By Lawrence Budmen

The combination of the New World Symphony and Seraphic Fire on Saturday night at the Lincoln Theater was a match made in musical heaven. British period instrument specialist Robert King presided over a musical tour of Baroque Europe. King brought infectious rhythms and plangent instrumental textures to music that often is played in an overly literal manner. 

Blazing trumpets and vibratoless strings heralded Handel’s Occasional Oratorio Overture. Vivaldi’s invigorating In exitu Israel, a setting Psalm 113, was composed for Easter Sunday in 1739. The serene voices of Seraphic Fire produced some of the most exquisite choral sound heard locally in many seasons. King led an ode to Baroque joy. 

Handel’s Concerto-Grosso in B-flat Major was played with verve by the wonderful New World players. Katherine Young’s bright, precise oboe solo nearly stole the show. King’s springy rhythms made the Menuet and Gavotte really dance. 

Seraphic Fire sang an exultant performance of the opening and closing movements of Bach’s Cantata No.1, one of the composer’s most joyous choral settings. The marvelous ornamentation in the double horns and King’s subtle inflection of Bach’s hymn settings brought the concert’s first half to a heady conclusion. 

The French operas of Jean Philippe Rameau are replete with wildly imaginative instrumental effects, remarkably bold dissonance, and exotic balletic sequences. Rameau’s music inhabits a very different Baroque terrain from that of Bach. In a suite from Rameau’s Les Boreades King magically conjured up rich, tangy orchestral timbres. He evoked a sinuous, repetitive figure on razor sharp strings and military drum in the final Rondeau. 

The heavenly sounds of Seraphic Fire created one of those indelible moments when time seemed to stop in the Crucifixus section of Vivaldi’s Credo. A spare bass line in repetitive stasis accompanied powerful choral outbursts. Patrick Quigley’s chorale was nothing short of superb. Hopefully there will be future collaborations between NWS and Seraphic Fire. 

The fanfares of Bach’s Suite No.3 provided an appropriately celebratory conclusion to a rich musical feast. King’s taut, flowing tempo in the famous Air avoided heavy handed sentimentality. Brilliant trumpets and timpani proclaimed the decorous dance movements with incisive gusto. 

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