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Orchestra brings summer festival spirit to January

[mk1]Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, conducted by Gustav Leonhardt, Jordan Hall, January 11.

The Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra rekindled memories of last summer's festival with performances which showed both polish and spirit.

<>Conductor Gustav Leonhardt led off with Zelenka's Sinfonia a 8 concertanti, quickly establishing the orchestra's vibrant, bright sound. The Andante showed excellent balance between John Gibbons' considered harpsichord playing, and Daniel Stepner's virtuoso violin work. Lyrical oboe playing blended particularly well into the brew, as well. The Capriccio, which followed, was quite elegant.

Georg Muffat's Sonata Quinta in G from Armonico Tributo was nicely done, too, but the highlight of the first half clearly came with Daniel Stepner's performance of Bach's Concerto in E for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo, BWV 1042. The Orchestra's satin smooth approach to Bach is in marked contrast to the adrenal attack of Trevor Pinnock's English Concert (which will be heard in Boston on Jan. 25), but the intensities of the piece did not lack in power, and the cohesive playing of the orchestra together with its close relationship with Stepner gave the work a personal intensity of its own. Stepner's relaxed, inward-looking performance

of the Adagio was especially well matched by the orchestra's idyllically unified support.

"We must have recourse to the rules [of music] only when our genius and our ear seem to deny what we are seeking," wrote Rameau. His Orchestral Suite from Za"is has more than adequate originality to excuse itself from sticking to "the rules," although some of the work's first audiences thought Rameau was taking too many liberties with his modern ideas. As one contemporary noted "I consider that the Ouverture paints so well the unravelling of chaos that it is unpleasant."

But there was only pleasure to be found in the lively and colorful performance of the Festival Orchestra. The variety to be found in the suite was well brought out, delicate solo wind passages done with grace, rhythmically propulsive dances injected with the excitement of a vigorously-played tambourine.

The Festival Orchestra has already established itself as a major force in Early Music. An orchestra which combines sublime legato with energetic drive and a deep understanding of the requirements of Early Music is certainly welcome to provide festival spirit in Boston as often as possible.

Jonathan Richmond->