The Beat

Monica Huggett to perform at -- and conduct -- Baroque event

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Monica Huggett will lead the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Baroque period works Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-13, in the Southern Theatre. Tickets are $25-$65. Visit columbussymphony.com.
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Monday January 7, 2013 9:07 PM

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra's first program of 2013 will be a feast of Baroque proportions, as celebrated Baroque expert Monica Huggett leads a program that includes Vivaldi's The Four Seasons concertos among other works by Vivaldi, Locatelli's Lamento in F Minor and Locke's The Tempest.

Violin soloist, chamber musician, music director and educator Huggett will perform and conduct.

She was kind enough to answer a set of questions presented by The Beat.

The Beat: What, for you, is the particular appeal of Baroque music? How do you share this with an audience?

Huggett: Baroque music covers quite a big period in history (1600-1750) and in fact there are many different sub-categories in baroque music.

I enjoy the rhythmic drive of a lot of Baroque music. Dance music was very important in that era and almost any fast movement has a basis in a form of Baroque dance.

The slow movements are often very expressive and performers were expected to improvise their own ornaments, so there is much more freedom from the printed page than in later music.

I also enjoy playing in smaller groups. Orchestras in the Baroque era were much smaller than a modern symphony orchestra.

When playing in a smaller ensemble, I feel my contribution is important and it makes me more committed to delivering an intense and dramatic performance for my audience.

TB: Discuss the dual role of guest conductor and guest performer.

MH: In the Baroque era, conductors did not exist. The ensemble was directed by the harpsichordist or the concert master. Because the music is harmonically simpler than 19th-century music, it is not necessary to have a conductor.

In my concert, I will be violin soloist and director, which is exactly as it would have been in the 18th century when these pieces were written.

It is easy for a small string group to follow the first violinist. The violin bow maybe the precursor of the conductor's baton. Certainly to give clear rhythmic gestures with a bow is easy and is a relatively natural outcome of playing a violin.

Another positive aspect of being a leader director is the ability to demonstrate exactly how you want a passage to sound by playing it to the orchestra oneself. This a conductor cannot do.

TB: Locatelli and Locke are not as well-known as Vivaldi for sure. Can you tell a little about those pieces on the program?

MH: Locatelli was the greatest violin virtuoso before Paganini, and famous throughout Europe.

He has left us with some crazily difficult sonatas, concertos and caprices, but he also wrote "normal music." He spent a lot of his adult life in Amsterdam where he was a very successful music publisher. The piece we are playing in this program is in what I would call an Italian/Dutch style.

Matthew Locke was a 17th-century English composer, slightly older than Henry Purcell. The piece we will play in the concert is an extraordinary musical picture of a tempest at sea.

Because Locke was trained in the particularly English "consort" style of composition, he uses harmony which sounds almost 20th century. The piece was written for a 1674 London revival of Shakespeare's The Tempest. At that time, there were always musical interludes and songs in theatrical performances.

For more on the CSO's Baroque program, read the BeatBlog at ThisWeekNEWS. com.

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