* Notes *
Apollo's Fire, lead by harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, performed in Berkeley yesterday afternoon as part of a North American tour with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (pictured left). The Cleveland-based early music ensemble is aptly named, and the musicians certainly do play with fiery passion under Sorrell's direction. The intonation was imperfect, but it was heartening to hear how much energy was brought to the music. The program began with Vivaldi's Allegro from the Concerto Grosso in D major, arranged here by Sorrell. The ensemble went right into Händel's "Agitato da fiere tempeste" from Oreste as Jaroussky walked onto the stage. This was followed by "Ho perso il caro ben" from Il Parnasso in Festa, also by Händel. Jaroussky's voice is otherworldly, being very flexible and having such an ease to it. The violin concerto (Vivaldi's Op. 8, No. 5) interspersed between the first two Händel arias and the second two was rather more strained. One was struck by how violent the attacks were in this piece. The following arias were from Imeneo and Ariodante. Jaroussky sang both "Se potessero i sospir miei" and "Con l'ali di constanza" seamlessly. His breath control is astounding, and it is odd indeed that such an ethereal, gorgeous sound is produced by a rather awkward, skinny fellow.
The second half of the concert started with Händel's Prelude in A major, for solo harpsichord and his Chaconne from Terpsichore (Il pastor fido). This was followed by three Vivaldi arias: "Se mai senti spirati sul volto" from Catone in Utica, "Vedrò con mio diletto" from Giustino, and "Frà le procelle" from Tito Manlio. Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso "La Follia" gave Jaroussky a break between the first and second arias, and also showed off the ensemble's playing to best effect. Jaroussky sang the Vivaldi splendidly. The three encores were an aria by Porpora, "Venti, turbini" from Händel's Rinaldo, and "Ombra mai fu" from Händel's Serse.
* Tattling *
The audience was, for the most part, quiet and attentive. Unfortunately, someone's watch alarm rang many times during two of the Vivaldi arias, and a cellular phone rang as well.