The Bay Area has benefited from Elizabeth Blumenstock’s presence in the violin section of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for 30 years now. This September, though, you won’t have to be
sitting in the auditorium seats to hear her smooth and eloquent playing. Instead, all you will need is a CD player and Philharmonia’s beautiful new recording of Vivaldi concertos.
Although Blumenstock has been playing the violin since she was eight years old, it wasn’t until she got to college that she had the opportunity to try a Baroque instrument. She was immediately struck by its colorful sounds and by the quick lightness of the bow. “It lifts and dances, inflects and speaks, unlike the modern bow, which is more designed for sustained singing, power and evenness,” she says. The bow helps the music sound naturally like speech, she adds, “full of strong and weak syllables, and speech-like phrases.”
Another appeal of playing Baroque music is that is has allowed Blumenstock to perform some of her favorite repertoire in small orchestras, where players can often share their ideas about the music. During her tenure at Philharmonia Baroque, she has had several opportunities to solo, including on the new Vivaldi CD (with Nicholas McGegan conducting), which will be released September 14. The music was recorded at Skywalker Ranch, where everyone, Blumenstock says, enjoyed “the beautiful, quiet, rural setting, the state of the art equipment, incredibly helpful people, and great food.” She also appreciated producer David Bowles’ technical innovations. “He designed a very unusual ‘surround sound’ for the CD, and placed me in the heart of the orchestra” she explains. “It made me feel as though I were playing chamber music rather than solo concertos, which I liked a lot!”
This summer, Blumenstock is keeping herself busy with several pieces, including the Bach A minor solo violin sonata (BWV 1003), the Bach B minor solo violin partita (BWV 1002), and the “Laudamus te” from Bach’s Mass in B minor (BWV 232). She is also working on some new arrangements of traditional Irish and Scots tunes for her chamber music group, Musica Pacifica.