Anything but Stuffy
It’s no secret that Madison has a thriving and lush arts community. Did you
know that the same could be said for the city’s Early Music scene? Home to wealth of
Early Music ensembles (and a festival!) Madison is also home to long-running Early
Music ensemble, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble.
“We’ve been together as an Ensemble since 1990. We were originally a Trio,”
explained Ensemble’s President and Founding Member Anton TenWolde “We
started playing our regular concert series in November of 1997. Our November
concert this season will actually mark our 20 year anniversary which is pretty
Before the November concert can take place, the season will open with a
concert this week on Friday and Saturday. Following the hallmark that the
Ensemble brings to each performance, this concert will feature a mix of well-known
and more obscure composers and repertoire. “We’ve found that what has survived
most from the Baroque era and before as well as what is the most familiar and
known is that of the vocal repertoire,” explained TenWolde. “We provide a unique
listening experience for audiences, featuring a mix of vocal and instrumental works
on the same concert.”
Some of this week’s concert highlights include two rarely heard aria gems by
Francesca Caccini (1587-ca1640.) Caccini, a well-known singer in her time both and
a singer in the famed Medici court, was also a composer. The two pieces “Io veggo I
campi verdeggiar fecondi” and “Dov’io credea le mie speranze” were part of a larger
collection in which much of the music has been sadly lost.
Probably one of the most unique pieces that you will hear during the course
of the evening is an 18 th century transcription from the Jean-Philippe Rameau
(1683-1764) opera Les Surprises de l’amour by Ludwig Christian Hesse (1716-
1772.) “In it’s original transcription, it was for two violas da gamba,” explained
TenWolde. “We have added in flute and violin to flesh it out. The result is really neat.
We’re very proud of it!”
When putting together a concert, TenWolde explains that much of the work
comes from the musicians individually. “We host a reading session of our pieces in
August,” he said. “As a collective, our musicians bring a number of their own
expertise to the table when bringing in repertoire. I love these sessions because I
learn composers and pieces I’ve never even heard of.”
TenWolde explains that this unique collaboration fosters a very exciting
concert series each year. “We often have more repertoire than we can use, “he said
with a laugh. The pieces presented in the August reading are then collected into a
list, which the Ensemble programs into the concerts throughout the year.
In addition to the musicians themselves learning new pieces, the audience is
also treated to a history lesson at each concert. “Our musicians will often say a bit
about each piece before they perform, “added TenWolde. This added element adds
to the concerts relaxed and intimate setting. “We aren’t stuffy,” he said. “We enjoy
what we are perform and are excited to share with audiences.”
This weekend, Madison and Beloit audiences have a chance to catch the
Ensemble live in concert. On Friday October 7th at 7:30pm, they will perform at St.
Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Madison. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for
students. On Saturday October 7th at 7:30pm, the Ensemble will perform in Eaton
Chapel at Beloit College. At this concert, students will have free access. Plan to
arrive early though as tickets will only be available at the door.