SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College Whitney Center for the Arts will host the Venice Baroque Orchestra this weekend, an internationally acclaimed group that Whitney Center for the Arts director Erin Hanke said is perhaps the most famous group the Whitney Center has every hosted.
“I would argue this is the highest profile group we have had in the [Whitney Center] yet,” Hanke said. “This group is such a legendary group, and it’s so exciting live. To be able to bring them to the Sheridan area, it seemed like such a treat for the community. There’s just no one who sounds like them.”
Since forming in 1997, the Venice Orchestra has grown into one of the most influential and widely-respected baroque orchestras in the world. The orchestra has performed across Europe, North America and South America as well as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.
Hanke has a PhD in historical music from the State University of New York Stony Brook, where her studies focused on baroque music. She also plays the harpsichord in the Wyoming Baroque Orchestra. Because of her background, Hanke said she is particularly excited to present this group to Sheridan.
“This is definitely in my wheelhouse, and I’m really thrilled to bring this group,” Hanke said. “They are the group that everyone who studied the kind of music I studied looks to as the crème de la crème of this genre.”
Baroque music generally refers to music composed during the 1600s and early 1700s, which Hanke said is when composers began writing music that let instruments have distinct parts instead of being folded into the rest of the orchestra.
“This [period] is when a lot of instruments started to get individual attention,” Hanke said. “…Composers started to write for each instrument and just really utilized what each instrument could contribute. So every instrument has a chance to be a soloist, basically.”
Because the compositions were written several hundred years ago, and were often deliberately vague to give musicians a certain amount of freedom in their performance, Hanke said contemporary baroque musicians have to piece together and interpret the compositions before performing them.
“It’s kind of like its own language in a lot of ways,” Hanke said.
Besides demonstrating a mastery of baroque instruments, the Venice Orchestra’s interpretations of baroque compositions have become widely influential. This is particularly true of compositions by Antonio Vivaldi, who was from Venice and is one of the most notable baroque composers.
“They are considered the ultimate interpreters of Vivaldi’s music,” Hanke said.
The concert has an added significance for Hanke, who announced earlier this month she will be leaving the Whitney Center in 2019 to take over as the director of the University of Northern Colorado Performing Art Center.
“I can’t really think of a more bittersweet concert to kind of end on,” Hanke said. “Because this was kind of my focus in school, it’s sort of coming full circle.”