Celebrating the music of Handel and Vivaldi, played the way it was meant to be heard!

Review: TOSCA at Opera Theatre Of Saint Louis

It was a night to be outside enjoying the newly autumnal air. A night for listening to some great music, preferably live. On September 22, it was happening! Running along the south flank of the Metropolitan Opera House, Damrosch Park is often the setting for a variety of musical activities ranging from swing dancing to World Music and everything in between. On this first night of autumn, the Lincoln Center Restart Stages Initiative was host to the opening of the 37th season of the American Classical Orchestra. The name is a bit of a misnomer as the group specializes in the music of the Baroque and very early Classical periods, performed on original instruments, but no matter. It was an occasion to relax and enjoy. On this night the American Classical Orchestra played music originally written for performance out of doors.

The orchestra and their skillful and talented music director Thomas Crawford swept right into Georg Frideric Handel's 1717 Water Music. King George I had requested some music to accompany a barge ride on the Thames. Handel, ever the over-achiever, quickly produced not one but three sets of short dance-like movements (not meant to be dance-able) for the king's pleasure. The City of London provided another barge for the fifty musicians of the orchestra, and soon they were playing merrily away as the tide pushed them upstream. This became a true London moment when the Thames suddenly was full of many boats whose owners wanted to hear the concert. It must have been something like the Charles River in Boston on the Fourth of July. The King enjoyed the music so much that he had the orchestra play all three sets going up and coming back, with only one short break in the middle of the evening. They couldn't have sounded any better than the ACO's charming rendition.

Composed for a different King and an outdoor performance (thirty years later), Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks followed Water Music. Members of the string section of the orchestra played the entire concert standing, which is standard performance practice. The music director had an opportunity to explain the differences between some of the instruments, relative to their modern counterparts. At least one person was heard to say...
"that doesn't look like a normal French Horn, and it really doesn't sound like one either". It wouldn't have taken too much time to explain at least the horn and other brass, which are not what concertgoers are accustomed to seeing and hearing. The explanation would have gone far to enhance the audience's musical experience.If you attend one of their regular concerts, don't miss Maestro Crawford's pre-concert talks. These talks would definitely enlighten concert-goers to the sound world of the Baroque period (generally considered to be circa 1685-1750, with overlap from other musical styles).

The evening's soloist was the gifted Rachell Ellen Wong. Performing on a Baroque violin from the school of instrument builder Joachim Tielke (1641-1719), Ms. Wong gave a scorching hot, accurate, and thrilling performance of Antonio Vivaldi's "Summer" from "The Four Seasons". She had some fun interplay with the first violinist and inspired the orchestra to even greater heights of Baroque fireworks. Look for her at other concerts in the metropolitan area.

The ACO is New York-based. This was the first of five concerts, all of which have a theme and take place mostly at Alice Tully Hall. One will be presented at an historic Harlem parish. Tickets, subscriptions and much more information is available at or 212-362-2727.

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