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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble highlights flutes and vocals in its 2013-14 season opener
Brett Lipshutz provided wonderfully athletic playing on the Baroque flute.
Brett Lipshutz provided wonderfully athletic playing on the Baroque flute.

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble opened its season with a concert at the Gates of Heaven on Saturday, Oct. 12. The program represented two intermingled categories of Baroque music.

On the one hand, flutes and recorder were featured. Beginning the proceedings was a Trio Sonata by Georg Philipp Telemann, from his Musique de table. Then came a three-movement Sonata No. 2, Op. 2, for two unaccompanied flutes, by the little-known French composer Benoît Guillemant. His music is from the first half of the 18th century. This sonata is interesting in its replacement of traditionally ornamented French style with the newly fashionable idiom of Italian lyricism. Later we had five of the two-flute arrangements (without bass) of traditional French songs and dances made by Jacques-Martin Hotteterre. All of these featured Brett Lipshutz and Monica Steger, doing wonderfully athletic playing on Baroque flutes. Still later, Theresa Koenig played the third of a set of sonatas drawn from Corelli's Op. 5 for violin and continuo, and adapted for recorder.

On the other hand, we had vocal music. Involved were Ensemble veterans Mimmi Fulmer and Consuelo Sañudo, plus countertenor Gerrod Pagenkopf, who is in town in preparation for his appearance in the upcoming University Opera production of Handel's Ariodante. The three of them sang, as divided into two sets, a total of five five-voiced madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi. This feat can be explained by the fact that two instruments took over the other two vocal parts: viola da gamba on the tenor line, and cello on the bass line. That bass line was doubled alternately by harpsichord or organ (Max Yount's new chamber instrument), turning the part into a kind of proto-continuo. It was a little anachronistic, if not really obtrusive. And, as we know, in that era of musical history, it was common for singers and instrumentalists to render pieces according to their resources, rather than in strict conformity with instructions.

Above all, though, there was a vocal centerpiece. A scene from Francesco Cavalli's opera Calisto was presented, in which the goddess Diana and the shepherd Endymion first admit their (forbidden) love for each other. Fulmer and Pagenkopf sang this scene from memory, and even acted it out in the most apt and touching manner. Fulmer's experience with both the vocal and theatrical demands of opera is obvious. But it was wonderful to hear how Pagenkopf's countertenor voice has ripened handsomely since his days as a student in the UW School of Music.

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble has acquired a devoted audience following and, as always, the attendees responded to everything with great enthusiasm. Thus, one more important musical institution in Madison moves forward with undiminished momentum.

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