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Apollo’s Fire to animate Vivaldi’s popular seasonal concertos Feb. 27 at Schwab

Photos by Roger Mastroianni Musicians of the The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell.

UNIVERSITY PARK — In its sixth appearance at Penn State, Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, will perform Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved concertos as the revolutionary acts of musical storytelling the composer intended them to be. “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Rediscovered” will bring the composer’s pictorial descriptions to life at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in Schwab Auditorium.

Tickets for the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presentation — $48 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student, and $38 for a person 18 and younger — are available online at cpa.psu.edu or by phone at 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX. Tickets are also available at three State College locations: Eisenhower Auditorium (weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Penn State Downtown Theatre Center (weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Bryce Jordan Center (weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). A grant from the University Park Student Fee Board makes Penn State student prices possible.

From bird calls and storms to a barking dog, flies and wasps, drunken peasants, an exhilarating fox hunt with “gunshots” and more, the stories Vivaldi had in mind for these pieces will be made clear.

Before each concerto, Apollo’s Fire artistic director Jeannette Sorrell, with help from her players, will give a quick and polished “tour” of the sound effects to come. Then, the virtuoso musicians will take turns stepping into the spotlight as a different soloist leads each concerto.

“While in fact there is not much new, intrinsically, to reveal about the works themselves (perhaps the most frequently played Baroque concertos),” wrote a reviewer for Cleveland.com, “there certainly was a freshness to the ensemble’s way of playing them…. It’s interesting to note that of late Sorrell has been leading performances of greater vigor and faster tempos. Vivaldi’s concertos, full of bustle and movement, flew by at quite a clip, and the Apollo’s Fire players dug into the music with an intensity that in years past was not quite so prominent.”

Photos by Roger Mastroianni Musicians of the The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell.

The program will also feature dueling string musicians in Vivaldi’s stormy Concerto for Two Cellos. The audience will be able to hear and feel why harpsichordist and conductor Sorrell calls Vivaldi the “rock ‘n’ roll composer of the 18th century.”

Named for the classical god of music and the sun, Apollo’s Fire, founded by Sorrell, revived the Baroque ideal that music should evoke the listeners’ emotions. The ensemble is a collection of artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric.

“Led by a brilliant harpsichordist, … the ensemble exudes stylish energy–a blend of scholarship and visceral intensity,” raved a critic for Gramophone. London’s The Independent praised Apollo’s Fire as “one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles.” Classical Music Magazine called the group “the U.S.A.’s hottest Baroque band.”

Classical Coffeehouse

The evening before the ticketed concert at Schwab, selected Apollo’s Fire musicians will perform the Concerto for Two Cellos at Classical Coffeehouse in Hintz Family Alumni Center. The 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, mini performance will be accompanied by a discussion, led by Sorrell, about Vivaldi’s music and its mass appeal.

Classical Coffeehouse, which is free for Penn State students (a $10 donation is suggested for each non-student), is a joint presentation of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Penn State Alumni Association in partnership with the Blue & White Society, the PSU Music Service Club and the Penn State Coffee Club. Complimentary snacks and beverages will be provided. Seating is limited.

Chick King and Betty Scott sponsor the concert. The Pieter and Lida Ouwehand Endowment supports Classical Coffeehouse.