Sinfonietta features Vivaldi, Handel program

Sunday afternoon’s Louisiana Sinfonietta concert was heavy on music from the Baroque and Romantic eras.

Lasting just 90 minutes, including intermission, the ensemble’s annual “Music for the Young at Heart” concert included two Antonio Vivaldi concertos and five fragmentary pieces by the Italian composer’s German-English contemporary, George Frideric Handel.

The Vivaldi works played into the concert’s music for the young theme. The composer, in his position as maestro di violino at the Ospedale della Pietà, a school for girls in Venice, wrote many pieces for his students.

Concerto in G major for oboe, bassoon and strings is another example of Vivaldi’s characteristic energy and extroversion. The Sinfonietta’s assistant conductor, Raúl Gómez, led the ensemble, and Elizabeth Miller and Scott Miller, respectively, served as oboe and bassoon soloists.

Oboe and bassoon, two woodwind instruments of dramatically contrasting sonority, are a novel combination in a concerto. The soloists also performed contrasting, independent lines of melody. The bassoon parts in the first movement, especially, were lively in the extreme, which suggests the students who may have performed the work were quite accomplished.

The Sinfonietta’s string players dropped out for the Vivaldi concerto’s slow middle movement, leaving harpsichordist Louis Wendt to the job of accompanying the soloists. The strings returned for the finale, a vivacious movement highlighted by the oboe’s many trills.

The program’s other Vivaldi composition, Concerto in D major for cello and strings, featured Sinfonietta principal cellist Susannah Montandon in the soloist chair. She shined most of all in the work’s most difficult movement, playing rapid arpeggios and runs in the concerto’s showy finale.

In contrast to the finger-work display heard in the afternoon’s Vivaldi selections, clarinetist Victor Drescher’s performance of clarinetist-composer Heinrich Joseph Baermann’s Adagio for clarinet and strings, Op. 23, emphasized lyricism and expressivity. Baermann, a contemporary of his fellow Germans, Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn, created an fine example of Romantic-era chamber music with the piece, which Drescher ably demonstrated.

But it was another of the afternoon’s soloists, LSU professor of violin Lin He, who stole the show with his performance of Franz Schubert’s Rondo in A major for violin and string orchestra. An early Romantic-era masterwork, it features jaunty, dancelike places and dramatic sections.

He performed from memory, executing well-articulated, speedy passages throughout the piece and shifting easily through contrasting moods with panache. Many people in the audience gave him a standing ovation.

As is “Music for the Young at Heart” concert tradition, Judy Constantinides read a story accompanied by music composed and conducted by her husband, Sinfonietta music director Dinos Constantinides. This year’s short story, “The Peddler’s Dream,” told of a seller of children’s books who, even after he strikes it rich, doesn’t forget the importance of literature.