Rachel Barton Pine, a master of the viola d'amore and consummate Baroque violinist could be said to have hidden her light under a bushel last Friday when she appeared as a member of the Trio Settecento. On Sunday she unleashed her full playing talents with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra in bravura performances of works by Vivaldi (1678-1741) preceding an extraordinary display in a final work by Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764). This also marked the final concert of this season's Indy Early Music Festival.
Until Sunday, the previous programs had been delving into the temporal backwaters of what we call today "classical music." The music played and the songs sung mostly appeared before key signatures solidified into "major" and "minor." There was no such thing as modulation as there was no center or "tonic" key from which to modulate (i.e. to change abruptly to another tonic key signature which then lasts for a while).
Music with these key signatures lasted about 200 years between the early 1700s to the early 1900s, after which modulation again became meaningless. This two-century era, often called the "common practice period" resides at the center of what is classical music to most people. Prior to 1700, most music was considered "modal"--using restricted tuning (e.g. meantone temperament) to prevent the exploration into all 12 tones of the chromatic scale.
With the adoption of equal or unrestricted temperament in the Romantic era, modern music could go anywhere it wished at any time in the 12-tone scale. Frequent modulation, coupled with thick, non-consonant chords, became the standard in the last hundred years. What it gained in "artistic freedom" it may have lost in the common-practice vehicle of creating tension/resolution within the discipline of key signatures.
But I digress: Pine was viola d'amore soloist in three Vivaldi concertos scattered throughout the program. Each had three movements, all in fast - slow - fast format, calling for much intricate solo work, especially in continuous arpeggiation up and down. All the players were knit together like fine embroidery, as they were in Pine's absence in Vivaldi's Concerto for Strings in C.
But the two most interesting works were the eight-part "Imitation caràcteres de la danse" by Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755) which showed the eight-player Baroque Orchestra all standing and playing without conductor and Pietro Antonio Locatelli's "L'Arte del Violino" Op. 2 No. 12 entitled "The Harmonic Labyrinth." The latter work was where Pine truly exposed her talent in full. Sweeping arpeggios, playing harmonics and solid tones together at a breakneck pace all led to a solo cadenza, where she again outdid herself. The audience thundered for more, and got a solo Locatelli Caprice, later joined by cellist Susan Rozendaal and theorbo player David Walker.
What a way to end a season! July 12; Indiana History Center