A classical guitarist and a Baroque ensemble come together in an alluring concert

United StatesUnited States Baroque Unlimited: Miloš (guitar), Les Violons du Roy / Jonathan Cohen (music director and conductor). Zankel Hall, New York City, 30.11.2023. (DS)

Miloš © Richard Termine

Vivaldi – Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade, RV 725; Concerto in D major for Lute, Strings and Continuo, RV 93
A. MarcelloAdagio from Oboe Concerto in D minor, S D935
Boccherini – Fandango from Guitar Quintet in D major, G.448
J. S. Bach – Chaconne from Violin Partita No.2 in D minor, BMV 1004
Handel – Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op.6 No.4; Minuet from Suite in B-flat major, HWV 434
Telemann – Ouverture in B-flat major, TWV 55:B8, ‘Burlesque Overture’
Rameau – ‘Entrée pour les muses’ from Les Boréades
S. L. Weiss – Passacaglia for Lute in D major
Purcell – Suite from The Fairy Queen, Z.629; ‘Curtain tune on a Ground’ from Timon of Athens, Z.632

Thanks to an inspired collaboration between star guitarist Miloš and the Canadian Baroque ensemble Les Violons du Roy, New York audiences experienced a distinguished array of aptly selected works in a glistening night of performance. The concert included well-known composers like Vivaldi and Purcell, and some less-often-heard greats, such as the nobleman Alessandro Marcello and German lutist Silvius Leopold Weiss.

Les Violons du Roy and Miloš © Richard Termine

Les Violons du Roy performed several pieces alone with a ferocity and driving energy that would have made the concert complete in its own right, under the unwavering, joyful leadership of Jonathan Cohen, who also performed on harpsichord. Their Handel Concerto Grosso was nothing short of crisp and sensibly charming, while the post-intermission ‘Burlesque Overture’ by Telemann was full of bold, varied styles and gleefully expressive turns – most welcome on any night of the week.

Miloš performed with the ensemble in about half of the program, including a Handel Minuet and Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Lute, Strings and Continuo. His Classical, more modern approach concocted a unique mixture with the ensemble’s Baroque powerhouse expertise. While these works were intentionally played with a fresh attitude, it might not be for everyone or for every piece. However, it manifested especially well in Rameau’s ‘Entrée pour les muses’, which lent itself to the guitar’s caressing strokes in more freeing, Romantic gestures.

The concert’s solo showcase was J. S. Bach’s Chaconne for Violin, transcribed by Miloš. In this reworking, he brought his classical style to bear on a piece seldom or never heard on guitar. A pinnacle of challenge for solo violin, the Chaconne is notorious not only for its technical difficulty but a rather unforgiving length that requires depth of musical interpretation, endurance and commitment. Though not a guitarist myself, I imagine the chordal progressions might have been somewhat easier on guitar than violin, allowing for more freedom of musicality.

Miloš’s interpretation infused the Chaconne with a quieter, more delicate mood compared to the typically rousing, deeply resonant violin textures. It unfolded along a beautiful journey in which the guitar traveled through the harmonies and contrapuntal landscape in an exploration of expressive possibility. Miloš’s ultimate message, however, remained ambiguous – was this to be heard as a new perspective on a masterwork, or as a deconstructed re-working of form that would highlight his instrument, the guitar?

As Miloš’s tour across the United States continues into 2024, perhaps the answer will be revealed. Either way, Miloš and Les Violons du Roy created a true gem of a concert that would surely please anyone from the Baroque connoisseur to the occasional concertgoer.

The evening ended with two encores: Vivaldi’s Larghetto from Trio Sonata in C major, RV 82 and Harold Arlen’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz (arr. Miloš).

Daniele Sahr

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