On October 11, 2014, five early music ensembles performed in Early Music America’s Baroque Performance Competition. This hour on Harmonia, we’ll hear from all five finalists, including the 2014 Grand Prize winner. Plus, we’ll hear music by Matthew Locke on a featured recording by the Wayward Sisters—who happen to be the 2011 winners of EMA’s Naxos Recording Competition.
Let’s start with an ear back to the Grand Prize winners of the 2012 Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition. We’ll hear Pallade Musica perform music by 17th-century composer Dario Castello.
Early Music America (or EMA) is a non-profit organization that serves and strengthens the early music community in North America and raises public awareness of early music.
One of their many activities is the sponsorship of competitions for up-and-coming performers. In the spring of 2012, Early Music America launched a brand-new competition for emerging baroque performing ensembles. 2014 marked the second biennial competition. Five finalists were chosen to compete in a live concert at the Logan Center in Chicago on October 11th. This hour, we’ll hear a sampling of performances from all five ensembles.
Soprano Peggy Bélanger and lutenist Michel Angers make up Consort Laurentia.
The Québec-based ensemble, founded in 2012, specializes in the historically informed performance of arias and instrumental music for small ensemble from the baroque period. Their performances are heavily influenced by their own research into original sources and treatises.
In addition to the EMA competition, Consort Laurentia’s busy 2014 season included performances in France and Italy.
Harpsichordist duo John Walthausen and Lillian Gordis are Les Ramoneurs, a new ensemble formed in 2014 on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the death of French baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. They specialize in the arrangement of a variety of repertory for performance by two harpsichords. They are particularly interested in the work of French baroque composers, including Rameau and Jean-Marie Leclair.
[You can also check out this video of Les Ramoneurs! Click here.]
Another finalist in the EMA competition, Elixir Baroque Ensemble aims to bring new audiences to early music through innovative programming, creative staging, and a particular emphasis on outreach.
Made up of harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill, viola da gamba player Justin Haynes, and violinists Elyssa Lefergey-Smith and Valerie Gordon, Elixir performs regularly in their hometown of Toronto.
Founded in 2010, the group has always made community outreach and education a priority. They work regularly with children at the Kingsway Conservatory of Music, and they have worked and performed with the Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto.
Trio Speranza made its debut in a concert at the Boston Early Music Fringe Festival in the summer of 2013 and since then has been busy exploring instrumental chamber music of the baroque period.
The ensemble, made up of violinist Anna Griffis, cellist Cora Swenson Lee, and harpsichordist Jason Moy, is devoted to the performance of a wide variety of music, encompassing both familiar and less familiar repertory. This season, their focus is on the music of Buxtehude and other composers of the German Baroque.
During the final round of the 2014 EMA competition, held October 11 on the campus of the University of Chicago, each of the five finalists presented a short program in front of a public audience and a panel of five judges. Three different prizes were awarded.
The Presentation Prize, was awarded to the ensemble that presented [quote] “the most innovative concert experience combining inventive programming, compelling program notes, and undeniable stage presence.” This $500 cash prize prize was awarded to Trio Speranza. Congratulations!
The EMA Baroque Performance Competition offers not only a tangible cash prize (of $3000) to the Grand Prize winner but also a package of less tangible benefits, carefully selected to enhance and encourage the budding career of a young professional ensemble. These include guaranteed concert engagements, special publicity appearances, and PR and business coaching.
In addition to the Grand Prize, an Audience Prize, which includes a $1,000 cash prize, was presented to the ensemble that received the most votes from the live audience.
At the end of the night, one ensemble walked away with the hearts of both the judges and the voting audience members. Congratulations Infusion Baroque!
Members of the 2014 Grand Prize-winning ensemble, Infusion Baroque, call Montreal home, where they regularly present innovative concerts combining chamber music with other forms of artistic media.
The ensemble is made up of musicians Alexa Raine-Wright, Sallynee Amawat, Camille Paquette-Roy, and Rona Nadler. The group’s recent creative undertakings have included an interactive murder mystery soirée and an evening of instrumental music paired with paintings.
Their upcoming season includes “a baroque-inspired fashion show, an interactive games night based on the workings of the music business, and an evening of baroque music selections paired with artisanal beers.” Sounds like fun!
Besides the annual Baroque Performance Competition that we’ve been sampling this hour, the EMA has in previous years also managed three separate recording competitions for early music soloists and ensembles, awarding the prize of a debut commercial CD recording.
In 2011, the ensemble Wayward Sisters were the prize recipients of EMA’s Recording Competition in conjunction with the Naxos music label, and in 2014, the Sister’s recording project came to fruition. Their debut CD of Matthew Locke’s The Broken Consort, Part 1 and Tripla Concordia is our featured release.
Matthew Locke—an English composer of the generation before Henry Purcell—was a man whose life and work formed a bridge between renaissance musical forms and traditions and the developing chamber music of the early baroque.
Locke wrote two volumes of suites for a broken consort, or a mixed group of instruments from different families, like viols, violins, and various wind and plucked instruments. Here’s Locke’s Suite No. 1 in G minor.
Break and Theme music
:30, Elixir Baroque, Live in concert at Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, October 11, 2014, Antonio Bertali, Sonata a 3 in A Minor (excerpt)
:60, Les Ramoneurs, Live in concert at Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, October 11, 2014, Jean-Marie Leclair, Deuxième récréation de musique: Chaconne (excerpt)
:30, Elixir Baroque, Live in concert at Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, October 11, 2014, Antonio Vivaldi, ‘La Folia’ in D Minor, Op. 1, no. 12 (excerpt)
Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal
The writers for this edition of Harmonia are Anne Elizabeth Clark and Janelle Davis.
Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at harmonia early music dot org.