Early Music Vancouver (EMV) commences its 50th Anniversary Season with Le Concert Spirituel: Baroque Orchestral Suites on September 28, at 7:30 pm at Christ Church Cathedral. Inspired by the seminal 18th-century French concert series, 16 members of Victoria Baroque present a pairing of French Overture Suites and Italian Concerti Grossi.
Le Concert Spirituel: Baroque Orchestral Suites is a tribute to the Parisian concert series founded in 1725 that first brought music previously exclusive to the courts to the public realm. This series became the most important European platform not only for the best French artists, but also for presenting and disseminating the work of the most accomplished European composers and musicians of the 18th century.
The concert series was founded under the reign of Louis XV when public performances of music in Paris were strictly regulated by the Royal Opera, which enjoyed a monopoly over all public musical activities. The opera, however, was not permitted to give performances during Holy Week, Easter Season, and on holy days — leaving the musicians temporarily out of work. In 1725, to help keep the stream of music uninterrupted despite the limits imposed by the Church, Anne Danican Philidor, a composer and the king’s court oboist, obtained permission to present public concerts while the opera was closed. This was granted on the condition they did not include works with French texts or music from the opera. For the next 65 years, the concerts included in this increasingly popular series featured sacred and instrumental works, performed by musicians of the finest calibre from all over Europe. This was the first time that lavish performances of instrumental music and sacred motet, previously reserved for the privacy of the courts, were available to the Parisian public for the cost of admission. Le Concert Spirituel became widely popular, soon inspiring similar concert series to sprout up in other major European cities.
Now in its eighth season, Victoria Baroque, led by Artistic Director Soile Stratkauskas, brings together early music specialists from Vancouver Island and beyond. Featuring a repertoire of chamber, orchestral, and choral works from the baroque and classical periods, the ensemble has been invited for guest performances by the Early Music Society of the Islands, Cowichan Symphony Society, and Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival. Collaborations with international guest artists are an integral part of the ensemble’s programming, including Kati Debretzeni, leader of the English Baroque Soloists; Pacific Opera Victoria’s Timothy Vernon; and soprano Nancy Argenta. Victoria Baroque’s debut album, Virtuosi of the Baroque, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award in 2014.