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Highlights from the 2009 Bloomington Early Music Festival, pt. 1

The Bloomington Early Music Festival has been presenting outstanding performers and concerts for nearly two decades. It was originally founded in the early 1990s by a handful of students from the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. In the intervening years, the festival has gained national standing as a series for enthusiastic audiences to enjoy innovative programming of music from the Middle Ages through the early Romantic era, and beyond.

Also known by the acronym BLEMF, its mission is to provide a platform that presents both established performers and up-and-coming artists.

Shuann Chai

The 2009 festival was no different in that regard. One performer who returned for a second time was Shuann Chai, a young American fortepianist who played a Beethoven concerto with the BLEMF orchestra and gave a recital of music by Schubert, Beethoven, and Czerny, as well as Franz Liszt who transcribed a famous work by Beethoven for piano—An die Ferne Geliebte (“To the Distant Beloved”).


Not a single year goes by without a concert of medieval music at the festival. This year, Hesperus presented a program entitled ‘Ecco la primavera’: 14th and 15th century music from court and countryside. Performers Tina Chancey, Grant Herreid, Johana Arnold, and Tom Zajac celebrated love and springtime as inspired by Petrarch and Boccaccio. They all took individual turns singing and performing on a multitude of winds, strings, and percussion.

The program was dedicated to Hesperus’ musical ancestors known as jongleurs, who were journeymen musicians that traveled around Western Europe between the 12th and 15th Centuries. The jongleurs musical abilities and lifestyle have been the subject of tales since their time.


The ensemble L’AURA presented a concert of music from 17th-century Spain and Latin America. Entitled ‘Por Selebrar’ (“To Celebrate”), the program centered on villancicos and solo songs heard in the cathedral cities of Madrid, Mexico City, and Bogotá, Colombia. Instrumental arrangements of Spanish harp pieces from the period rounded out the performance.

Chatham Baroque

The American trio Chatham Baroque is one of the more well-established ensembles in North America. Their festival program featured music of German baroque composers, including famous names such as J.S. Bach and Dieterich Buxtehude. Chatham Baroque’s concert also presented composers that you might not have heard of. Philipp Heinrich Erlebach is one such person on the program whose music has been making a resurgence over the past decade. His violin sonatas, in particular, have quietly become favorites of many baroque violinists.

The new release this week features the Aulos Ensemble on the Centaur label. A quartet made up of violin, flute, cello, and harpsichord, the group’s program centers on arrangements by Jean-Phillipe Rameau of suites from two of his operas—Les fêtes d’Hebé and Les Indes galantes.

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