“Circles of Friends”- Music of The Baroque reviewed by Julia W. Rath

By Julia W. Rath, Around the Town Chicago
May 09, 2023

The final concert of the 2022-23 Music of the Baroque season, entitled “Circles of Friends”, is a testament to great performances. This outstanding program ends the season with magnificent and impressive grandeur.

Music director and conductor Dame Jane Glover explained at the onset that the program was entitled “Circles of Friends” because of an implicit comparison between the 18th and the 21st centuries. Joseph Haydn, Johann Baptist Vanhal, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart all knew each other in Vienna in the 1780s, where they played chamber music together. And today, the circle remains unbroken as the Music of the Baroque Orchestra (MOB) plays this music afresh. In her introductory remarks, Dame Glover mentioned the “terror, anxiety, and solitude of lockdown” due to the COVID crisis and how great it is to perform before a live audience again. “We are all enriched and strengthened when everybody gets together.”

The evening started out with Vanhal’s Symphony in G Minor. Most notable is the viola solo (in a wonderful performance by Elizabeth Hagen) during the Andante cantabile movement, answered by the violins. The Menuetto-Trio section has time shifts from 6/8 to 4/4, and the lilt often sounds like an extra beat, that is, 5/4 time.

Next on the program was Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Oboe, Cello, and Bassoon: one of my favorites. Basically, this is a concerto for multiple instruments. The melody moves from one instrument to the next in a seeming call and response in the Allegro movement, followed by the highly expressive Andante movement. Concertmaster Gina DiBello plays solo violin and brilliantly so; her runs are especially notable in the spirited third movement. Plus the remarkably talented Paul Dwyer on cello, Anne Bach on oboe, and William Buchman on bassoon round out the soloists, whose instruments blended so very well together.

After intermission, we listened to Sinfonia Concertante for Viola and Double Bass by von Dittersdorf. As with the Haydn piece earlier, it is a concerto for multiple instruments that is structured like a symphony, but like the Vanhal before it, there is a Menuetto section. The instruments begin synchronous and shift to an almost call-and-response accompaniment in the Allegro section, again similar to the Haydn. Once more on the viola was the super-talented Elizabeth Hagen, now with the exceptional Collins Trier on the double bass. The Andantino movement is notable by both its countermelody and by Dame Glover’s putting away the baton to conduct expressively. At the end, the soloists fist-bumped each other. The joys of seeing music performed live and trippingly so!

The finale was Mozart’s Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K.338. Dame Glover obviously knew it by heart and excited the audience by having her music stand put away and conducting without a score! Again, the very expressive Andante di molto più tosto Allegretto movement was directed without use of the baton, with the concluding Allegro vivace being extremely recognizable to the audience. What a sublime ending to this year’s MOB season—which will start anew this September!

“Circles of Friends” was performed by Music of the Baroque on Sunday, May 7, 2023, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie, with a subsequent performance on Monday, May 8, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 W. Randolph Drive, in Chicago.

Both performances began at 7:30 p.m.