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BEMF Hosts Hg
by Zoe Kemmerling

Rumor has it that the name of Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski’s Baroque band Quicksilver was inspired by Neal Stephenson’s savvy alt-historical novel of the same name (part of a trilogy called The Baroque Cycle, no less). In it, the main character gives this dubious but compelling definition: “Quicksilver is the elementary form of all things fusible; for all things fusible, when melted, are changed into it, and it mingles with them because it is of the same substance with them…”

Like many proto-scientific theories, the above definition does not make a lot of logical sense, but it still leaves one with a nagging feeling of truth. Maybe that’s because it manages to capture part of the genius of Quicksilver’s Boston Early Music Festival performance on Saturday night in Cambridge’s First Church—a genius based on dazzling technical mastery and sound ensemble practice, but transcending these logical ingredients to achieve a performance that was surpassingly communicative and soulful. There is a frequent misapprehension that the farther back one goes in the musical canon, the more austere and formalized the music becomes. Quicksilver put this one to rest with their lively and loving renditions of virtuosic German Baroque chamber works, proving that thrills, humor, and tenderness are some of the fusible ingredients that run through music of any era.

The program, titled “Fantasticus: The Extravagant and Virtuosic Chamber Music of 17th-century Germany,” comprised a fluid sequence of short sonatas, most including the full complement of musicians: Mealy and Andrijeski on violins, David Morris on viola da gamba, Dominic Teresi on dulcian (an ancestor of the bassoon), Charles Weaver on theorbo and guitar, and Avi Stein on organ and harpsichord. Sonata in this context does not imply the rigid formal framework of Mozart’s time, but rather, according to Mealy, “an abstract form of wordless conversation in music, whose only organizing principle was to delight and astonish the listener.” Indeed, the ease with which each work swayed between characters, rhythms, and flavors often gave the impression of a group improvisation, organic and direct in its expressive import. Read more

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“A varied program of instrumental sonatas from this period isn’t easy to find, and the album would be worth having on this basis alone. But nothing prepares the listener for the brilliant performances here. Reports have mentioned audiences cheering the ensemble Quicksilver as if they were at a rock concert, and truly there are few other performances that have put across the visceral shock that audiences of the 17th century experienced when hearing the new music of the era. The group brings an urgent rhythmic drive that blows away any sense of the antique, and it wrings strong accents and quite a wide dynamic range out of the instruments. The rock analogy actually does apply to the performances, although they are purely within the realm of historically informed practices. A breakthrough for the early Baroque scene in the U.S., and a hugely enjoyable release.” – James Manheim,  All Music

“highlights the emotional contrasts of this repertory, and stylishly uses abrupt changes in tempo, mood and timbre to perform this music to its greatest expressive capacity. There is a real physicality to this ensemble’s recorded performance, one that made me want to see them perform live. It has been a while since I have heard such a convincing presentation of ‘old music as new music’, with the shock of the ‘contemporary’ taking the listener by surprise; this is a terrific disc.” – David R. M. Irving, Early Music (Oxford Journal)

“technically expert, flexible in phrasing, and stylish in ornamentation, fully aware of this music’s rich sense of theater… Spacious sound, close, with good definition. So what are you waiting for?” Barry Brenesal, Fanfare Magazine

Breakthrough of the Year could wind up going to Quicksilver’s breathtaking recital of the 17th century string music repertoire known as Stile Moderno. Written by increasingly less obscure composers like Dario Castello, Giovanni Battista Fontana and Biagio Marini, this music for strings, sackbut, lute and other plucked things ranges from ‘strange and extravagant trio sonatas to the spectacle ensemble music of the High Baroque,’ Quicksilver is pretty spectacular itself. With Vivaldi overloaded ahead of the biopics, Quicksilver’s demonstration that Stile Moderno is marketable could produce a flood of new recordings, concerts and riches. Parents, it’s more okay than ever to raise your children to play the dulcian and theorbo.”  Laurence Vittes, Huffington Post


