Aeris performs Italian Baroque music 

***1/2
click to enlarge Aeris
  • Aeris

"Roman Holiday: Handel and the Italians" entitles Friday's Early Music Festival concert, one which also portends music of the high or late Baroque. Which in turn suggests the three greats from that period: Handel, Domenico Scarlatti and Bach, who in turn towers above them all. And even though Bach wrote the "Italian Concerto," he was not represented in this program, that moniker being viewed insufficient for the Italian style in that era.There was a lesser excuse for not programming the Red Priest -- i.e. Antonio Vivaldi.

The Aeris trio--commonly called Aeris--consists of violinist Zachary Carrettin, cellist William Skeen and harpsichordist Ari Stein. Their Friday appearance also welcomed guest soprano Nell Snaidas--having become a popular return figure in this FMS series--and guest guitarist and theorbo player Charles Weaver. Except for Handel, who spent four years of his early life in Italy, the remaining composers were Italian.

First we heard the Sonata in D Minor, Op. 6 No. 12, by Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764), cast in four movements. The writing suggests, in some ways, a forerunner to the early Classical or Rococo style, and as such seems vapid in places, such as its second movement, an Allegro, which also was rapid and well handled by our four instrumentalists.

Alessandro Stradella's (1639-1682) Sinfonia in D Minor in several undefined parts came next. The D minor key signature began to weigh heavily as all its sections were cast in that key, as well as all four movements of the preceding Locatelli sonata.I also found this piece more "Baroquish" and therefore more interesting than the Locatelli.

click to enlarge Soprano Nell Snaidas
  • Soprano Nell Snaidas

When Nell Snaidas appears, she dominates, as she did for Handel's ensuing cantata, Dietro l'orme fuggaci. Her rich, well controlled vibrato, intermixed with brief "white" singing, blended well through the three arias and four recitatives. I must report that the opening number began in . . . you guessed it: D minor. And here Weaver played his theorbo (a monstrous, six-foot lute seen a lot in this series, held in the lap of a seated player with its neck stretching to the sky).

Though Francesco Maria Veracini lived mostly in the 18th century (1690-1768, he gave us an entirely Baroque sonata, using dance forms of the period as movements: Ouvertura. Aria, Paesana and Giga. Only the Aeris players were featured.They showed excellent interplay, most especially in the Giga (or "Gigue" or "jig").

Snaidas returned for the final two numbers: "Son qual stanco peregrino" from Handel's opera Arianna in Creta in which Weaver used his theorbo, and the Tarantella: "Chi vive con amor vive beato" by Stradella, and in which Weaver returned to his guitar. As you would expect, the Tarantella was lively but also showed Snaidas' hefty high soprano voice.

Snaidas returns on Sunday to join the 11-member Rose ensemble to explore Medieval music "From the Land of Three Faiths." June 26; Indiana History Center

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