CAMBRIDGE -- On Saturday night, Apollo's Fire presciently presented a program of Baroque music about the stormy wildness of nature -- a delightful experience far to be preferred to the realities of digging out your car.
Founded in Cleveland in 1992 by the charismatic harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo's Fire has developed into one of America's leading Baroque orchestras, and one capable of competing with some of Europe's much-recorded bands. The group, more youthful than its local counterpart Boston Baroque, plays with energy, discipline, style, and pizazz. Twenty-one instrumentalists participated in the program, plus Sorrell, a pair of prominent Baroque dancers, four Boston sopranos, and a group of singers from the Treble Chorus of New England.
There were two concertos by Vivaldi, ''The Storm at Sea," and ''Summer" from ''The Four Seasons." Violinist David Greenberg played the first with vivid, purely musical drama, to which he added perhaps too much grimacing and hair-tossing. Sorrell adapted ''Summer" into a harpsichord concerto but needed to take a freer hand with the transcription, because the solo instrument was frequently hard to hear. She plays with authority, imagination, and flair. (Sorrell remains in the area for four concerts with Baroque violinist Emlyn Ngai Friday through Monday sponsored by the Cambridge Society for Early Music.)
The band was heard to best advantage in Rebel's ''Les Elements" (the opening depiction of ''Chaos" rivals Haydn's in ''The Creation" and proved that Schoenberg did not invent dissonance) and in a suite from Rameau's opera, ''Les indes galantes," which musically depicts an earthquake.
The Rameau suite, and Sorrell's arrangement of Vivaldi's trio sonata ''La Follia" as a concerto grosso, served also as music for the Baroque dancing of Catherine Turocy and Carlos Fittante.
The acoustics of First Church, Congregational in Cambridge favored the orchestra, but the sightlines presented problems for the dancing; from most positions the dancers' legs were invisible and their heads bobbed on the music like corks on water. Nevertheless, the flirtatious sexuality of ''La Follia" was almost shocking in this ecclesiastical setting. The costumes for ''Les indes galantes" were spectacular, and so was the elegance and fire of the dancing.
The finale was a grand chaconne on the first two phrases of the hymn tune ''For the Beauty of the Earth" by Rene Duchiffre, the Baroque pseudonym of Apollo's Fire cellist Rene Schiffer. After all the storms and disasters, the voices, dancers, and orchestra united in praising the harmony of nature.