The baroque period ended over 250 years ago, but University of Maine students and members of the community had the chance to experience baroque music last Thursday at Minsky Recital Hall. Six UMaine music students performed alongside UMaine artists as well as visiting musicians from Europe and Mexico.
“We started rehearsing together on Monday,” Anatole Wieck, director of orchestral studies at UMaine, said. Born in Riga, Latvia, Wieck attended a music conservatory in Moscow, Russia and came to New York City in 1973 to study at the Juilliard School of Music, where he earned his bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.
“When you have guest artists, it’s usually how it goes, we had to be quick and nimble on our feet,” Wieck, who was unable to perform at the recital due to a shoulder injury, said.
The term “baroque” is used to describe the period of European music and art history from around 1600 to 1750. Many of the forms identified with baroque music, such as cantata, concerto, sonata, oratorio and opera originated in Italy. Some well known composers of this period are Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Handel, Corelli and many more.
“Musicians are used to improvising on the spot,” Rose Barrett, an American baroque violinist living in France, said. “We got very lucky that Augusto Bertado [a visiting musician from Mexico] happened to be here, and willing to pitch in.”
“Despite Anatole’s [Wieck’s] injury, we had a spirit of making this work no matter what, and [the recital] turned out well,” Rose Barrett said. Rose Barrett met Italian baroque violinist Lucca Rizzelo in 2007, during her studies at the Conservatorio G. Niccolini di Piacenza in Italy. Later, Rose Barrett and Rizzelo befriended Italian organist Gilberto Scordari who also shared a passion for baroque music.
Together, the three musicians wanted to give other young musicians the opportunity to discover new repertoires such as baroque music. Rose Barrett, along with her brother Dan Barrett, who is a faculty member at the UMaine School of Performing Arts, collaborated with Wieck in designing a weeklong music workshop titled Mainely Baroque. By inviting international artists such as Rizzelo, Scordari and Bertado to the UMaine campus, this workshop aims to foster cultural and artistic exchange for students.
“The students performing with us were fantastic,” Rose Barrett said. “They tried our baroque instruments which feel very different.”
Wieck’s violin, which was played by other musicians during the recital, as well as Rizzelo’s violin are original instruments from late 17th century. The fingerboard of Wieck’s violin has gradually disintegrated with time, so Wieck had the fingerboard replaced with Maine maple wood.
During the recital, violinists took several minutes to tune their instruments before performing the pieces.
“Before World War II, all musicians used strings made from animal gut, usually sheep or ox gut. Now, with new technology, we have nylon and metal strings which have a very different sound. Gut strings have a much softer warmer sound in general,” Rose Barrett said.
“The audience was really into our music and concentrated on us,” Rizzelo said. “But at the same time, I didn’t feel pressured. It felt like playing at home with friends. The atmosphere was really friendly, and I could enjoy the silence in between the pieces. Sometimes playing in famous concert halls is too tough, and it can become less enjoyable. But tonight I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me, so I played freely.”