Entering Mandell Hall, nestled inside one of the old historic buildings ubiquitous on University of Chicago’s campus was like unearthing a rare gemstone. It continues as a sweet little surprise as you snake your way down the hallway, clad with university students, until it opens up unto the doors of the venue. The beautiful renaissance interior was in complete synchronicity with the baroque classics Concerto Köln played.
University of Chicago Presents Hosts a Refreshing Interpretation of the Classics
With this Chicago debut, Concerto Köln, a cultural ambassador of the European Union, dazzled the audience with their refreshing passionate renditions of early music. Playing the world renowned Vivaldi Four Seasons, along with pieces of Locatelli and Valentini, this ensemble highlighted all the important parts of what made these classics, yet with a dash of their own spice. An engaging moment was in Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1 (Spring) where the musicians softly whistled and “hoo’d” against the strings. This clever bit got the audience chuckling under their breath as the instruments became the sounds of summer, and their voices became the awakening of birds; a rebirth of life emerging from a cold winter. Additionally when the ensemble played Valentini’s Concerto for Four Violins in A Minor, Op. 7, No. 11, they inserted a little Four Seasons riff creating a remix of these two classics. All of these twists produced a performance that was full of flavor and ingenuity; delivering something new to the audience.
In Locatelli’s Concerto for Four Violins in F Major, Op. 4, No.12, a pleasing call and response happens between the four violin concertmasters. It is a moment of connection between the players as they converse with their strings. A visible, delighted reaction is seen on each soloists’ face. They are enjoying themselves. Having visual stimulation and being able to connect with the artists in moments like these is notable. We not only hears these four varying violin sections but they get to witness the artists speaking their musical language too.
What is admirableof Concerto Köln, , in this writer’s view, is that they are a conductorless orchestra. This means that they do not have a director that stands in front, guiding the ensemble with a stick. With this self-governing orchestra, each member is responsible for steering the ship. There is mutual balance between the players. This requires skilled musicians who know each other well and can speak the same dialect musically. The role of concertmaster is someone who has a vision for the team. This person(s) has a plan of how the rehearsal process goes, gives feedback, gives cues, and stands as a head figure.
What seemed to be celebrated within this 80 minute performance, was the freedom with which the musicians played,. Each artist let their individuality shine through, which created colorful visual cues. This reviewer was mesmerized at the ensemble, consisting of 15 people, who would seamlessly communicate. They all would jump in at the exact same moment after a pause, or drop out at precisely the right time save for a violin soloist. The way that they communicated with their eyes and bodies with one another onstage transfixed. Their performance was reminiscent of dancers who submit their body to let the art (in this case music) shine through. These musicians were so finely tuned, in all senses, that their instruments were only an extension of their limbs.
Concerto Köln devises a performance through craft and creativity that is sure to captivate any audience member.
Shunske Sato, violin
Mayumi Hirasaki, violin
Evgeny Sviridov, violin
Jesús Merino Ruiz, violin
Vivaldi: Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor, Op. 3, No. 10, RV 580
Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1, RV 269 (Spring)
Concerto in G Minor, Op. 8, No. 2, RV 315 (Summer)
Locatelli: Concerto for Four Violins in F Major, Op. 4, No. 12
Valentini: Concerto for Four Violins in A Minor, Op. 7, No. 11
Vivaldi: Concerto in F Major, Op. 8, No. 3, RV 293 (Autumn)
Concerto in F Minor, Op. 8, No. 4, RV 297 (Winter)
For more information and schedule of upcoming concerts, visit the University of Chicago Presents webpage.
Photos courtesy of University of Chicago
About the Author:
Francesca Baron is a freelance Chicago based choreographic + performing artist. Graduating cum laude with dual degrees in Dance and Psychology from Lindenwood University. Francesca is drawn to dance because it allows for dynamic expression through the instrument of one’s body. Making it a priority to travel and train in leading modern/contemporary dance forms, Francesca has attended The American Dance Festival (NC), One Body, One Career intensive (Amsterdam, NL), FACT S/F workshop (CA), New Dialect intensive (TN), LINK Dance Festival (UT), and Detroit Dance City Festival (MI), as well as many Chicago festivals and intensives. She has also been commissioned to create works for Inaside Chicago Dance, Esoteric Dance Project, New Dances 2019, and Lindenwood University. Currently, she is a company member of Still Inspired(?) as they prepare for their sixth season.
Learn more about Francesca at Francesca Baron website