclaimed period instrument ensemble, performed a stellar concert Monday night at Miami Beach Community Church, as part of the Tropical Baroque Music Festival. The venue was packed and the audience enthusiastic and appreciative, more than once applauding particularly well-played individual movements. Venice Baroque was joined by Grammy-nominated mandolinist Avi Avital.

The concert featured works by Vivaldi prominently, highlighting the Venetian theme of the evening. From the opening Sinfonia in C Major it was clear that this group performs at an extremely high technical level, displaying a wide expressive range and virtuosity. The orchestra’s rendition of the opening of the Sinfonia in D Minor was passionate and dramatic, and their ensemble control of tempo in the Adagio organic and fluid. First violinist Gianpiero Zanocco’s lyrical solo work was of particular note.

The Concerto for Lute in D Major, transcribed for mandolin, was the first appearance of Avital on the concert. This soloist has been collaborating with the Venice Baroque on both a recent recording project and joint tour, and his connection with the group was readily apparent. His brightly articulated passagework displayed poise and agility, and he held his own against the orchestra, even in forte tutti sections.

A younger contemporary of Vivaldi, Benedetto Marcello’s music is characterized by a combination of intricate counterpoint and progressive galant features. These characteristics were brought to the fore in the orchestra’s rendition of his Sinfonia in G Major, which also afforded harpsichordist Shalev Ad-El and lutist Ivano Zanenghi opportunities to display their soloistic chops.

In Vivaldi’s Double Concerto for Mandolin and Recorder, Avital was joined by Anna Fusek, whose playing was impressively incisive. The interlocking solo passages displayed a profound musical connection between these two artists, especially in the Andante’s poignant duets.

Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D Minor is patterned after Corelli’s variations on “La Folia.” The concertino, comprised of Zanocco, cellist Daniele Bovo, and violist Alessandra Di Vincenzo, displayed brilliant and lightning-fast playing, with a powerful and bombastic ensemble finale .

Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C Major is often considered one of his most challenging concerti. Avital’s performance in this work was sensitive and restrained yet still with a virtuosic and exciting edge. Giovanni Paisiello’s E-flat Major Mandolin Concerto followed this work and that composer’s operatic focus, belied by his lyrical, singing melodies, was highlighted by Avital and the ensemble. Avital’s cadenza in the Larghetto Grazioso was dramatically performed and full of sudden, colorful contrasts.

The evening closed with a performance of “Summer” from “The Four Seasons,” a work that Avital said has been a particular favorite of his since childhood. His transcription of the solo part for his instrument was well-executed and the ensemble effectively conveyed the stark contrasts of Vivaldi’s summer storm. Zanocco’s fine bow control was also evident in the sul ponticello passages.

The concert earned the orchestra and soloists a well-deserved extended and enthusiastic standing ovation.

The Miami Bach Society’s Tropical Baroque Music Festival concludes Tuesday night with the vocal ensemble Stille Antico 8 p.m. at Miami Beach Community Church. tropicalbaroquemusicfestival.org/.

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Tue Mar 3, 2015
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