The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: After 20 years, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble still delivers performances to relish of Baroque vocal and instrumental music | November 28, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photographs.

By John W. Barker

On Nov. 26, 1997, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble gave its first public performance.

On Sunday afternoon, exactly 20 years later to the very date, the group (below) presented a concert at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in honor of this distinguished anniversary.

This ensemble is the longest-lasting, still-continuing group in Madison devoted to early music. Despite the arrival three years later of the Madison Early Music Festival, the WBE gave the very first start to building an audience here for this literature. (You can hear a typical concert in the lengthy YouTube video at the bottom.)

Working under Sunday afternoon time pressures, the group offered a particularly rich and diversified program, employing a total of seven performers: one singer, mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo, with instrumentalists Brett Lipschutz (traverso flute), Monica Steger (recorder, traverse flute, harpsichord), Sigrun Paust (recorder), Eric Miller (viola da gamba), Max Yount (harpsichord), and founder Anton TenWolde (cello).

There were nine items on the program.

Sañudo (below) had in some ways the amplest solo role, singing five pieces: a cantata aria by Luigi Rossi; a long cantata by Michel Pignolet de Monteclair; a late villancico by Francisco de Santiago; and two particularly lovely songs by Jacopo Peri.

All these she sang with her usual devotion to textual as well as musical subtleties—making it a little sad that the provision of printed texts could not have been managed.

One solo sonata by Benedetto Marcello was for recorder and continuo, while one double sonata (below), a particularly delightful one by Georg Philipp Telemann for two recorders, and another one by the obscure Jacob Friedrich Kleinknecht rounded out these ingredients.

Along with continuo assignments, Eric Miller (below) played an extensive viol da gamba suite by Marin Marais.

Active in his own varying assignments, Lipschutz (below) bubbled with skill and charm in a set of variations for flute on a Scots folk melody, taken from a published collection credited to a mysterious Alexander Munro.

The program pattern was generally familiar, with each of the performers having a say in the choice of selections, notably their particular solos. In this sense, the group acts as a collective, as TenWolde likes to say, rather than an operation exclusively shaped by him.

As it has been defined and employed over two decades now, this organizational format has given so much for both performers and audiences to relish.

But, to be sure, there is more to come. So we will check back in another 20 years.


2 Comments »

  1. I second Ronnie’s comment. In the 1970’s and 80’s, well before WBE was founded there were quite a few active early music players. Tom Boehm, Lex and Kathy Silbiger, Jess Anderson, Irmgard Bittar, just to name a few.

    Comment by Anton TenWolde — November 28, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

  2. Yes, indeed, it was a wonderful concert, with unfamiliar literature. Here’s to 20 years +.

    I beg to add to John Barker’s history of early music-playing in Madison. He writes, “This ensemble is the longest-lasting, still-continuing group in Madison devoted to early music.” He’s correct, but I remember back in the 1970’s, when I was taking recorder lessons from the great Bernice Kliebard, and met several other recorder, krummhorn and viol players at the Unitarian Church weekly to practice, Irmgard Bittar organized a group of performers.

    Yes, we were amateurs, but we loved what we did and gave a few concerts to boot. A few years ago, I came upon a performance of the new and old Madison faithful in, of all places, the Capitol rotunda.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — November 28, 2017 @ 8:35 am


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