By Peter Jacobi | H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org May 27, 2018
Early Music America, visiting partner in the programming offered by the Bloomington Early Music Festival, continued to have a significant impact on what audiences saw and heard on Friday.
Pledged to promote the study of and the performance opportunities in early music, often now called historical performance, EMA made BLEMF its 2018 site of preference: the event at which to stage its annual Young Performers Festival and Emerging Artists Showcase.
In the afternoon, at Trinity Episcopal Church, another collegiate ensemble was featured, on this occasion the Peabody Conservatory’s B’More Bach Ensemble. In the evening, for the showcase, the headliners were a recorder-viola da gamba duo called Rumore Terribile, harpsichordist Melisande McNabney and a Juilliard School-originated ensemble, Voyage Sonique.
All proved there’s an amazing array of talent around devoted to early music; what one heard was impressive. However, in the evening, each also proved to be a rule breaker. Reportedly, the musicians were told to hold their portion of that concert to 20 minutes. Instead, each portion exceeded 40. In sum, and without official breaks, that was more than a number of audience members could take. There were departures, a shame for those who performed late.
Still, the musical values exhibited on Friday could not be doubted.
Peabody’s B’More Bach Ensemble consists of seven musicians, all graduate students at the institute. They spent the afternoon focused on Bach, of course, but also his important contemporary, Georg Philipp Telemann.
The Telemann pieces, Paris Quartet No. 2 in A Minor and Trietto No. 1 in G Major, were happy, gentle items, typical of the composer’s chamber music. Sets of four played them with clarity and a fine sense of line. The flute was each work’s featured instrument, one for the Paris Quartet, two for the Trietto. Sara Lynn tackled both with remarkable agility and lungs capable of the long haul. JT Mitchell served as her partner in the Trietto and totally held his own.
The four Bach selections included three vocal, which cast soprano Katelyn Aungst and baritone William Marshall into starring roles. From BWV 21 “Ich hatte viel Bekummernis” (“I Had Much Affliction”), the two joined for a duet expressing dependency on Jesus (“Come, my Jesus, and restore and delight with your glance”). Their voices vividly took on the emotion. From BWV 51 “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” (“Exult in God in Every Land”), soprano Aungst sang “Highest, renew your goodness every morning from now on.” Again, her voice captured the pleading, tearful nature of the aria’s message. The two then combined to unleash the fear and trembling addressed in “Crack open, heaven; tremble, world. Descend into my lament,” from the “St. John Passion.”
Flutist Lynn was joined by violinist Stephanie Zimmerman, cellist Matt Gabriel and harpsichordist Paula Maust for a carefully balanced and lyrically toned reading of Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038.
“Rumore Terribile,” a duo of two years standing, brings together the gifts of Martin Bernstein on recorders and Salome Gasselin on viola da gamba. Bernstein adds acting occasionally to his bag of tricks. It looked as if he can on Friday, but speaking without microphone and often diminishing his interpretation to near whispers, much of what he uttered was lost to this listener. It’s a complaint I frequently share after listening to musicians (and others) talk from the Auer stage.
The two performed a program of French and British music, 17th- and early 18th-century works by Louis and Francois Couperin, Jean-Marie Leclair, Marin Marais, Humphrey Salter, and Matthew Locke. The Italian composer and lutenist Andrea Falconieri snuck into the list with a soft, soothing melody of his. Bernstein and Gasselin make for a compelling duo. Their technical mastery of the instruments is first rate; they work in comfortable unison, and they seem to believe strongly in the music they play.
Harpsichordist Melisande McNabney delivered an all-French program of exquisite delicacy and elegance, some of it consisting of works she has transcribed. One heard music of Jean-Henri d’Anglebert, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Antoine Forqueray. Her keyboard technique is formidable. Her taste is appropriately refined. Her sense of period is assured. Her conception of the music is on point. She well should be an artist on the rise.
Leclair, Francois Couperin and Marin Marais — more French fare — provided the substance for Voyage Sonique’s concert-closing segment. This group — violinists Augusta McKay Lodge and Jeffrey Girton, cellist Keiran Campbell and harpsichordist Robert Warner — played mostly as full ensemble. Its usual theorbo player had to miss the festival and was replaced by the eminent locally based Dusan Balarin, who fit right in.
In the ensemble’s playing, one could hear strong interpretive inclinations: a more formal yet intimate Sunday concert feel for Leclair’s Trio Sonata No. 1 in D Minor; a dreamy nature in Couperin’s “Le Parnasse ou L’apothetique de Corelli”; a haunting quality in Marais’ Chaconne from “Semele” and subtleties of presentation in Couperin’s Les Concerts Royaux No. 4. All were performed superbly; the musicians really appeared to belong.