Type of Organization
Setting out on its tenth concert season, the Austin Baroque Orchestra & Chorus is a Central Texas-based period instrument ensemble that presents historically informed performances of music from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. In May 2011, eleven young Austinites who met through the University of Texas' Early Music Ensemble founded the group, then known as Ensemble Settecento. Today, the combined orchestra and choir boasts a roster of over thirty musicians with advanced training in historically informed performance and singing, and uses replicas of Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical instruments.
Recent major projects for ABO have included the earliest version of Michel-Richard de Lalande's Te Deum (2018), the first known Texas performance of Telemann's final oratorio Der Tag des Gerichts (2017), J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (2017), the masterwork's first period-instrument performance in Austin in a number of years, and the first known Texas performance of the larger, 1732 version of Handel's oratorio Esther (2015). Along with these larger performances, ABO has presented orchestral and chamber works by such giants as Lully, Rameau, Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert, as well those by many lesser-known masters.
From the outset, ABO has taken on as an area of emphasis the music of Viceregal (colonial) Latin America, and has been invited to perform at major conferences based upon this focus, including the American Musicological Society (2018), the Lozano Long Conference for Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin (2018), and the International Society for Historical Linguistics (2017). The ensemble's appears regularly at Mission Concepción, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with recent concerts Hecho en México, a 2019 performance of music from four Mexican cathedrals (including four modern world premieres), and España Antigua, Nueva España, a 2018 program of music from 16th- and 17th-century Mexico and Spain that commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio. In 2012, several members were invited to perform in Mexico at the Cathedral-Basilica of Durango for its third annual Festival of Viceregal Music, with a concert consisting of works composed for the cathedral in the 18th century and preserved in its archive.
ABO's mission is to immerse its audiences in the sound world of the past by performing high-quality music from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries using replicas of period instruments and historically-informed performance techniques. Through innovative, carefully curated programming and thoughtful, approachable program notes, ABO hopes to educate its neighbors about the music and world of the Renaissance and the Baroque and Classical eras through an annual season of five diverse presentations of orchestral, choral-orchestral, and chamber works. Preceding each concert is an informal and informative talk about the music led by founder and artistic director Billy Traylor.