“In the European baroque music scene, the United States is regarded as terra incognita, perhaps even as terra non grata…  So it’s all the more interesting when an American label dares to record materials off the beaten track. Instrumental music by Bertali, Kerll, Andreas Oswald (who?) and Dieterich Buxtehude are not heard all that frequently in the early music world. Matthias Weckmann’s Sonata for two violins, dulcian, trombone and basso continuo enthralls the audience right at the beginning of the Fantasticus CD. Using different combinations of instruments, the musicians produce completely varied listening experiences within a six-minute sonata. And this constant alternation of sound colors is maintained in the rest of the CD. Beauty of sound without obsession with sound and playfulness without exaggeration always balance each other. And the dialogues of the soloists provoke curiosity: which instruments will be competing next? It’s truly a good sign that while listening, you forget about the virtuosity involved. Therefore: recommended purchase!” -Johannes Prominczel, Österreichische Musikzeitschrift (Austrian Music Journal), May 2016

“These 12 works, effectively a series of miniature, instrumental operas—complete with theatrical combinations of arias, ostinatos, fireworks, dramatic recitatives, and popular-inspired dances—are given performances that are at once both theatrically vivid and stylistically informed. Tonal variety, flexible phrasing, and thoughtful ornamentation are evident throughout…In performances like these, it’s irresistable” – Barry Brenesal, Fanfare Magazine, May 2015

“Quicksilver signifies something unpredictable and swiftly responsive. It’s the perfect name for an ensemble that revels in music of the highest quality – and that demands exceptional instrumental skills…Many of the works contain surprises around every corner, as the composers let their imaginations soar through curious shifts of meter, harmony and form that jolt and delight the ears in equal measure. But extravagance and virtuosity are also employed to more subtle effect with the players spinning long lines coloured by delicately applied ornaments, and altering dynamics and phrasing to highlight the music’s expressive beauty….Fantasticus, indeed” – Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone, April 2015

“True avant-garde is only occasionally heard in the Baroque canon… diverse, unique, and exciting…accomplished, and beautiful…real vibrancy and imagination” –Dan Sperrin,  Fanfare Magazine, March 2015

Ten Notable Recordings of 2014  – Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“The unusual repertory is worthwhile all on its own, and when it’s played this expertly by musicians who are leaders in early music performance you have a special treat to enjoy.” – Suzanne BonaSunday Baroque

“outlandish virtuosity…Quicksilver delivers this music with all the panache and thrilling technical flair we’ve come to expect. Highly recommended” – Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist

“2014 saw one of the finest releases of ancient music…Quicksilver is a dream team of seven top early music performers”David Rutherford, Colorado Public Radio

“Exciting music from the early development of baroque style in Germany, played by Quicksilver, one of the best, most virtuosic bands around” – Alan Muirhead, Musica Antiqua

“The critical favorite out of a number of great recordings of 17th-century instrumental chamber music – and the perfect introduction to the genre, since surveys a wide range of composers. The booklet says it ‘explores one of the cultural revolutions of the time: the development of the sonata..with no standard formal shape except the passionate give-and-take of friends in conversation, this ‘new music’ is virtuosic, experimental, unexpected, and deeply moving.’ It’s true!”Barney Sherman, Iowa Public Radio


“throughout the program, the Quicksilver musicians offered impeccable, soulful playing –

commendable for its spirit, buoyancy and fine-tuned ensemble work”

-New York Times

“the pinnacle of what chamber music can be

-Milwaukee Shepherd Express

“the genius of Quicksilver’s Boston Early Music Festival performance …

264890_10151174531882059_780663459_ndazzling technical mastery and sound ensemble practice, but transcending these…to achieve

a performance that was surpassingly communicative and soulful”

 -Boston Musical Intelligenser

“all virtuoso soloists in their own right, and together 

 their playing is drop-dead gorgeous 

 with a wonderful interplay of timbres”

                                            – Early Music America


“fresh, technically assured, andQS Dumbarton Oaks David

rewarding performances”

-Boston Globe

“enlightening…the audience was on its feet cheering and hooting

as if it were at a rock show

– New York Times

“Quicksilver does nothing by halves:  the ensemble balance…

 is impeccable and the musical scholarship deep, and

 the group willingly matches the extravagance of its repertoire with

 enchantingly engaged playing

                                                              – The Vancouver Sun


An enchanting program of pop music from Baroque-era Venice

“The execution was delightful, both buoyant and expressive.”

JOSHUA KOSMAN, San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 2018

Quicksilver Baroque en la temporada de The Toronto Consort

“The execution of the musicians was simply extraordinary.”

