Juilliard’s Historical Performance (HP) program, which was created in 2009, offers comprehensive study of music of the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments, including the student ensemble Juilliard415. (Juilliard415 takes its name from the pitch commonly associated with the performance of baroque music, A=415.) But HP also takes extended tours into the music of the early 19th century. The final two concerts of its spring season (both in Alice Tully Hall) demonstrate both approaches as well as giving HP an opportunity to collaborate with the school’s Dance Division.
On April 1, Juilliard415 will perform The Classical Style: Vienna at the Turn of the 19th Century, with Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro Overture and Piano Concerto No. 21 (featuring soloist Suren Barry, a second-year HP student) and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 on the program. “We wanted to do a classical program that would stretch us into the 19th century, which is something we haven’t done in a while,” HP’s director, Robert Mealy, explains. “Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 seemed like the perfect choice to pair with Mozart, since its sunniness and grace are so deeply influenced by his compositions. Around the time he was sketching this symphony, Schubert wrote in his diary, ‘O Mozart! Immortal Mozart! What countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!’”
Leading The Classical Style will be French conductor Laurence Equilbey, who will be making her Juilliard debut on the podium. “We are very happy to welcome her to Juilliard415,” Mealy says. “She directs the Insula Orchestra in Paris, a group that is very committed to 19th-century performance practice. And it’s great to celebrate a woman conductor working in this repertoire, which is still all too rare.”
Juilliard415’s final performance this season is a little less traditional. In February, HP joined with Juilliard Vocal Arts and Drama students for a new adaptation of Henry Purcell’s King Arthur; another school collaboration will take place at Tully on May 1 as several Juilliard dance students will take part in Moving Through Time: Baroque Dances Old and New. But the May 1 performance begins with just Juilliard415 onstage, playing Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Élemens, followed by another Rebel piece, Les caractères de la danse. “The concert will open with the musicians of Juilliard415 by themselves, performing Rebel’s Les Élemens, an orchestral suite about chaos and order that begins with all the notes of the scale played simultaneously,” Mealy explains. “Gradually, out of that musical chaos, the four elements—air, fire, water, and earth—are separated and the rest of the suite celebrates each particular element. It’s an intensely kinetic work that will be a lot of fun for us to do.”
The evening’s second half will feature new choreography set to two Baroque-era masterpieces. The first piece, choreographed by Baroque dance specialist Caroline Copeland, is set to the suite from John Blow’s Venus and Adonis (1683), and it will be performed by four professional Baroque dancers. The second piece, the suite from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1749’s Naïs, will be choreographed by Aaron Loux (BA ’09, dance), who’s working with Juilliard dancers.
“We’ll have two different worlds of dance coming together,” Mealy notes, “with Loux creating new work to Rameau and Caroline Copeland setting Baroque dances to Blow’s Venus and Adonis, a quirky and ingenious score that inspired Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas but is rarely heard.” Mealy also hears a through line in this concert, from the dissonant sounds that open Les Élemens to the radiant conclusion of Rameau’s Naïs: “There’s a musical blaze of glory at the beginning and the end.”