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The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra.(Photo by: PR)
Dedicated to decades of decadence
The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra launches its new season.
Prominent Italian Baroque violinistcum- conductor Enrico Onofrio will conduct and perform in the opening concert of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra. The program, called Baroque Decadence, features works by Vivaldi, Geminiani, Corelli, Telemann and Handel.

Onofri’s successful globe trotting career began with an invitation from Jordi Savall to be the concertmaster of La Capella Reial de Catalunya. He soon found himself working with groups such as Concentus Musicus Wien, Ensemble Mosaiques and Concerto Italiano. From 1987 to 2010 he was the concertmaster and soloist of Il Giardino Armonico. In 2002 he embarked upon a conductor’s career, which brought him great critical acclaim and numerous invitations from orchestras and festivals around the world.

Onofri has performed in the world’s most famous concert halls, alongside artists such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, and Cecilia Bartoli. He has released numerous recordings and conducts master classes throughout the world.

Currently on tour in Japan, he explains his attraction to Baroque music.

“Since my father is a painter and my mother an antiquarian, I grew up surrounded by paintings, furniture and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries. That probably contributed to my developing an attraction to Baroque music and in general to the historically informed performances.

Actually, I specialize in Baroque and classical music, but I’m also very close to earlier and later repertoires,” he says.

Onofri believes that being Italian helps him better understand the Baroque music that was written in Italy.

“I can say that there are many elements in Italian music which are understandable only if you know our language very well, which is strictly related to the writing of our music and our multifaceted culture. But I can’t say that a musician must be Italian to play our music in the correct way: I know some foreign musicians who studied our culture deeply and got appreciable results. I also know Italian colleagues who were so influenced by foreign tastes and culture that they lost the correct view and spirit. In any case, every musician brings his or her own cultural background to the music. It always happens, and the results are often very interesting,” he says.

In regard to the upcoming concerts, Onofri says, “The program is dedicated to the decadent style of late Baroque – i.e., the epoch in which different national styles started to get mixed in, creating an interesting pan-European melting pot. Telemann’s Ouverture des Nations Anciennes et Modernes is dedicated to nations, especially the new Northern European states of the Baroque era. It’s a very funny piece because the last “decadent” movement [“The old ladies”] is a joke about France, Italy and Spain – the old ladies of Europe. Corelli’s Ciaccona is one of the rare pieces by Corelli clearly influenced by French music. Handel is the composer who melded together Italian and French music – and he was a German who lived in England. The same goes for Geminiani, who moved to England and amalgamated Italian and French styles,” he says.

“Vivaldi’s Il coro delle muse is the overture of a lost cantata dedicated to the prince of Saxony during his visit to Venice, celebrating the glory of that nation,“ he continues.

“Vivaldi’s virtuoso concerto titled Grosso Mogul is dedicated to the exotic places in the Balkans, and the first movement imitates a Turkish march. Actually, it was written for the annual celebration of the Venetian victory over the Turkish army in Lepanto one century earlier, but probably there was quite a lot of confusion about exotic matters in Vivaldi’s time, so although the title refers to the Mogul Indian empire, the concerto is related to the Ottoman Empire,” he says.

On the whole, the 2016-2017 season program of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, founded and directed by David Shemer, features five excellent concerts, as well as the second edition of the successful Bach in Jerusalem Festival.

In December the orchestra, joined by Phoenix – the internationally acclaimed viola da gamba ensemble – and leading young Israeli singers will perform one of the most important of Baroque works, Buxtehude’s cantata cycle Membra Jesu Nostri. In January the audience will enjoy Joseph and His Brothers, a splendid musical drama by Elam Rotem, based on the famous biblical story and sung in Hebrew by the Profeti della Quinta Israeli ensemble, based in Switzerland. The fifth concert will feature various famous women from mythical stories, with rising international star Israeli soprano Shaked Bar as soloist.

To conclude the season, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with violinist Luis Otávio Santos will offer a different, distinctive and surprising perspective.

Among the Bach Festival highlights are Bach’s Mass in B Minor as the festival’s center piece, performed under the baton of Andrew Parrott, and a concert featuring soprano Claire Meghnagi in a program of Bach cantatas.

The opening concert takes place on November 13 at 8 p.m. at The Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv and November 14 at 8 p.m. at the International YMCA in Jerusalem. For more details, visit
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