"A distinguished national early music group, Agave Baroque, made its Seattle debut last Tuesday night at Trinity Parish Church with a superbly played and sung program of music by a composer virtually unknown to most of us..."
—The Sunbreak (Seattle), September 26, 2015
Friends of Ferdinand
VGo Recordings VG1021
The title refers to Ferdinand I and II, Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperors, and five composers at the courts of Vienna and Salzburg, two of them well-known (Johann Heinrich Schmelzer and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber) and three of them now in total eclipse (Antonio Bertali, Marco Antonio Ferro, and Giovanni Battista Granata).
The marriage of serious liturgical music and lively profane court music was known as stylus fantasticus--or as Schmelzer called his collection dedicated to the style, Sacro-profanus concentus musicus fidium. Agave Baroque, led by the brilliant violinist Aaron Westman, makes an effulgent case for this early- to mid-17th-century music. This recording immediately engages the listener with a sprightly Chiacona by Bertali, establishing Agave Baroque as an energized, free-spirited group from the start. Schmelzer and Bertali were violin virtuosi, and the repertoire is, to quote the CD notes, "...characterized by a melting pot of disparate styles, some new, some old, and all at once groundbreaking, sublime, unique, and vibrant." Harpsichord (JungHae Kim), viola da gamba (Shirley Hunt), and Baroque guitar (Kevin Cooper) round out the instruments on the disc, with Cooper mostly supporting the profound violin playing of Westman but also shining as a soloist in Granata's Sonata di Chitarra, e Violino con il suo Basso Continuo.
This young group of Californian virtuosi have created a strong future reference for this little-known repertoire and a great follow-up to their widely acclaimed premiere recording Cold Genius: The music of Henry Purcell and his contemporaries, released in 2012.
—Paul-James Dwyer, Early Music America, Fall 2014
"Another audience favorite was Agave Baroque 's concert of music by Biber and his contemporaries. Rapturous music and impressive playing by Aaron Westman, Shirley Hunt, Kevin Cooper, JungHae Kim, and their guests kept the audience entranced. As one concert-goer put it, "I was blown away ... the performance was just about perfect!"
— Early Music America
"I recently had the good fortune of hearing probably one of the most exquisite performances of my life. In the tea room at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, packed so full that it was sweltering inside despite the cold outside, I heard Agave Baroque present a program of works by Henry Purcell and some of his contemporaries on period instruments. The harpsichord alone seemed to take up 1/3 of the room. Henry Purcell’s complete set of secular songs on Hyperion has been getting a lot of play in my headphones lately, and I was quite excited for this concert. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for this performance, which was just… I mean… there is nothing that I can really say to give justice to it, except to say perhaps that if you were not there, you missed out on a rare treat."
— Scout Network Blog