Ensemble Rebel: Rethinking the Baroque

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Rebel performs in NPR's Studio 4A

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The Baroque ensemble Rebel i

The baroque ensemble Rebel: (front row) Karen Marie Marmer, violin; Dongsok Shin, harpsichord; Mary Utiger, violin; David Kjar, trumpet. (back row) Jörg-Michael Schwarz, violin; Daniel Swenberg, theorbo; Stephen Creswell, viola; Daniel Elyar, viola; John Moran, cello; Anne Trout, double bass; Christoph Timpe, violin. Howard Goodman hide caption

itoggle caption Howard Goodman
The Baroque ensemble Rebel

The baroque ensemble Rebel: (front row) Karen Marie Marmer, violin; Dongsok Shin, harpsichord; Mary Utiger, violin; David Kjar, trumpet. (back row) Jörg-Michael Schwarz, violin; Daniel Swenberg, theorbo; Stephen Creswell, viola; Daniel Elyar, viola; John Moran, cello; Anne Trout, double bass; Christoph Timpe, violin.

Howard Goodman
The baroque group Rebel

The band Rebel brings a fresh approach to baroque classics. courtesy of Rebel hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Rebel

What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually, for the spirited baroque band called Rebel (pronounced reh-BELL).

The group takes its name from a 17th-century free-thinking French composer named Jean-Féry Rebel. And, as it turns out, Jean-Féry Rebel was a musical rebel with a cause. He was just conventional enough to become a favorite at the French court, but he often took risks in his music, resulting in striking innovations and passages marked by emotional abandon.

Each time I hear members of the group Rebel—whether in a stripped-down ensemble of four or five players or in a more expanded edition, as in this performance—I feel they are living up to the spirit of their musical namesake. I'm always finding new energy pumped into baroque staples, and I usually discover something new, as the band is eager to uncover lost and little-known pieces. A good example in this performance is the crazy and complicated fugue found in a concerto by Giuseppe Valentini.

Rebel has been a regular guest on Performance Today ever since the group's week-long residency on our show in 1999. For this visit, they brought a friend, trumpeter David Kjar (pronounced "Care"). Kjar plays an 18th-century natural trumpet—"natural" in that it has no valves to help the player find notes. All changes of pitch and volume are controlled by incredibly fine adjustments of the lips. Although the natural trumpet may lack the bright brilliance of the modern trumpet, its sound has more warmth, a rich golden hue rather than a blazing red flare. Which means it blends beautifully with a small string ensemble like Rebel.

More About Rebel

Although Rebel is based in New York, the baroque ensemble was formed in 1991 in the Netherlands, where it took first prize at the International Early Music Competition in Utrecht.

Violinists Jörg-Michael Schwarz and Karen-Marie Marmer co-direct the group, which at its core includes violins, flute/recorder, cello/viola da gamba and harpsichord/organ. As the repertoire dictates, Rebel expands to include additional strings, baroque guitar, trumpet, winds and vocalists.

Rebel has performed with soprano Renee Fleming at Carnegie Hall, as well as in many European venues such as La Chapelle Royale at Versailles and at early-music festivals in Berlin and Utrecht.

The ensemble came to national attention just after the Sept. 11 attacks, when it performed Mozart's Requiem at Trinity Church (where the group remains in residence) just a few blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. The performance was broadcast across the country on many public radio stations.

Rebel has recorded music by Telemann, Haydn, Vivaldi, Corelli and others on the Hänsler, Bridge, Dorian, Atma and Deutsche Harmonia Mundi labels.

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Concerti di Napoli

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Concerti di Napoli
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Rebel Ensemble
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Dorian
Released
2000

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Telemann alla polacca: Concerti & Suites

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Telemann alla polacca: Concerti & Suites
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Rebel Ensemble
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Dorian
Released
2002

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Biber: Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa 1-6

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Biber: Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa 1-6
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Rebel Ensemble
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Bridge
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2006

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