A Taste of Venetian Baroque

 United StatesUnited States Marini, Salaverde, Turini, Bertoli, Ziani, Castello, Vivaldi , Marcello: Ubi Caritas, Band of the BaroqueTaftMuseum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio. 2.2.2014 (RDA).


Amanda Carmen Bower (soprano)
Richard Arnest (recorders)
Loren Berzsenyi (oboe)
Lauren Piccirillo (bassoon)
Jennife Jill Araya (cello and voice)
Michael Unger (harpsichord)


Richard Arnest is the organizer of Ubi Caritas, the invaluable group named after the Church hymn, Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est (“Where Charity is, God is too”). An ensemble of free-lance instrumentalists and singers, the group enthusiastically pursues both the discovery and playing of rare music from the Baroque era.  At Cincinnati’s Taft Museum of Art this past Sunday afternoon, Ubi Caritas played instrumental and vocal selections from the 17th and 18th centuries to a sizeable and enthusiastic audience.

Arnest and his colleagues—soprano Amanda Carmen Bower, oboist Loren Berzsnyi,  the superb bassoonist Lauren Piccirillo, cellist Jennifer Jill Araya and harpsichordist Michael Unger—played rarely-heard music by the well known and lesser known composers who lived, worked and thrived in Venice, the Italian Peninsula’s wealthiest, most beautiful and most artistic of all its city-states. Ubi Caritas’s concert, given in the context of Cincinnati’s month-long Early Music Festival, will undoubtedly help spread the word about the inspired canzone of Biagio Marini, Benedetto Marcello’s cantatas, the varied works of the Spanish-born Bartolomeo Selma y Salaverde and the Czech-born Francesco Turini, the sonatas of Giovanni Antonio Bertoli and Pietro Andrea Ziani, and the varied compositions of Dario Castello, all of whom resided and worked in Venice, some as late as the mid-18th century.

It was an inspired idea to divide a program of largely non-programmatic music into sections with the names of Venice locations. Giardini Reali (“Royal Gardens”); Punta della Dogana (“Customs House”); Ponte dei Sospiri (“The Bridge of Sighs”) and Piazetta di San Marco (“Saint Mark’s Little Piazza”) helped us listen to the multiple selections with a mental picture of the locations they evoked.

The Stile Nuovo (New Style) advocated by Giulio Caccini and later, Claudio Monteverdi, was rapidly changing by the start of the 1700’s. Both Antonio Vivaldi’s impassioned cantata, All’ombra di sospetto (“Under the shadow of suspicion”) and Benedetto Marcello’s  pastoral Pecorelle che pascete (“Grazing little lambs”) let us hear their composers’ transitions into another style in which ornamentation becomes the end all of vocalism, and the singer the center of the musical universe. Whether accompanying, playing solos or doing ensemble work, the musicians contributed to a musically-sunny Italian afternoon in yet another dreary Cincinnati winter day.


Rafael de Acha