I had a pleasant experience last night at Zankel Hall – Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante playing late baroque concertos and chamber pieces for violin, viola d’amore and small chamber ensemble. I’ve been a fan of Biondi’s playing for years, and for several months this past fall I was mopey because I knew this concert was on and it had sold out. But I snagged a ticket in the end.
The program was based on their album Il diario di Chiara, which is a collection of music that would have been played by Chiara della Pietà, a performer and teacher at Vivaldi’s famous post the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. Chiara, who was dropped at the orphanage’s doorstep as an infant, wasn’t trained by Vivaldi herself, but her own teacher Anna was.* The music is basically Vivaldi and a handful of other composers one rarely encounters (hi, Fulgenso Perotti! loved that thingy for violin and organ!), brought to life again by the brio of the solo and ensemble playing. I think last night was the first time I had heard a viola d’amore in a live performance; but more to the point, this was the type of baroque performance that made things we’ve all heard a thousand times, like the snippet of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” that they played for one of their encores, seem new. I mean, the guy sitting two seats down from me was gleefully air-conducting for several extended sections of the performance.
When I went to the concert I had not yet heard the Il diario di Chiara album, and I spent a few minutes stalking it on the internet last night. Apparently it comes with a bonus DVD, which the critic from Fanfare thought was nice, although “tame.” I am not sure what the rubric is for evaluating “making of” DVDs about baroque violin music; as a result, I got distracted thinking about what would render such an item “not tame” and didn’t buy the disc until this morning. But it is winging its way toward me even now.
*These ladies didn’t have conventional last names – both are surnamed “della Pietà” after the institution.