If I were to look at a random cross-section of my favorite bits of music across genres, much of it — mazurkas by Chopin, Le Sacre du Printemps, New Order 12″ remixes, even the cheeky Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO — is inherently dance music. Baroque music in particular is riddled with dance-based themes. A quick look at the titles of some of the most popular works from this era, say Handel’s Water Music, and you find minuets, riguadons, and bourrées; we hear this music all the time, but what do the associated dances actually look like?
Answering that question was the underlying premise of the second concert of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “Baroque Conversations” series. Patricia Mabee, the orchestra’s Principal Keyboardist, hosted the event which featured music presented in a low-key, less formal manner followed by an opportunity for audience Q&A with the performers.
The evening began with an energetic rendition of Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in D Minor, “La folia,” played by an ensemble led by Tereza Stanislav’s beautiful and crisp violin playing. John Schneiderman followed with two compact solo works for baroque guitar by Gaspar Sanz, and he imbued them with an expressive joy that drew smiles from the audience. Roland Kato, LACO’s Principal Viola, then introduced the audience to his viola d’amore, a relative of the modern viola, but with seven playing strings and another seven additional “sympathetic” strings below them which vibrate when the top seven are bowed. He and his colleagues played Wilhelm Ganspeck’s Overture in A major for Viola d’Amore & Violin, a somewhat misleading title given that the work includes seven dance-inspired movements, including a Passepied, Gavotte, Bourrée, and Gigue, among others. Mr. Kato later admitted to the crowd that because the instrument had three more strings than his usual viola, he had some trouble with his bow inadvertantly playing the wrong string; despite this, the appeal of the charming work came through thanks to Mr. Kato & Ms. Stanislav’s persuasive interpretation, supported by Ms. Mabee on harpsichord and Armen Ksajikian on cello. Ms. Mabee also had took an impressive solo turn in Antonio Soler’s Fandango in d minor, S. 146, her hands flying up and down both manuals of the instrument with clarity and precision.
The relationship between baroque music and baroque dance would have merely been an exercise in imagination if actual dancers weren’t present. Fortunately for everyone, there were. Linda Tomko, historian and founder of the baroque dance troupe, Les Menus Plaisirs, and Jill Chadroff, another member of the same troupe, were on hand to provide a beautifully compelling example of how the various dances looked based, as she later explained, on Beauchamp-Feuillet dance notation (an example of which was provided to the audience). Dressed in period costumes and occasionally using props of flowers and baskets, the two ladies gracefully recreated dance steps and movements from the operas by Campra, Lully, and Rameau, with accompaniment from Ms. Mabee and her LACO colleagues. It provided a complete experience — simultaneously educational and entertaining, without ever feeling like you were being lectured to — of consistently high quality. The near-capacity crowd at Zipper Hall responded enthusiastically, and the majority stayed afterwards for the discussion with the artists.
LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA “BAROQUE CONVERSATIONS:” Thursday, February 16, 2012; Zipper Concert Hall, The Colburn School
Patricia Mabee, host and harpsichord
John Schneiderman, baroque guitar
Linda Tomko, dancer
Jill Chadroff, dancer
Tereza Stanislav, violin
Sarah Thornblade, violin
Armen Ksajikian, cello
Roland Kato, viola and viola d’amore
Victoria Miskolczy, viola
VIVALDI: Trio Sonata in D minor, Op. 1, No. 12, RV 63, “La folia” (“Madness”)
(Ms. Stanislav, Ms. Thornblade, Mr. Schneiderman, Mr. Ksajikian, Ms. Mabee)
SANZ: Pavanas & Canarios from Instrucción de Musica Sobre la Guitarra Española
GANSPECK: Overture in A major for Viola d’Amore & Violin
(Mr. Kato, Ms. Stanislav, Mr. Ksajikian, Ms. Mabee)
CAMPRA: Rondeau & Loure from L’Europe galante (“Galant Europe”)
CAMPRA: Bourrée from Les fêtes vénitiennes (“The Venetian Festivals”)
(Ms. Tomko, Ms. Chadroff, Ms. Stanislav, Ms. Thornblade, Mr. Kato, Ms. Miskolczy, Mr. Kato, Ms. Miskolczy, Mr. Ksajikian, Ms. Mabee)
SOLER: Fandango in D minor, S. 146
LULLY: Gavotte & Sarabande from Atys
RAMEAU: Music from Dardanus (Ms. Tomko, Ms. Chadroff, Ms. Stanislav, Ms. Thornblade, Mr. Kato, Ms. Miskolczy, Mr. Kato, Ms. Miskolczy, Mr. Ksajikian, Ms. Mabee)