Review: Venice Baroque Orchestra at the National Gallery of Art

April 11, 2011

Some listeners at the National Gallery of Art concert on Sunday evening may well have wished the Venice Baroque Orchestra had chosen a more acoustically friendly venue than the West Garden Court. But if the hall’s over-reverberance meant that much of the ensemble’s clean articulation and care in molding the string lines got lost, their euphonious blend came across handsomely, with a sound not far removed from that found in the palazzi and churches Vivaldi and his Venetian contemporaries performed in.

The musicians — who with their elegant grooming and smartly tailored business suits could have passed for the board of directors at some high-level Italian corporation — belied their appearance with playing of percolating energy and lithe, silvery tone. The tenderly sculpted solo lines at the opening of Galuppi’s G-Minor Concerto a Quattro were a fine showcase for the players’ formidable solo skills, and their disciplined ensemble work was just as effectively displayed in the sparkling interplay of Albinoni’s Concerto a Cinque in G.

Violinist Giuliano Carmignola revved the excitement quotient that much higher when he joined the orchestra as soloist in four concertos (one by Tartini and three by Vivaldi). He brought a mix of the mellow and the mercurial to all these scores — along with a mischievous wit, idiosyncratic inflections, tremendous personality and, in the slow movements, an introspective approach that proved moving. If his high-octane brand of virtuosic brinksmanship in the faster music resulted in the occasional intonational spill, the considerable thrills in his playing were worth it.

— Joe Banno

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