By Bob Workmon
Posted: February 16, 2018
REVIEW: Chamber music group ACRONYM makes the old new
Chamber Music Wilmington has a wild surprise for area music fans. On Sunday, Feb. 25, the early-music group ACRONYM arrives up for a masterclass in WHQR’s M.C. Erny Gallery, followed that evening by a full concert at Beckwith Recital Hall on the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus.
Wild how? You may well ask. For starters, ACRONYM’s 12 members have earned a reputation for fearless performances of 17th-century music and for resurrecting the spirits of long-forgotten composers. And then there’s the youthful energy this band of twenty- and thirty-somethings brings to music that some would dismiss as best left in a library basement.
Loren Ludwig, one of ACRONYM’s spokespersons and a viola da gamba virtuoso (it’s like a cello that you actually have to hold up with your legs), responded to email questions last weekend from his home in Baltimore. His response to the question “Is ACRONYM an acronym?” says a lot about the group and its fun approach.
“We’re always looking,” Ludwig wrote. “A few favorites: Albino-squirrel Consort Radiating from Oberlin via New York, Mostly; Altmusik Camerata Resurrecting Old -- but New to You -- Music; A Cabinet of Rather Odd and Nutty Young Musicians; etc. We use a new one for each recording,” of which the group has six.
The ACRONYM ensemble came into existence in 2012 when gamba player Kivie Cahn-Lipman assembled the band to record a then little-known collection of sonatas by the 17th-century German composer Johann Pezel.
“Many of us were already friends from Oberlin and/or Julliard and we had such a great time recording Pezel that we decided that we’d keep playing together as a group,” Ludwig said.
The ensemble has a mission, which Ludwig said is to “have a wonderful time exploring the amazing and still relatively unknown 17th century chamber music buried in libraries and archives across Europe.”
Ludwig said that the each of ACRONYM’s recordings and its concerts feature music from the first half of the 17th century for large string ensemble unheard for about 400 years.
“We’ve created a lot of fans of those obscure and long-forgotten composers who were often quite famous in their day,” he said. “Antonio Bertali and Giovanni Valentini are two good examples.”
For Wilmington, Ludwig said, ACRONYM is excited to play some “very modern” music, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and his concerto for lute and viola d’amore.
“It’s the first time that we’ve programmed 18th century music and we’ll also be playing some of our more typical 17th century repertoire by Bertali, Rosenmuller and Valentini.”
Ludwig said that what sets ACRONYM’s interpretation of Vivaldi apart from so many others is that, for the group, it represents “bracingly new music.”
“It’s decades later than most of the music we play as ACRONYM and it’s really fun to experience Vivaldi as ‘new music,’” he said. “Also, we are a chamber group, rather than an orchestra, so we’ll be playing Vivaldi’s orchestral parts one-on-a-part as chamber music. While that means that our performance won’t be as loud as an orchestra, it also means that the textures and interplay of the parts will come to fore in an exciting way.”
In the end, Ludwig said, “It makes us happy when audiences see how much we love this music and how much we enjoy playing together. If they take away a new love for a previously unknown composer, that’s not a bad thing, either!”