Apollo Ensemble’s riffs bring out fun in violinist’s sonatas

  • The Washington Post

In many ways, Salamone Rossi’s life bridged two worlds. A Jewish composer who lived in Mantua at the turn of the 18th century, he wrote music for the synagogue that was comfortably in the idiom of high Renaissance church music and secular pieces that were unmistakably Baroque. (The great musicologist Gustave Reese has noted that in his sacred motets the music ran as usual from left to right, but the Hebrew text under them ran from right to left — undoubtedly a challenge for the singers).
The Apollo Ensemble, a European chamber orchestra of Baroque specialists directed by violinist David Rabinovich, brought two of his delightful trio sonatas to their program of Jewish Baroque music at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater Thursday (presented by Pro Musica Hebraica). Scored for harpsichord and two violins, these are playful pieces, full of ornamental riffs, alternating sections of soulful declamation and athletic competition between the violin lines, and with melodies that are full of both English folk flavor and early Italian opera conventions. The performances, on gut strings played without vibrato, were agile and elegant. Rhythmic inflections were handled with restraint. The ensemble was seamless, and a sense of humor, unassuming but pervasive, drew appreciative noises from the audience.

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