For fans of this ensemble who are probably wondering, there was a musical display of their ‘serious irreverence’ that came at the very end.

IFuriosi

On Saturday night at the Winderemere United Church, I FURIOSI presented a program of great solemnity and artistry headlined by Pergolesi’s iconic work of the Baroque period, Stabat Mater, featuring guest musicians mezzo-soprano Vicky St. Pierre, violist Pemi Paull, and conductor/composer Stephanie Martin on the organ.

The Baroque Era was all about extremes of the senses. The paintings and architectures of the time in Europe are easily identifiable by their incredible ornateness, the lushness of details and an overall sense of drama. Even the music embodied the tension of standardized form and individuality. It’s the musical works that managed to master both continue to inspire us.

Musicians and composers of the time had near rock star status during the Baroque period, or so I FURIOSI would like to imagine, which explains they way they set their early-music concerts against edgy attire of leather pants in an attempt to bring a slice of history to today’s audiences. It’s a formula that has creates a variety of artistic possibilities for this ensemble for 15 years. By the warm enthusiasm displayed by the audience last night, it might be one of the secret ingredients to garnering a loyal following.

The Nikolaikirche where J.S. Bach's Johannespassion  premiered.

The Nikolaikirche where J.S. Bach’s Johannespassion premiered.

Toronto-based I FURIOSI features Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman on violin (also members of the Eybler Quartet), and founding members Felix Deak on cello/viola de gamba and soprano Gabrielle McLaguhlin, all of whom are leading interpreters of early music.

The powerhouse trio Nosky, Wedman and Deak along with Stephanie Martin on organ set the stage with Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s “Partia V in g minor” (‘no relation to child star and petty criminal Justin Bieber’ according to the program notes). Wedman was a joy to watch and listen to as she performed J. S. Bach’s “Sonata for Violin and Continuo in G Major” (BWV 1021). She is a brilliant soloists and left the audience on a great buzz right before the intermission.

Two works for solo voice were also part of the first half, starting with “Es Ist Volbracht!” from Johannespassion (BWV 215) by J. S. Bach, the solmenity of which St. Pierre conveyed with artistry and precision. It was a great counterpoint to McLaughlin’s impassioned rendition of “Can I see My Infant Gor’d” from Solomon by Handel, performed with the addition of Montreal-based violist Pemi Paull. Together they offered a complex vocal palette that only whet our appetite for their duet in the much anticipated Stabat Mater.

Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater meditates on the sorry of Mary as she stood near the cross where Jesus was dying. Even without following the translation in the text, it is a powerful piece of music that holds your attention to the end. Martin’s understated performance on the organ offered a continuous musical depth that is easily taken for granted. St. Pierre and McLaughlin were an indomitable as a vocal duo.

The ensemble as a whole performed with a mindfulness of every musical turn that distinguishes a great performance from a good one. Throughout the piece, the audience hung on to every note, waiting until the very end to express their resounding applause and appreciation in a standing ovation.

For fans of this ensemble who are probably wondering, there was a musical display of their ‘serious irreverence’ that came at the very end: the encore was a fine arrangement of Eric Clapton’s If I Saw You In Heaven. It was performed beautifully, but with a mischievous air of “yeah, we went there” that the audience loved.

I FURIOSI presents music that tickles the minds and stirs our hearts as they reach for ever deeper meaning in all of us through music. Save the date for the last concert of their 15th season at Windermere United Church on May 17, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”