There's something remarkable about period instruments: close your eyes, and you're suddenly transported to another century. As such, period ensemble Grand Harmonie have made it their mission to perform on strings, brass, and woodwinds that were made as early as the 1600s. According to the program, a "Grand Harmonie" would perform specifically for the court's enjoyment. And, while we're no longer in the days of thrones, their poise and skill was no less pronounced.
Last Friday's all-Mozart concert at the church of St. Ignatius of Antioch began with the Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, featuring violinist Cythnia Roberts. To my surprise, the strings, while rich in tone, were quiet, almost muted in the cavernous church. Prior to the performance, Roberts told the audience that her instrument was made by Jacob Stainer in 1655, similar to ones played by the Mozart family. She then beautifully smiled at the violin and said, "I wish I could look into the past through this instrument to see what it has seen."
Next was the Serenade in D Major, K. 239, which added oboes and horn. Before the performance, Yoni Kahn took time to describe his horn, a fascinating piece of art in its own right. Created in one piece, without buttons, he used his hand to create different tones.
After a brief intermission, the full ensemble performed Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony No. 41. The familiar classic had everyone in the audience tapping their feet. A great way to end the evening.
The day before I saw them, Grand Harmonie previewed this program the at a special free event sponsored by the Mount Sinai Concerts for Patients, a series of free baroque and classical music concerts at the Mount Sinai Hospital Guggenheim Atrium, co-founded by Grand Harmonie oboist Kristin Olson.
Grand Harmonie returns in February with a performance of George Onslow's Wind Quintet, Op. 81 at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. More info on Grand Harmonie's events here.