Baroque musicians typically fly under the radar in the classical music world, but their outsize passion for the music will be on display at the third annual Bravo Bach Festival. The event will feature six concerts starting today at Sacramento's St. Mark's United Methodist Church.
Harpsichordist Lorna Peters will perform, along with the 7-year-old baroque ensemble Camerata Capistrano, which she founded.
The group will perform a concert that offers Bach's Trio Sonata in G major, Telemann's "Sinfonia spirituosa," Marin Marais' "Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont de Paris," as well as selections from John Dowland's "Lachrimae."
Peters founded the Camerata as a conductor-less student ensemble that has since evolved into a professional, recognized and sought-after group, she said.
The performers in Camerata Capistrano will include the original eight players. To these, Peters will add up to 20 musicians, most of whom come from her student base at Sacramento State where she teaches.
As a college and private teacher in Sacramento, Peters has students thriving. Pianist Kevin Sun, who performs April 29, is a former private student as is pianist Anyssa Neumann, who performs next Friday.
Although Peters mostly inhabits the world of the baroque, she also has been known to break out of the mold and perform 20th century works, too.
In that endeavor, she has company. Two other players in the Camerata, violinist Chase Spruill IV and flutist Cathie Apple, perform in the new-music chamber ensemble Citywater.
"The more that we play 'old' music and 'new' music, the more we find what they have in common," Peters said. "Both styles rely heavily on the performers' ability to improvise as well as to interpret notation that leaves much up to the skills and discretion of the performer."
St. Mark's music director Jack Miller believes a baroque musician who dabbles in both periods is serving themselves well.
"Any well-rounded musician appreciates and wants to perform music of various styles it makes life more interesting," he said.
Ultimately the two forms of music share a lot in common. Like many contemporary works, baroque music is energetic, the movements are short, and they often give a performer much leeway to improvise.
"It's the brevity, and the changes in texture and tempos that catches people's interest in contemporary society," Miller said.
Some works on the Camerata Capistrano program will ask just that of the performers, including Bach's E Minor Violin Sonata, Peters said. For this piece, Spruill will play violin; Peters, harpsichord; and Hans Hoffer, cello.
"The violin part is unrelentingly complex and ornate," Peters said. "And the bass line, which Hans and I share, is an entirely independent line, but at the same time intimately tied to the violin part. The work offers emotionally complex and chromatically dense harmonies which call for Peters to improvise with her right hand."
Peters' focus on the harpsichord did not happen early.
"I didn't become consumed with the harpsichord until I had earned my master's in piano performance," she said.
"When I was very young, I was always drawn to baroque music. I remember dancing around our living room while listening to some incredibly energetic Telemann and Bach!"
Her passion for harpsichord took hold around the time she began performing often in New York City. She had finished her master's in piano and was studying privately with noted pianist Richard Goode. Then she became a protégé of harpsichordist Arthur Haas at Stony Brook University.
"He took me under his wing. This happened at exactly the right time in my life."
That focus got even more intense after Haas persuaded Peters to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to study in Salzburg, Austria, at the Mozarteum. She won it and was forced to immerse herself in baroque music because her teachers would come from Paris once a month, expecting her to have learned a whole recital's worth of music.
"I learned massive amounts of repertoire in a really short time and learned that I could play it really well," she said.
BRAVO BACH FESTIVAL
What: Harpsichordist Lorna Peters, who teaches privately and at Sacramento State, has built the group she founded into a recognizable and sought-after baroque ensemble. This concert comes Sunday, but Peters' influence will continue to be seen as her students such as Kevin Sun and Anyssa Neumann perform on later dates. The third annual festival will feature six concerts at St. Mark's starting today.
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 2391 St. Marks Way, Sacramento
Cost: $15 general
Contact: (916) 483-7848, www.stmarksumc.com
All performances at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
MESSIAH FESTIVAL CHAMBER PLAYERS
What: The orchestra will perform parts 2 and 3 of the "Messiah." Program includes an organ concerto. Soprano Donna Helmich-Agnello and others will perform.
BAROQUE FLOURISHES & FANFARES
What: Sacramento Philharmonic trumpeter Scott Macomber and tubist Julian Dixon are joined by percussionist Michael Bayard and organist Jack Miller in this evening of baroque music.
ANYSSA NEUMANN, piano
When: April 27
What: Neumann will perform keyboard music by Bach, Handel and others.
JOE GILMAN ENSEMBLE
Joe Gilman, piano
When: April 28
What: Gilman plumbs the relevance of jazz in a baroque musical setting.
KEVIN SUN, piano
CHASE SPRUILL IV, violin
When: 4 p.m. April 29
What:Sun performs Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F minor and Spruill, Bach's Violin Concerto in E minor, in a program that will see the orchestra perform Handel's Water Music Suite No. 1.