Austin Baroque Orchestra Tackles Voltaire, Frederick At Mission Concepcion | Texas Public Radio

Austin Baroque Orchestra Tackles Voltaire, Frederick At Mission Concepcion

Jan 17, 2018

The Austin Baroque Orchestra's performance Sunday at Mission Concepcion is rooted in the history of two major figures of the era: Prussia's Frederick The Great and Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire, said the orchestra's Billy Traylor.


"Frederick was a compulsive letter writer,” he said. “His entire life, he was interested in French literature, language and philosophy."

And given his interest in philosophy, Traylor added, he began writing letters to Voltaire.

"That initiated a lifelong correspondence between the two of them," Traylor said.

For a time, Voltaire even moved to Berlin and served in Frederick's court, where music played a large role, Traylor said.

"All of the composers that we're performing are either composers that were employed by Frederick, or that Frederick knew personally or that he coveted,” he said. “... (It’ll) be a good cross section of musical life at Frederick's court ... to sort of give an idea of what Frederick was like as a person."


  • What: Austin Baroque Orchestra at Mission Concepcion
  • Where: 807 Mission Road
  • When: 4 p.m. performance, Sunday
  • Cost:  $10-$30

The keyboard most associated with baroque is the harpsichord, but there won’t be one at this Mission Concepcion performance.

"Frederick's preferred keyboard wasn't harpsichord; it was fortepiano. So we'll be using fortepiano instead of harpsichord," he said.

But the rest of the instruments, Traylor said, are copies of instruments that were made either during or immediately before Frederick's life.

“They're instruments in the form he'd have recognized if he could somehow magically appear among us," Traylor said.

There will be an informal talk about the program prior to the performance, at 3:30 p.m.

Jack Morgan can be reached at