Bent’s hosting ‘Evening in Vienna’ concert today with musicians from Boston, Cincinnati

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 15 October 2022 at 9:32 am

MEDINA – As soon as Julie Berry saw the restored Bent’s Opera House, she thought, “What a historic place.”

That immediately brought to mind two accomplished musicians who are friends of Julie and her husband Phil.

The Berrys met keyboardist Andrus Madsen, widely acclaimed head of the Newton Baroque, while living in Boston for 14 years.

Andrus Madsen

“As soon as I saw the opera house space itself, I couldn’t resist dragging him out here,” Julie said.

Accompanying Madsen will be another friend of the Berrys, soprano Audrey Luna of Cincinnati, who will present An Evening in Vienna – a Baroness Fanny von Arnstein Salon, circa 1790 at 7 p.m. today. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved on Bent’s Opera House website. Beverages and tapes will be available for purchase.

Luna will be making her Newton Baroque debut. They will perform Arianna a Naxos by Joseph Haydn, Lieder by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Abbandonate e sola by Haydn’s teacher, Nicola Porpora.

Madsen will be playing an 18th century pianoforte. He is no stranger to Western New York, having studied at the Eastman School of Music during the second half of the 1990s. He said he first loved 18th century music growing up in Utah and loves to find ways to play it that are exciting and grab people emotionally. This will be the first time he has performed with Luna. He said she came to Boston and they hatched the idea for this program.

Madsen plays various historic instruments. His harpsichord is like Haydn played, he said. His own piano was built by the company which also built Brahms’ piano.

“I’m very interested in how people used to play and how music is presented,” Madsen said.

Madsen and Julie feel Bent’s Opera House is a perfect space for a concert like this.

Audrey Luna

“This setting is more intimate than a large concert hall and creates a situation where the audience can connect much deeper with the music,” Madsen said. “It’s possible to wind up liking music you previously knew nothing about.”

Madsen is an active performer on the organ, harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano.  He is the minister of music at the Second Church in Newton, Mass., founding director of Newton Baroque and also plays with Exsultemus, an early music vocal ensemble. He has received significant critical acclaim for his recording of keyboard music by Pachelbel.

Madsen said Luna early in her career sang in an opera house in Germany, where she was a fest soloist with Bremen Opera. She enjoys a varied career singing art song, chamber music, contemporary music, oratorio and teaching the Alexander Technique and Voice. Her love of chamber music has led to collaborations with not only several quartets, but with pianist James Tocco, with percussionist Allen Otte and Percussion Group Cincinnati.

“What attracted me to her as a singer was her priority to sing expressively, not loud or fast,” Madsen said. “She focuses on rich expression. This will be fun music. She will be singing about an abandoned woman who is desperate.”

The subject of the program, Baroness Franziska “Fanny” von Arnstein, lived in Vienna in the late 18th century. The eighth child of a prominent German Jewish family, she grew up in Berlin surrounded by Enlightenment ideals, and studied piano alongside Johann Sebastian Bach’s son Wilhelm Friedmann Bach.  Fanny arrived in Vienna as an 18-year-old bride, and was eventually elevated as a baroness. She hosted the glittering salon gatherings, where the great musicians and artists of the 1780s and 1790s mingled.

At a time when Jews were not allowed to own property, Fanny von Arnstein helped to elevate the respect in which Jews were held in 18th century Viennese high society, Julie Berry said. Fanny personally knew Haydn and Mozart and was a financial support to him during some of his darkest times. Her sister Sarah Levy did much the same in Berlin, being a friend of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. She inherited his portion of his family’s musical collection when he died.

The program at Bent’s Opera House will feature works that were likely performed at one of Fanny’s salons.

“I love music. I love Medina. And I love that space,” Berry said of Bent’s Opera House.