Musicians of the Old Post Road presents: Blazing Italian Baroque

For 35 years, the Musicians of the Old Post Road ensemble has delighted in their mission of uncovering, exploring, and performing the works of historically overlooked communities and individuals. Based in the Greater Boston area, the ensemble specializes in the period instrument performance of dynamic and diverse music from the Baroque to early Romantic eras, focusing on works that have been lost to audiences for centuries.

In March, the group returns for the second half of its 35th season with more live performances for both in-person and online audiences. On March 9 and 10, the ensemble pays homage to Italian Baroque virtuosity in a program entitled Blazing Italian Baroque. 

The Italian Baroque era is considered a transformative period in musical history, characterized by highly ornate melodic figuration, as well as new and innovative instrumentations. This program explores chamber works by some of the many outstanding Italian virtuosi of the time, including Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in D Minor. “La Follia,” as it is also known (translated to “madness” or “folly”), is based on one of the earliest European musical themes, rooted in the folk songs of Spain and Portugal. The melody celebrates the frenzied intensity of dance, and over 150 composers have written variations on it over the span of 300 years. Vivaldi’s version of this theme and variations is widely considered one of his masterpieces.

Domenico Scarlatti, another master of the Italian Baroque era, was renowned for his virtuosity on the harpsichord and wrote a staggering 555 sonatas for keyboard. Charles Avison (a student of Francesco Geminiani, himself a student of Scarlatti), took many of these works and imaginatively arranged them as concerti grossi for strings. His Concerto Grosso in D Major is featured on this program. The ensemble also pays homage to Avison’s teacher, Geminiani, with a performance of his brilliant and commanding Cello Sonata in B-flat Major. Dubbed “Il Furibondo” (the Madman) by Giuseppe Tartini for his virtuosity on the violin, Geminiani wrote only six sonatas for the cello, all of which are technically challenging, full of evocative melodies, and deserve far more attention than they have received.

In honor of Women’s History Month and in keeping with the ensemble’s ongoing mission to shed light on little-known works and underrepresented composers, the ensemble is including Anna Bon’s daringly creative and virtuosic Flute Sonata in C Major. Bon worked at the courts of Bayreuth and Esterhazy. The program concludes with the colorful, masterful Flute Concerto in D Major by the violin virtuoso Pietro Nardini, which the ensemble originally revived in 2010 for the work’s regional premiere.

Musicians for these concerts, all of whom will play on period instruments, include flutist Suzanne Stumpf, violinists Sarah Darling and Amelia Sie, violist Marcia Cassidy, cellist Daniel Ryan, and harpsichordist Benjamin Katz.

In order to reach a wider audience, as well as patrons who might still be wary of the risks of Covid, the Saturday Wayland concert will be live-streamed at The Wayland concert is co-presented with the Wayland Museum & Historical Society (members receive a $10 discount on their ticket). The Boston concert is supported in part by a grant by the Boston Cultural Council. Programming is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The final program of the season for Musicians of the Old Post Road (“Rustic Classical” on April 19th and 21st, 2024) will feature boisterous, rollicking Classical works with a Bohemian flair, including a flute quartet by Gyrowetz, a nocturne for two violas and cello by Brandl, a flute quintet by Lidl, lively Hungarian dances, and a period arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca.

Musicians of the Old Post Road takes its name from its acclaimed concert series that brings period instrument performances of music of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to beautiful historic buildings along New England’s fabled Old Post Road, the first thoroughfare to connect Boston and New York City in the late 17th century.

Winner in both 1998 and 2023 of the Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society, Musicians of the Old Post Road has also received programming awards from Early Music America, Chamber Music America and the US-Mexico Fund for Culture. The ensemble has toured in Germany, Austria, and Mexico, and has appeared at festivals and on concert series in the US, including the Early Music America Annual Summit, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival Concert Series, the Castle Hill Festival, the Artists Series at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and the Connecticut Early Music Festival. The ensemble has held a residency at Dartmouth College and was featured on WCVB television’s “Chronicle” program and 99.5 All Classical radio’s “Live from Fraser” program.

The ensemble’s discography includes seven recordings that have each been praised in the US and abroad. They include: The Virtuoso Double Bass (Titanic, 1994), Trios and Scottish Song Settings of J. N. Hummel (Meridian, 1999), Galant with an Attitude: Music of Juan and José Pla (Meridian, 2000), Quartets of Telemann and Bodinus (Meridian, 2004), Feliz Navidad: Christmas from Spain and New Spain (Meridian, 2008), Roman Handel (Centaur, 2013), and Earthly Baroque (Centaur, 2017).

For more information, visit, email [email protected], or call 781-466-6694.

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