Acronym Baroque String Band dusts off the fake and the forgotten in Close Encounters With Music concert

GREAT BARRINGTON — Caution: This music is fake.

The warning could be affixed to some of the music to be played on the Close Encounters with Music program. And the music that isn't fake has largely been passed over by history.

The Acronym Baroque String Band will join Close Encounters cellist-host Yehuda Hanani in dusting off these oddities 6 p.m. Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Acronym, a 12-member period-instrument ensemble, bills itself as "dedicated to giving modern premieres of the wild instrumental music of the 17th century."

There's some "really cool stuff" from back then that audiences don't get to hear, says Acronym founder Kivie Cahn-Lipman, who plays viola da gamba in the group. The music has become newly available thanks to modern technology.

The program comes in two parts. In the first half, Hanani, who plays a modern cello, will be the soloist with orchestra in 19th- and 20th-century arrangements - fakes - concocted by performers for solo use. Their goal: to make true baroque pieces pleasing, even romantic, for audiences.

The pieces, Cahn-Lipman says, "had sort of the trappings of baroque music but really none of the stylistic detail of the baroque." Sometimes the melodies were baroque originals, sometimes "maybe not even that," he says.

In the program's last half, Acronym will play a selection of true 17th-century music that had lain mostly forgotten until technology came to the rescue. The mostly forgotten composers - Capricornus, Valentini and Bertali, to name three - come from an approximate 50-year gap in standard baroque repertoire between Sch tz and Bach.

Acronym was founded by Cahn-Lipman in 2012. Acronym lovers in the group came up with the name, and Cahn-Lipman says that if listeners look closely enough, they may find acronyms in players' names.

The impetus for formation, Cahn-Lipman said in a telephone interview, was scanning technology that made it possible and affordable for libraries, churches and museums across Europe to digitize their collections of unpublished old manuscripts. "So," Cahn-Lipman said, "a lot of scores that have been sitting behind glass or just sort of molding in basements are suddenly being scanned and available, really, to anyone who wants to seek them out."

Valentini and Bertali were actually among the most famous composers in Europe during lifetimes, Cahn-Lipman said. Both were court music directors of Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Ferdinand II, who ruled from 1619 to 1637.

Cahn-Lipman recalls that he encountered the trove as he was finishing school about 10 years ago. He began going through an archive and thought, "Wow, some of this music is really great." But no one was playing the stuff because early-music ensembles were focused on a better-known repertoire.

As for the "fakes" on the program, Hanani likens them to fakes in art museums. "Leaving the baby on the doorstep of a good family to give him a better chance in life, many composers attributed their works to a more famous composer," he writes in an introduction.

Violinist Fritz Kreisler, for example, fooled the world by writing pieces in pseudo-baroque style and attributing them to such composers as Couperin and Vivaldi, claiming to have found the manuscripts in a monastery. Examples on the Close Encounters program will include pieces supposedly written by Frescobaldi, Couperin and C.P.E. Bach.

Cahn-Lipman says the Bach fake, along with a Handel fake, was actually written by a French violist named Henri Casadesus for viola or cello solo. Casadesus claimed to have arranged a C.P.E. Bach original that he found in a manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

"The problem was," Cahn-Lipman says, "the library didn't have these concertos and critics in 1940s very quickly pointed out that they didn't sound anything like Handel and Bach. But they were published and Casadesus got credit as arranger." The viola-cello concerto was nevertheless taken up by the great violist William Primrose.

Acronym doesn't limit itself to the far-out stuff. Cahn-Lipman says the group also plays the baroque standards, which included a Bach program with Close Encounters two years ago. The music is standard "for a reason," he says: because it's great.                                                                                                                                                      

The mix, he says, is "a lot of fun for the ensemble."


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