Grand New Happenings in the Period-Instrument Scene

Imagine a young, thriving ensemble that presents charming Harmonie Band works in intimate venues, explores chamber music of diverse and unexpected instrument combinations, fills concert halls with symphonic masterpieces,  and even serves as a ready-made opera orchestra.  Now imagine all that music-making happening on gut strings, valveless brass, and woodwind instruments that seem to be missing asuspicious number of keys….

We are Grand Harmonie!

Currently embarking on our third season, the Grand Harmonie goal is to bring a fresh, spontaneous voiceto period-instrument performance on the East Coast.  We explore repertoire of the late-Classical through the early-Romantic with compelling interpretations that never sacrifice style, scholarship, or substance.

Like many innovative organizations, we govern from within via a core group of wind and string players: Elisabeth Axtell (horn), Chris Belluscio (trumpet), Emily Dahl (violin), Elizabeth Hardy (bassoon), Yoni Kahn (horn), Kristin Olson (oboe), and Sarah Paysnick (flute).  Our very first “founders meeting” took place at MIT, where chalkboards full of physics equations shared space with an ambitious list of our own dreams.

Play classical wind music anywhere and everywhere!  Dive head-first into gorgeous Romantic salon repertoire!  Conquer full orchestral works on period instruments…but not from the Baroque-focused mindset common to so many other historic performance groups! We were hungry for Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms….and beyond.

Can these seemingly disparate interests live under the roof of one cohesive ensemble?  The short answer is an emphatic YES.  Each Grand Harmonie member brings their own musical focus to the table, which leads to the flexibility and fun inherent in our programming.  Because our players are based in Boston and New York, we are able to present diverse concert cycles in both cities.  This means an even larger audience base is exposed to the incredible sounds that Classical and Romantic composers meant for us to hear.

And trust us, you’ll want to hear it.  Period-instrument performances are full of visceral textures and unexpected tone colors that simply aren’t possible with modern instruments.  The Grand Harmonie sound has been hailed by critics as “delicate and gauzy” (New York Times), “tight and energetic” (Boston Globe), and “lusty, rhythmic, and rustic – theirs was early music with a stomp” (Hub Review).

Our season opens on November 22 and 23 with a dashing program of C.P.E. Bach, Gluck, Mozart, and Haydn, featuring Maestro Edward Elwyn Jones and Grand Harmonie’s own Kristin Olson, a tremendous up-and-coming oboist.  You’ll find a narrative “taste” of the full program below – won’t you consider joining us? We would be thrilled to welcome you to the Grand Harmonie experience.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Symphony No. 1 in D major, Wq.183/1

Symphony in D takes listeners on a Tour de Force through the colorful genius of C.P.E. Bach. Insistent arpeggios and unexpected syncopations lead to fanciful flights of strings and winds. A graceful Largo, revealing all the charm of C.P.E.’s classical style, gives way to an exuberant and rambunctious finale – a fitting celebration of the composer’s three hundredth anniversary year.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Ballet Interludes from Orfeo ed Euridice

Gluck’s “Orfeo” is a work of undeniable dramatic power and crystalline musical expression. Its richly inventive orchestration utilizes a wide palette of colors and sonic effects. We present excerpts of the opera’s charming dance interludes in honor of yet another three hundredth anniversary!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Oboe Concerto in C major, K. 314, featuring Kristin Olson

Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, featuring Grand Harmonie’s own Kristin Olson, unites classical elegance and operatic passions. Ms. Olson’s artistry, energy, and engaging musicianship place her at the forefront of an exciting new generation of period-instrument performers.

Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major, “Drumroll”

Haydn’s Symphony 103 commands attention from its very first measure: a striking solo drumroll. Written during Haydn’s wildly popular tenure in London, this perennial favorite features dance rhythms, folk music, double variations, horns calls, beautiful solo writing, and a movement so compelling that its premiere audience insisted the orchestra play it twice!

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Elisabeth Axtell represents a generation of musicians whose careers are equal parts artistry and entrepreneurship.  She is a co-founder and core member of Grand Harmonie, a groundbreaking ensemble bringing a fresh, spontaneous voice to period music performance on the East Coast.  She also serves as co-director of Emergere, a full-force wind ensemble pioneering a conductorless, player-led performance model.  Regular performance engagements include Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, Fenway Quintet, Metropolitan Wind Symphony, and more.

A native of Washington State, Elisabeth holds dual degrees in English and music from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota and a masters degree in music performance from Boston University.  Her primary teachers include Eric Ruske, Kathleen Vaught-Farner, and David Schultz.

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