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Zacharias fuses Baroque and Classical periods for SPCO program this weekend

Conductor and pianist Christian Zacharias puts the art in his title of artistic partner for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during a series of performances beginning this evening that blend the styles of Baroque and Classical periods.

Conductor and pianist Christian Zacharias puts the art in his title of artistic partner for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during a series of performances beginning this evening that blend the styles of Baroque and Classical periods.

The evening kicks off with Bach’s straightforwardly baroque “Concerto No. 5 in F Minor for Piano and String Orchestra BWV 1056,” with Zacharias on the keyboard. Here is Glenn Gould playing the second, “largo” movement.

Zacharias will then perform four solo piano sonatas by the 18th Century composer Domenico Scarlatti, renowned as a pioneer of the more diverse and experimental classical period that began to develop around 1750. Here is Ivo Pogorelich playing one of the sonatas in G minor. And here is Zacharias playing Scarlatti in D, which isn’t on the program.

Having just heard the sonatas as the forward-looking Scarlatti intended, the audience will then be treated to their baroque variation by the 18th Century English composer Charles Avison. The “concerto grosso” form (a baroque innovation involving the passing of the theme between a small group of soloists and the full ensemble) deployed by Avison is continued in a 1739 work by Handel, “Concerto grosso in G, Opus 6, No. 1, HWV 319.” According to the SPCO’s program notes, the solo violins are integral to the more vibrant and buoyant sections in the second and fourth movements.

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The finale of the program is Franz Haydn’s “Symphony No. 67 in F.” As one of the most creative and important originators of the symphony and string quartet forms that helped define the Classical period, Haydn was extraordinarily prolific, so that many of his individual compositions are lost in the forest. “Symphony 67” begins with an effervescent “presto” in short, sharp, 6/8 time, then opens out into a lyrical “adagio” featuring two identical melodies in canon (a nice mixture of classical and baroque). As the program notes point out, there are other subtle surprises, such as the “con legno” (struck with the wood of the bow of the violins) string passage at the end of the second movement and the “droning F of a detuned violin in the third movement duet.” It’s a fitting way to wrap up a scholastic yet highly enjoyable program.

Zacharias plays Bach and Haydn, tonight at 8 p.m. at Shepherd in the Valley church in Afton; Friday, June 4, at 8 p.m. at Wayzata Community Church; and Sunday, June 6, at 2 p.m. at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. Tickets are $10 to $25 tonight and Friday, $11 to $49 on Sunday. Friday’s show looks sold out, and precious few tickets remain for Sunday.