Ensemble Caprice delights at EMG concert
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Ensemble Caprice delights at EMG concert
by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Ensemble Caprice, Early Music Guild
April 25
Town Hall


Light vs. Dark; Life vs. Death; Baroque vs. Gypsy music. Such were the clashes posed by Matthias Maute in his pre-concert talk about this concert, entitled 'La Follia and the Gypsies.' He might also have said structure vs. free-form. While the baroque pieces behaved according to strict rules of harmony, Gypsy music was not so constrained and could be more earthy, vivid, and unpredictable.

This overall structure to the program did not enhance my appreciation of the concert, but it seemed to enliven the players, who couldn't have been more entertaining. They began by having baroque guitar player David Jacques stroll onto the stage while playing, thus precluding the audience applause that usually greets performers. Gradually, the other four instrumentalists joined him. Our cellist literally dashed onto the stage. This somewhat theatrical beginning set the tone for a very playful concert.

Baroque composers represented were Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Andrea Falconieri, Telemann, and Vivaldi. These were mixed in among Gypsy music found in a renowned collection called 'Uhrovska zbierka' from 1730 and from other anonymous sources. Perhaps I was overly distracted by the attractive young lady sitting next to me who, throughout the concert, kept falling into my shoulder in her drunken and fragrant stupor, but I didn't find as much contrast between the baroque and the Gypsy elements as I expected.

Our most animated players included Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivière, both on various recorders and baroque transverse flutes; Susie Napper on a seemingly modern cello but with baroque bow; the aforementioned David Jacques on baroque guitar (smaller than today's); and Rex Benincasa on a huge assortment of percussion instruments (from bells to drums, rattles, and tambourines). Maute often introduced the sets, occasionally shouting out titles as one piece segued into another. Although playful and even informal, these musicians were of the highest quality, playing with virtuosic skill and absolutely perfect ensemble. They reveled in precise, sometimes humorous rhythms and never missed a beat. Even the alcoholic breeze from my neighbor could not blow out the fun of such a concert!

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.