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Gerald Elias will offer a novel twist in free concert

Published November 2, 2013 1:42 pm

Music • The violinist-turned-author returns to the Salt Lake stage with a Baroque violin.
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Gerald Elias has maintained a high profile on Salt Lake City's music scene since retiring from the Utah Symphony in 2011. Elias, who had been associate concertmaster with the orchestra since 1988, has written a series of mystery novels set in the music world; he's also music director of the popular Vivaldi by Candlelight series. So it might come as a surprise that Sunday marks his first Salt Lake City violin recital since leaving the Utah Symphony.

The free concert is a celebration of composer Arcangelo Corelli, who died 300 years ago. For variety, there will also be a couple of sonatas by Handel, a composer from the next generation, whose work clearly shows Corelli's influence; assisting Elias are harpsichordist Pamela Palmer Jones and Baroque cellist Eleanor Christman Cox.

Elias will perform on a Baroque violin, which he noted with amusement is newer than the "contemporary" violin he usually plays. The Baroque instrument, loaned to him by Monte Belknap of the Brigham Young University faculty, was built in the 19th century by a French maker and subsequently refitted to Baroque standards. (Elias' violin, conversely, was made in 1785 and converted to modern standards around the mid-19th century, as was the case with 99 percent of 17th- and 18th-century violins; he explained that the need to project a bigger sound in bigger concert halls was a primary factor necessitating the changes.)

"It's been fun and really challenging," he said of his preparations for the recital. "It's quite different from playing a contemporary violin." A Baroque violin has a shorted fingerboard, a different neck angle and strings made of gut instead of metal. The bow has a convex curve, unlike the modern concave bow, so the balance points and articulation are different. "It all requires physical adjustments and also aural adjustments," Elias said.

Corelli was the most famous composer in Europe during his lifetime and was the first to have his music published and distributed all over the continent, the violinist said. He was meticulous in preparing scores for publication, so Elias is confident that what Sunday's audience will hear is as close as possible to the composer's intention. —

Going for Baroque

Violinist Gerald Elias will present a recital commemorating the 300th anniversary of composer Arcangelo Corelli's death.

With • Pamela Palmer Jones on harpsichord and Eleanor Christman Cox on Baroque cello.

Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City.

When • Sunday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.

Admission • Free.