2022, WTTW News, Hedy Weiss
It begins with the Italian composer’s “Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins” (featuring flawless and feverish violin virtuosos drawn from the orchestra, including concertmaster Robert Chen, associate concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, and assistant concertmasters David Taylor and Yuan-Qing Yu), along with additional string players and the impeccable Mark Shuldiner on harpsichord. And in what feels like spirited conversations that might be overheard in the busy little public squares of Italy, the solo violins engage in a series of beautiful, richly animated riffs that move from the exuberant to the solemn with speed, lightness and a sort of bejeweled mix of emotions.
2022,Chicago Sun-Times, Kyle MacMilian
Rounding out the first half was the Concerto in C major (“Per la solennità di San Lorenzo”), RV 556, a kind of concerto for orchestra, spotlighting players across the ensemble including guest harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner, who acquitted himself admirably all evening.
Throughout the evening, guest artist Mark Shuldiner provided a solid musical backbone on the harpsichord. It’s easy, I think, to miss the importance of the continuo instruments in music of this era. That’s especially true of the harpsichord, which isn’t always clearly heard in larger concert halls. That wasn’t the case Friday night, though, so it was possible to both hear and admire his fine keyboard work.
2021, Chicago Classical Review, Lawrence Johnson
The Concerto No. 5 closed the program and delivered the most all-around satisfying performance of the evening. In addition to providing some of the most relentlessly engaging music in his vast canon, the Fifth has a place in musical history—Bach essentially invented the piano concerto as a genre here, with the harpsichord player breaking into a brilliant and show-offy cadenza in the first movement.
Once again, Kraemer’s fleet tempo and punchy accents made things lively and kept the players on their toes. The camerawork was excellent throughout but proved especially impressive in the first movement, capturing the rapid back-and-forth between the leading violin, flute and harpsichord. Mark Shuldiner brought striking freshness and ad libitum spontaneity to the elaborate harpsichord solo.
The middle movement proved duly “Affetuoso” as marked, and rendered by DiBello, flutist Mary Stolper and Shuldiner with sensitive interplay and tender expressive poise. The concluding Allegro was ideally buoyant and offered a suitably joyful finale to the evening.
2021, Hedy Weiss WTTW
The program’s second half is devoted to Bach’s ever exhilarating “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major,” a work whose bravura, high-speed opening theme is an instant reminder of the composer’s genius and exuberant spirit.
At the center of the piece is the harpsichord (played with a splendidly fleet and lyrical touch by Mark Shuldiner, who captures Bach’s madly rapid sequences with impeccable diction). And spinning around the keyboard sections is the invariably superb flute of Stefan Ragnar Hoskuldsson, and the impeccable Robert Chen and Stephanie Jeong (violins), Catherine Brubaker (viola), John Sharp (cello) and Bradley Opland (bass).
Shuldiner and Hoskuldsson beautifully capture the melancholy lines of the second movement. And the lightness, spirited sophistication and complexity of the many voices in the third and final movement are also ideally rendered, building to a glorious conclusion.
2018, Chicago Classical Review, Michael Cameron
The MOB chamber orchestra was superb, even with the occasional upper register crack in the otherwise exceptional trumpets and horns (Otto Carillo and Neil Kimel). Violinist Gina DiBello was the captivating soloist in the obbligato parts of two arias, while Mark Brandfonbrener (cello), Collins Trier (double bass), William Buchman (bassoon), Mark Shuldiner (harpsichord), and Andrew Rosenblum (organ) did yeomen work as the splendid continuo team.
2017, Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
McGegan scheduled three brief instrumental concertos and a selection of arias composed for soprano and alto soloists, finishing up with the “Gloria,” for a Baroque evening that was unusual but well-done.
The program opened with the sprightly Concerto for Strings in C major. The harpsichord, played here by Mark Shuldiner, connects the first and final movements, for an appealing whole. McGegan is always fun to watch as he dances about the podium, and his expressiveness set the tone for the entire concert.
2015, Chicago Classical Review, Tim Sawyier
A pair of Menuets followed, the first of which bore bucolic influences with sonorous open fifths in the low strings; the second was comprised of sinuous minor lines, sensitively adorned with chords by harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner.
2014, Classical Voice America, Lawrence Johnson
While Kraemer predictably split the concertos three and three with an intermission break, he did not play them 1 through 6. Rather, he shifted the sequence to create an effective finale for each half of the concert — starting with No. 1 in F major, perhaps the most recognizable of the six works, then turning to No. 6 in B-flat major for low strings; and to conclude the first half, No. 5 in D major, the one with the prodigious keyboard part, played here not by the conductor but rather by guest soloist Mark Shuldiner, with the bravura flair Bach no doubt would have expected. (Shuldiner is a member of Rook, one of Chicago’s newer period-instrument ensembles.)
2014, Michael Cameron Chicago Classical Review
The heart of any Brandenburg survey is the magnificent Fifth Concerto in D major, and Kraemer’s reading was compelling in many respects. Chen and Gunn were stylish and nimble, but harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner easily stole the show. The stereotype of Bach as a brilliant but conservative artist falls apart in this inventive work, which is not only history’s first keyboard concerto, but also contains the first substantial composer-written cadenza. Fans of this work wait with baited breath for the arrival of the cadenza, and Shuldiner didn’t disappoint. His rapid-fire passagework was breathtaking, yet he didn’t fail to trace connections with themes heard earlier in the first movement.
2014, Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein
Joining Chen and Gunn in the concertino group for the Fifth Concerto was the splendid harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner, who dispatched his elaborate cadenza fluently and tastefully. The violin and flute soloists scaled their sound to match the soft timbres of his two-manual harpsichord.
2013, John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
Due prominence was given the fine continuo group – John Sharp, cello; Alexander Hanna, double bass; David Schrader, organ; and Mark Shuldiner, harpsichord.
2012, Kristina Powers, Bachtrack
For the finishing touches, young harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner also provided a thoroughly sparkling continuo accompaniment which conjured up images of a clear, fresh summer night complete with a gentle breeze and twinkling stars. So subtle and delicate an effect, yet so noticeable and a perfect complement to the pleasant spring night outside.
Copyright © 2023 Mark A. Shuldiner - All Rights Reserved.
Photography by Jiyang Chen, Todd Rosenberg, and Christine Butler