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From the Baroque to the Edge of the Avant-Garde

The Rebel Ensemble (photo by Howard Goodman)

Rebel and Norrbotten NEO at UB

Key in the words “rebel” and “music” in a Google search and the top result will most likely be the reggae song “Rebel Music” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. It’s pretty safe to say, however, that Bob Marley will not be on the program this Friday evening, November 30 at 7:30pm, when the Baroque music ensemble known as Rebel returns to the stage at Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the UB Amherst Campus, as the third concert in this year’s Slee Visiting Artists Series. The group’s previous appearance in this series in 2005 set a standard for authentic performance practice that has not been subsequently surpassed locally.

Formed in 1991 in the Netherlands at the Utrecht Early Music Festival, the group was named after the innovative French Baroque violinist and composer Jean-Féry Rebel, whose compositions feature audacious harmonies produced by complex counter-rhythms that were not fully appreciated by his contemporaries, making his name an appropriate choice for a group that is always seeking new ways to make music from an era long past come alive for modern audiences. Acclaimed for its worldwide touring performances, Rebel enjoyed a long-term residency from 1997-2009 at the historic Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, achieving high acclaim for its collaborations with the Trinity Choir with works ranging from the cantatas of Bach to large-scale works by Monteverdi, Handel, Bach, Purcell, Mozart, and Haydn.

The Rebel ensemble performs with a constantly shifting body of performers, based on the requirements of the music programmed for a particular concert, but one constant is the presence of the directors of the group, violinists and violists Jörg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, who will be joined for this performance by cellist John Moran, along with Dongsok Shin, on harpsichord and organ.

The event is being billed as “Barocco: Musical Treasures of the 17th & 18th centuries,” and while the majority of the composers represented are Italian, ranging from the well-known, such as Corelli and Geminiani, to the more obscure, such as Marini and Gallo, selections from the great German master Georg Philipp Telemann, the most prolific of all Baroque composers, will also be featured, along with a work by the very English composer William Boyce.

Taking it to the Edge

Has it really been four years this December, since Norrbotten NEO last visited Buffalo, in December 2008? At that time, the cutting-edge contemporary music group, based in the extreme far north of Sweden, had been in existence for less than two years, but had already demonstrated both the willingness and the ability to tackle some very demanding contemporary music. The return of the Norrbotten NEO as part of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music to the stage of Slee Hall at UB on Wednesday, December 5 at 7:30pm, promises to be a refreshing pause in the strong current of classical Christmas-themed concerts that has already begun to dominate area stages.

Artistic director Petter Sundkvist, an expert in the performance of 18th- and 19th-century music, is the leader of Norrbotten NEO, and the ensemble has a core of seven musicians: flutist Sara Hammarström, clarinetist Robert Ek, percussionist Daniel Saur, pianist Mårten Landström, violinist Christian Svarfvar, violist Kim Hellgren, and cellist David Gammelgård.

While details of the program were not available at press-time, it’s probable that many of the same works that the group will be performing in their “Winter Fragments” concert at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, DC, this Sunday afternoon, exploring the inner and outer states of winter, a commonplace of life in the far north, will also figure on their Slee Hall program. Contemporary works in that program include Tristan Murail’s Winter Fragments, composed in 2000, and two recent works commissioned by the group from Swedish composers, The Secrets of Eros by B. Tommy Andersson, and Isär by Madeleine Isaksson, as well as the group’s take on Vivaldi’s Winter Concerto from his Four Seasons, and Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K. 498.

The next day, Thursday, December 6, at noon, the members of Norrbotten NEO will conduct a composer’s workshop, free and open to public observation, where they will perform works by University at Buffalo graduate student composers, including UB Symphony Orchestra music director Daniel Bassin, Clint Haycraft, Colin Tucker, David Rappenecker, Kenichi Saeki, Megan Buegger, and Nathan Heidelberger, whose song cycle Descriptions of the Moon was one of the highlights of last season’s A Musical Feast concert series.

For ticket information, call 645-2921 or visit

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