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17th Baroque Fest Gets Off to Delightful Start

TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Founded in 1981, five years before the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the annual Baroque Music Festival Corona del Mar has been one of the bellwethers of a burgeoning musical sophistication in the area. Opening its 17th June season Sunday afternoon, the popular series made manifestly clear some of the reasons.

The firm, unswerving and detailed leadership of founder Burton Karson, who conducted this program of Baroque concertos, again in St. Michael & All Angels Church, is one. Unhackneyed programs, demonstrable in this balanced and delightful agenda of works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Alessandro Stradella and Handel, is another.

Perhaps most important has been the virtuosity, dedication and steadfastness of the participants who have changed, but only gradually--and toward higher artistic standards--over the years.

Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock--concertmaster of Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco as well as of this festival orchestra--and oboist Gonzalo Ruiz, soloists in the program opener, Bach’s popular Concerto in C minor, BWV 1060, showed these qualities, in tandem with high energy and handsome blending of thought. A brilliant beginning.

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The rest of the afternoon maintained this standard, particularly the closer, Handel’s buoyant Organ Concerto VII in F, as played with high spirits by Carey Robertson, assisted by Karson and the instrumental ensemble.

One also admired Michael O’Donovan’s showy playing of the Bassoon Concerto in B-flat, RV 503, by Vivaldi, and Karson’s revival of what he calls “the first concerto grosso,” Stradella’s brief but irresistible work in D for a solo contingent of two violins and lute.

This afternoon also offered Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in G, P. 120, played by Mark Chatfield, and Bach’s Ouverture No. 1 in C, led with economy and zeal by Karson.

* The Baroque Music Festival Corona del Mar continues Wednesday and Friday with 8 p.m. events at the Sherman Library and Gardens, 2645 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar, and Sunday at 4 p.m. at St. Michael & All Angels Church, 3233 Pacific View Drive, Corona del Mar. (714) 760-7887. $25-$30.

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