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Apollo’s Fire Will Animate Vivaldi’s Popular Seasonal Concertos in Performance at Schwab

by on February 26, 2020 4:30 AM

In its sixth appearance at Penn State, Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, will perform Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved concertos as the revolutionary acts of musical storytelling the composer intended them to be. Four Seasons Rediscovered will bring Vivaldi’s pictorial descriptions to life.

From bird calls and storms to a barking dog, flies and wasps, drunken peasants, an exhilarating fox hunt with “gunshots,” and more, the stories Vivaldi had in mind for these pieces will be made clear in the performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 27) in Schwab Auditorium.

Before each concerto, Apollo’s Fire Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell, with help from her players, will give a quick and polished “tour” of the sound effects to come. Then, the virtuoso musicians will take turns stepping into the spotlight as a different soloist leads each concerto.

“While in fact there is not much new, intrinsically, to reveal about the works themselves (perhaps the most frequently played Baroque concertos),” writes a reviewer for, “there certainly was a freshness to the ensemble’s way of playing them. … It’s interesting to note that of late Sorrell has been leading performances of greater vigor and faster tempos. Vivaldi’s concertos, full of bustle and movement, flew by at quite a clip, and the Apollo’s Fire players dug into the music with an intensity that in years past was not quite so prominent.”

The program will also feature dueling string musicians in Vivaldi’s stormy Concerto for Two Cellos. The audience will be able to hear and feel why harpsichordist and conductor Sorrell calls Vivaldi the “rock ’n’ roll composer of the 18th century.”

Named for the classical god of music and the sun, Apollo’s Fire, founded by Sorrell, revived the Baroque ideal that music should evoke the listeners’ emotions. The ensemble is a collection of artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric.

“Led by a brilliant harpsichordist, … the ensemble exudes stylish energy – a blend of scholarship and visceral intensity,” raves a critic for Gramophone.

London’s The Independent praises Apollo’s Fire as “one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles.” Classical Music Magazine calls the group “the U.S.A.’s hottest Baroque band.”

The evening before the ticketed concert at Schwab, selected Apollo’s Fire musicians will perform the Concerto for Two Cellos at Classical Coffeehouse in Hintz Family Alumni Center. The mini performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 26) will be accompanied by a discussion, led by Sorrell, about Vivaldi’s music and its mass appeal. 

Classical Coffeehouse, which is free for Penn State students (a $10 donation is suggested for each non-student), is a joint presentation of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Penn State Alumni Association in partnership with the Blue & White Society, the PSU Music Service Club, and the Penn State Coffee Club. Complimentary snacks and beverages will be provided. Seating is limited.

Chick King and Betty Scott sponsor the concert. Pieter and Lida Ouwehand support Classical Coffeehouse. For tickets or information, go to or call (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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