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Mandolin Performance with the New Century Chamber Orchestra

baroque mandolinCaterina Lichtenberg and I had the great honor of being asked to perform with the New Century Chamber Orchestra in 2012. This group is a Bay Area based ensemble of strings and is lead by violin virtuoso Nadia Solerno-Sonnenberg. This is an elite group of some of the best players Nadia could surround herself with. For Caterina and I it was a real treat. Click here to listen to the performance, it's in "Hour 2" of April 24th's program on 

Caterina was able to introduce this group and the Bay Area audiences to her Baroque mandolin, or Soprano Lute, and performed Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Maj that night - and I performed my classical and bluegrass inspired Mandolin Concerto No 1.

The Baroque Mandolin is a nylon stringed instrument that is tuned a little closer to the guitar with 4ths and a 3rd and it was the instrument which Vivaldi actually wrote his concertos for. It has gut strings and tied on gut frets, is played with a quill and weighs almost nothing but MAN does that thing put out some sound! Especially in the hands of Caterina. 

The ensemble was a delight and blended beautiful with the delicate shadings and dynamics which Caterina is such a master at especially when playing Baroque music.

My Concerto is a three movement piece (fast/slow/fast) with a first movement that sounds stuck between a heavy 70s rock groove and a soundtrack for a Roman soldiers film. The second movement begins with a pop like melody played on mandocello and then evolves into an Italian-esq. romantic theme ending with an improvisation over an insistent melodic motif in the strings.

Movement three is bluegrass romp taken through many key changes, rhythmic shifts and open spaces more similar to a carney ferris wheel ride than any hayride I’ve ever been on. It too has a spot near the end for an extended solo over a long 5/4 groove.

It was a memorable weekend where we got to perform in three separate venues ending at this fine concert hall in San Francisco’s beautiful Herbst Theater.

Hope you enjoy.

mike marshall and caterina lichtenberg