Lift Thy Brow

Lyrical Music for String Orchestra

 

Jeremy Rhizor, Curator & Guest Concertmaster

October 14, 2021 | 7:30 pm 

Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center (UIndy)

October 15, 2021 | 7:30 pm 

Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center

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From the Curator

A few centuries of distance can make the diversity of the Baroque repertoire appear to be monolithic. Lift Thy Brow - so named in reference to a passage in Robert Browning's poem honoring Charles Avison - invites listeners to explore a type of composition for the early orchestra that embraces both thoughtful form and unforgettable melodies. The program represents a way of thinking about music that, though a shining product of Baroque ingenuity, did not permeate every part of the era’s repertoire.


Arcangelo Corelli is likely the most recognizable name on the program. His outsized influence
- especially through the dissemination of his Op. 5 sonatas - extended far beyond the epicenter of his influence in Rome, inspiring musicians and music lovers across the European continent and in the British Isles. Francesco Geminiani was believed to be his student and was undoubtedly a close acquaintance. When Geminiani moved to England, his stature as a musician was boosted by his association with Corelli. Like Corelli, he was one of the great violinists of his time and made a career out of both composition and performance.


For these consummate violinists, performances of instrumental music (often their own) brought together the major pillars of their professional lives. This program, however, leans just as heavily on the works of composers who were most at home composing for the church: Francesco Durante (Naples) and Charles Avison (Newcastle). Durante was a venerated teacher with famous students (such as Pergolesi), and he balanced technically erudite composition with a consistently adventurous and evolving style. Avison, like Durante, was fascinated by the concerto, was immersed in producing sacred vocal music, and was well regarded by musicians and commentators.


In this program without words, there is a narrative arc that invites us to optimistically lift our brow from turmoil and grief to bask in the promise of future warmth and exuberance. It draws together the experiences of violinists and church musicians and makes sense of independent works in a broader redemptive context. Of particular note are the final two pieces: an orchestral arrangement by Avison of music by Domenico Scarlatti and an arrangement by Geminiani of music by Corelli. Through these pieces, the arrangers honor their creative predecessors and present older ideas in a new context. In this time of great difficulty, I hope that the auspicious narrative arc and creative reimaginings of this program speak both to your experience and to your heart.

Program image: 'Mary Magdalene as Melancholy' by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653)

Meet the artists

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Jeremy Rhizor

Curator & Guest Concertmaster

Jeremy Rhizor is the driving force behind the revival of Baroque oratorio repertoire in the United States. He has led the modern and American premieres of works by Giovanni Battista Bassani, Antonio Draghi, Domenico Freschi, Antonio Gianettini, Vincenzo de Grandis, and Bernardo Pasquini. He creates a new performing edition for each forgotten work that he performs, and he spearheads the creation of new English translations for American audiences. 

Along with reviving the music of oratorios, Rhizor has reconstructed the format of oratorio performances by

retaining the lecture or sermon between musical halves in large-scale two-part oratorios. Though this format is still largely unfamiliar to modern audiences, it adds an intellectual and spiritual dimension to his performances that honors the intentions of Baroque composers and librettists. His performance of Draghi’s Oratorio di Giuditta reconstructed the order of oratorio services at the court of the empress dowager Eleonora Gonzaga.

 

As the founder and artistic director of the Academy of Sacred Drama, Rhizor built an organization inspired by Baroque academies into an institution that champions the performance and research of sacred drama. He facilitates the publication of the Sacred Drama Journal—a journal for general readership that explores the music and themes of Baroque oratorio. From the violin, Rhizor rehearses and leads performances for the Academy.

 

Noted for playing “virtuosically but with fluid grace” by The New York Times, Rhizor performs on the violin with early music organizations throughout North America such as Aureas Voces in Nova Scotia, Alchymy Viols in Indiana, Ensemble VIII in Texas, Mountainside Baroque in Maryland, the Washington Bach Consort in Washington, DC, and Bach Vespers and the American Classical Orchestra in New York. He recently performed for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Music Before 1800, gave a recital tour in Nova Scotia, and led the Swedish premiere of Pasquini’s oratorio La sete di Christo. He is grateful for the opportunity to be the guest concertmaster of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra in October 2021. Rhizor lives in North Salem, NY.