GIULIANA DAL PIAZ, Codalario, April 16, 2018

Quicksilver Baroque Ensemble explores wild music of neglected era

“The sense of exploration and discovery attracts us as performers, and it’s also exciting for the audience.” – Avi Stein

KELLY DEAN HANSEN, Daily Camera, April 13, 2018

New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival

“it was a privilege to be in a room with so many gifted people performing music that was so interesting and so unusual”

MATTHEW WESTPHAL, Philadelphia Enquirer, August 23, 2016

Quicksilver has modern sensibility

“‘It’s an era that is incredibly fascinating to me'”

COLIN EATOCK, Houston Chronicle, April, 2015

Quicksilver’s Extraordinary Baroque Concert

“the pinnacle of what chamber music can be”

RICK WALTERS, Shepherd Express, Nov 12, 2014

Quicksilver Plays with Precision and Panache

“The Quicksilver ensemble are clear masters of the repertory they presented.”

MICHAEL BARNDT, Urban Milwaukee, Nov 10, 2014

Thoroughly Modern Magic

“what made the evening special was the sense of ensemble, the way the instruments blended beautifully and seemed to breath as a single organism”

Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine, Nov 10, 2014

Quicksilver offers lively program under Early Music Now banner

“Quicksilver is the perfect name…highly distilled musical ideas, heard in pure, very potent form in Quicksilver’s hands…The ensemble answered a standing ovation with an encore”

ELAINE SCHMIDT, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov 8, 2014

Quicksilver plays 17th century ‘modern’ music

“Our performers delivered this material as though it were part and parcel of their own souls.”

TOM ALDRIGE, Nuvo Net Indianapolis, June 22, 2014

Trekking Through Europe Without Leaving the U.S. – Early Music Recitals at Metropolitan Museum

“Quicksilver – revered like rock stars within the early music-scene”

CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM, The New York Times, September 8, 2013

The Silvery Tones of Quicksilver

“each member of Quicksilver is so virtuosic, and their ensemble so tight, attentive and sympathetic…this stunning consort seems to be raising the bar for early music”

THOMAS GARVEY,The Hub Review, February 1, 2013

BEMF Hosts Hg

“the genius of Quicksilver’s Boston Early Music Festival performance on Saturday night…dazzling technical mastery and sound ensemble practice, but transcending these…to achieve a performance that was surpassingly communicative and soulful”

ZOE KEMMERLING, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, January 30, 2013

Quicksilver Offers Night of Discoveries at Dumbarton Oaks

“miniature, intricate worlds can be contained”

CHARLES T. DOWNEY, The Washington Post, January 14, 2013

‘Extravagant and Inventive’ Music from the Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries Does Not Disappoint

“Quicksilver does nothing by halves: the ensemble balance…is impeccable and the musical scholarship deep, and the group willingly matches the extravagance of its repertoire with enchantingly engaged playing. There wasn’t a “name” composer in the entire playlist of some ten shortish sonatas, but each work was a discovery: inventive and wonderfully crafted music that offered the listener consistent rewards.”

DAVID GORDON DUKE, The Vancouver Sun, August 9, 2012

BEMF 2011: Change and Transformation

“Quicksilver performed “Stile Moderno,” a program focused on largely unfamiliar instrumental works from the early 17th-century. The ensemble members…are all virtuoso soloists in their own right, and together their playing is drop-dead gorgeous with a wonderful interplay of timbres. The music, alternatively lyrical and insanely virtuosic…was anything but predictable, and it sounded wonderfully modern in the 21st century.”

JOHN S. POWELL, Early Music America Volume 17, Number 3, Fall 2011

A Festival Brings the Obscure to the Fore, With a Global Touch

“Quicksilver, a chamber group led by Mr. Mealy and the violinist Julie Andrijeski, presented an enlightening overview of early Baroque instrumental writing at Emmanuel Church late Wednesday, with harmonically quirky, dialogue-rich sonatas by Dario Castello — a real find — as its centerpieces.”

ALLAN KOZINN, New York Times, June 20, 2011

Boston Early Music Festival: Quicksilver at Night

“when the performances ended, a bit after 12:30AM, the audience was on its feet cheering and hooting as if it were at a rock show.”

ALLAN KOZINN, New York TimesJune 17, 2011

When the Sonata Was New Music

“fresh, technically assured, and rewarding performances”

JEREMY EICHLER, The Boston Globe, June 17, 2011