A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Musica Angelica staged a grand farewell to their loyal patrons on Sept. 18, as they previewed the program for their exciting South American Tour.  From the concert at the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena, the musicians immediately embarked for performances in Brazil on Sept. 20 and 22 at the Sala Sao Paulo, to be followed by dates in Montevideo,  Rio de Janeiro, Chile, and Paulinia, and end with two concerts in Buenos Aires in the Teatro Colon on Oct. 4 and 5.

Concertmaster and harpsichordist Martin Haselböck organized a Baroque sampler for the tour that showcased the full depth and breadth of the Musica Angelica talent.  The selection and placement of the vocal segments were distributed strategically throughout the program. It was wonderful to hear soprano Suzie LeBlanc and counter-tenor Daniel Taylor together in addition to their astonishing solo abilities.

As a duo, LeBlanc and Taylor duly impressed with “Scherzano sul tuo volto” from Händel’s  Rinaldo, and “Se il cor ti perde” from Tolomeo was a perfect vehicle for them to shine.  The most dramatic singing of the night was “Cara sposa, amante cara” from Rinaldo; it had a truly grand quality to it, as did the duet from “Caro, Bella” from Giulio Cesare.

Mozart’s Aria for Soprano and Orchestra from “Nehmt meinen Dank” and “Ach ich fuhl’s” from The Magic Flute brought out LeBlanc’s best moments as a soloist.  The fineness of her vocal gestures and the subtle shadings of tone and articulation connected with the music and the audience.  Her manner had undeniable elegance.

Le Blanc joined flutist Stephen Schultz for the “Sweet Bird” from “L’allegro, il penseroso” — certainly the sweetest of the evening’s selections.  The title was not required to ascertain the theme.  Schultz was delightful; his fluid ornamentations, fine nuances of pitch, and use of light and dark tones were captivating, and his blend with LeBlanc was surprisingly sonorous.  Such lightness and delicacy are rarely heard.

Gluck’s Ballo, and the beautiful aria “Che faro” from Euridice brought Taylor’s exquisite counter-tenor voice to life, and this realization was particularly nice.  Ilia Korol led the strings with his signature flair and keen sensitivity; his role in guiding the strings was significant, although his lack of solo passages seemed to belie his status among the very best Baroque violinists of our day.

Schultz returned in the spotlight with Vivaldi’s Concerto “La Notte” for Flute and Orchestra and dazzled with his ability to produce such fine music with his single-keyed wooden flute.  His tone was delicate but rich, and the ornamentation was subtle and fluidly integrated.  The nuance of variation in vibrato, pitch, and timbre were sublime.   I loved the third movement, where a strummed guitar and staccato dense chords on the harpsichord rocked – a timeless effect.

Gonzalo Ruiz was impressive with his fiery Telemann Concerto in E-Minor for Oboe and Orchestra.  He played the theme in richly appointed broad phrases, and the nimble second movement found him confident, light of touch, and emotive.  The rapid double-tongued flourishes of the third movement were a technical marvel with each note distinctly sounded and exactly timed.  In Händel’s Allegro from the Overture to Saul, Ruiz was again intrepid on the lightning-quick arpeggios that somehow uniformly landed masterfully on cue.

The encore was perhaps the most beautiful music of the evening: Händel’s duet “I’o t’abbraccio” from  Rodelinda. LeBlanc and Taylor created a gorgeous sound together, a final reminder of how beautiful the Baroque can be in the hands of masters, and an extraordinary ending to an extraordinary concert.

Thank you, Musica Angelica, for making Los Angeles your home and send us a postcard from South America!