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Baroque & Beyond: RCO’s performance at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

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By Owen Bryant

As the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s 2022-23 season draws to a close, they still have a few treasures to share, this time transporting their audience back to the Baroque period. 

Performed at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral under conductor Kelly Kuo, last weekend’s program, “Baroque & Beyond” included some well-knowns like Vivaldi and Bach. It also featured some modern Baroque throwbacks that proved worthy counterparts to their predecessors from centuries past.

The first piece was actually the newest, composed in 2017. Frederik Magle’s “The Fairest of Roses” was a dreamy, flowing fanfare for two trumpets and organ, based on a Hans Adolph Brorson Christmas hymn. 

The piece requires the trumpeters to be placed “antiphonally” to provide a surround sound experience. With one on the stage, the other in the balcony, the cathedral was awash in reverberating sound. It was a shame the piece was also the shortest in the program, at around only five minutes.

Next up was Telemann’s “Don Quichotte Suite” in G major. If you know anything about Cervantes’ tale of Don Quixote, then you have an idea of just how whimsical this one was. Each movement, beginning with the Overture and the Awakening of Don Quixote, moved through several iconic moments from the story. 

Quixote’s disastrous battle with the windmills, his love for the imaginary princess, and his bumbling, donkey-riding sidekick Sancho are all given their own spotlights and the music brought them to life splendidly.

Vivaldi came next with another trumpet feature in three parts. A lively allegro announced the composer’s immediately recognizable signature sound, followed by a brief, but emotional largo section, that went straight into an almost reprise of the first allegro. I would usually expect a lengthier entry from Vivaldi, but this nicely wrapped little musical sandwich was perfectly suited for an afternoon spring concert.

The second modern piece, written in 2010, was Michi Wiancko’s “La Follia,” in a single movement. Though the original piece dates back to the Early Modern period, many composers have written their own variations, and Wiancko’s shines as brightly as any other. It alternated between slow and careful moments and more frenetic ones, creating some tension before the resolution offered by the final piece of the program.

No Baroque program would be complete without the ultimate master, Bach. His Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor rounded out the concert as only Bach could, this time with a harpsichord joining the orchestra, in full-on Baroque fashion. 

In seven movements, the audience journeyed through regal, pensive, jubilant, and playful soundscapes in such a perfect acoustic setting. The orchestra couldn’t have finished on a better note, so to speak.

The Reno Chamber Orchestra finishes up their season in a few weeks with their Brilliant Mind concert, May 20 and 21. I highly recommend catching it before the long wait until their next season. And although season subscriptions aren’t necessary, those interested in starting a new subscription may do so starting May 23. 

Visit www.renochamberorchestra.org for more details.

The Reno Chamber Orchestra performed at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral last weekend. Image: Stuart Murtland. Used with permission.
Conductor Kelly Kuo with Reno Chamber Orchestra. Image: Stuart Murtland. Used with permission.
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