ROBERT KING (11-5-06) 

By Lawrence Budmen

Baroque Extravagance was the over hyped title of the New World Symphony’s program on Sunday at the Lincoln Theater but the performances under the baton of early music specialist Robert King were special indeed.

A child of the period instrument movement, King’s music making embodies the best aspects of modern Baroque scholarship. His performances are never dogmatic. The high spirited vigor of King’s Bach and Vivaldi was an antidote to the stodgy phrasing and narrow tonal focus of many period ensembles. 

King’s approach to J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.4 uncovered hidden sonorities and tonal colors. The music sounded surprisingly modern. Dissonant volleys of brass and percussion delighted the ear. Bracing dance tempos enlivened the Bourree, Gavotte, and Minuet movements. The vivacious gusto of the concluding Rejouissance was like sparkling champagne gleaned from old bottles. 

Conducting Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 from the harpsichord, King fielded an ensemble of ten string players. The clear instrumental textures and vibrancy of spirit were miles removed from the heavy handed performances of many larger ensembles. Bach’s remarkably complex viola writing became newly audible and intensely present. 

Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major was that prolific composer’s most extravagant work with no less than twelve instrumental soloists. The springy rhythmic bounce of the outer movements had dance like propulsion. This score is almost a mini-violin concerto. Concertmaster Veronica Pellegrini’s exquisite tone and nobility of line caressed the Largo. 

Melissa Chung’s feathery, virtuosic violin solos highlighted the concertante of Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major, Op.6, No.1. The zesty string articulation and graceful, imaginative continuo playing of guest harpsichordists Leslie Kwan and Scott Jarrett gave the music palpable energy. (Cellists Sebastian Gingras, David Morrissey, and Soo Je Yang subtly abetted the keyboard’s Baroque filigree throughout the concert.) 

A Suite from the opera Alceste by the French Baroque giant Jean-Baptiste Lully (from the Court of King Louis IV) sizzled with bright colors. King’s commentary from the podium was both perceptive and entertaining. He noted an analogy between Lully’s divertissements and contemporary jazz. With tambourine and trumpets proclaiming the beat, King made the music swing. 

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