MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE
For years Music of the Baroque has been among the most consistently intelligent and accessible ensembles in Chicago. And even when it's financially strapped--this season its revival of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo was canceled due to poor advance ticket sales, and the group will mount only seven programs--it lavishes as much attention on every concert as NASA does on a Mars mission. Conductor and founder Thomas Wikman is a stickler for detail, and while I have quibbles with his choice of tempi and dynamics for, say, Mozart's symphonies, he and his crew sculpt musical phrases exquisitely, drawing out the emotional ups and downs with uncommon gusto. Music of the Baroque was formed from the core of a Hyde Park church choir in 1972, and since then it's grown into a 26-member chorus and 31-seat orchestra. Wikman, an advocate of the bel canto style, has coached generations of singers; many return to the chorus regularly, and some have never left. Soprano Christine Brandes, performing with the outfit this week, isn't a Wikman protege--she's performed under Baroque specialists like Nicholas McGegan and Ton Koopman--but she and the members have an easy rapport. She blooms when they back her up, her voice clear, radiant, and resonant with the meaning of her text, and the orchestra returns the compliment, playing with ardor and nuance. Almost all the orchestra's members also perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera, and Brandes frequently sings with the Newberry Consort; any collaboration between them would be worth hearing, but this one happens to be an all-Mozart program that includes two great choral works, the Coronation Mass and the motet "Ave verum corpus." Tuesday, 8 PM, First United Methodist Church, 1630 Hinman, Evanston, and Wednesday, 8 PM, Old Saint Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams; 312-551-1415. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Thomas Wikman and Christine Brandes uncredited photos.