Symphony goes for baroque




When the Hartford Symphony Orchestra sounds off the first note at its performances from Jan. 18 to 20, it will be doing something unique for a major symphony.

The Connecticut ensemble will be playing music from the Baroque era.

“Major symphony orchestras have shied away from earlier music performances since the Original Instruments movement started,” said the symphony’s associate concertmaster Lisa Rautenerg.


“[During this movement] musicians and scholars started researching the instruments that were used during this period, and researching performance practice,” said Rautenberg.

“I think that scared away orchestras from performing this wonderful music,” said the symphony’s Baroque specialist.

“However,” said Rautenberg, “more and more, you are seeing ‘modern’ orchestras performing this music with a new perspective learned from all of the research and study that has been done on Historically Informed Performances.”

“Over the holidays,” she said, “I heard a TV broadcast of the Berlin Philharmonic performing Rameau, Handel and Vivaldi on the first half of their concert with the second half being Daphnis et Chloe by Ravel. It was a wonderful concert and very stylishly performed.”

“I didn’t know of the Berlin Philharmonics concert season when I programmed the first part of this concert, and I find it strangely similar,” said Rautenberg. “We stand with the Berlin Philharmonic in this new trend.”

“The Baroque era in Western European Music is roughly 1600-1750,” explained Rautenberg for the classical music neophytes. “This is a very large era with an early, middle, and late period. By the late period at least three major different styles in writing had emerged.”

“These are the German – Bach, Handel, Telemann, Buxtehude, Pachelbel; the French – Lully Rameau, Couperin, Charpentier; and the Italian– Corelli, Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Tartini, Vivaldi.” said Rautenberg. “The English were either influenced by the German or the French style – Purcell.”

For “Bach and Beyond,” Rautenberg said the symphony will play from music from each of these different Baroque approaches.

As a fan of the Baroque period, Rautenberg said she enjoys that it “is so widely varied. It is so rich.”

“One thing that I find really wonderful is that through research ‘new’ Baroque pieces are being discovered and available every day,” said Rautenberg. “With the information sharing on the internet, and the International Music Score Library Project site in particular, you can have millions of works you have never heard before your eyes, and available to perform.”

“So much music is fresh and new even though it is hundreds of years old,” she said.

One of the challenges in performing Baroque music, said Rautenberg, is “Baroque music by nature tends to be very ornate and full of notes. One must concentrate.”

“Much like jazz music,” she said, “the musical score is only the starting point for what is actually heard in performance. Much of what is played is improvised, or embellished by the individual performer; there is a lot of flexibility.”

The evening is called “Bach and Beyond.” Representing that “beyond,” Rautenberg said the Hartford Symphony is “starting out with an Overture to ‘Le Temple de la Gloire’ by Jean-Philippe Rameau. This work was first performed on Nov. 27, 1745 at the Grande Ecurie, Versailles to celebrate the French victory at the Battle of Fontenoy. It truly is a glorious work.”

“The Chaconne from Phaeton by Lully is next and is danced by the celebrated baroque dancer Carlos Fittante,” said Rautenberg.

“Carlos will be joined by Robin Gilbert for two more dances, Aranes Gran Chacona and Vivaldi La Follia,” said Rautenberg. “The La Follia theme was a very old and common theme of the time, and many composers including Corelli have had their go at making up different variations.”

As for the Bach pieces to be performed by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Rautenberg said, “[They]are well known and wonderful also. I will be performing the A Minor violin concerto, and leading the Bach 3rd Orchestra Suite in D Major with oboes and trumpets.”

“D Major is a triumphant key and the Baroque era and all the works written in this key are celebratory,” said Rautenberg. “This also includes the beautiful ‘air’ or ‘air on the g string,” which is one of the most enchanting melodies ever written in any period of music.”

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents “Bach and Beyond” from Jan. 18 to 20 at The Bushnell’s Belding Theater, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $35. For tickets, go to or call 860-987-5900.

Lisa Rautenberg
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra performs ‘Bach and Beyond’ this weekend at The Bushnell in Hartford.