Monday at BEMF 2013

I promised you some of what I should have been blogging at the
The Boston Early Music Festival.
The easy way to do this is to give you what I actually wrote not
too long afterwards, but didn’t blog because I was writing it for
a magazine (the
magazine of The American Recorder Society
). Now that the magazine has come out, and a large part
of what I wrote has been edited out for length, I don’t see
anything wrong with giving it to you.

The first article was about two fringe concerts on Monday, June
10.

Ensemble 1729

Ensemble 1729: Il Proteo o sià il Mondo al Rovascio

Italian and German Chamber Concertos

10 June, 2013 at 16:00

First Lutheran Church

299 Berkeley St., Boston

Because I live in the Boston area, the editor of this magazine often
asks me to review several concerts early in the Boston Early Music
Festival, because a lot of her out-of-town reviewers haven’t arrived
yet. At the last festival, I saw two local groups at the top of their
game on Monday afternoon.

This year, I got a crash course in the perils of rolling into town on
Sunday and playing a concert on Monday afternoon, even for superb
musicians with decades of experience playing concerts.

Ensemble 1729 is a group of young musicians who met while studying at
McGill University in Montreal. Their publicity emphasizes their
“stylish wit, sensitivity, and quicksilver changes of mood and
color”. Their program started with the Vivaldi concerto which gave
the concert its name. The whole group, consisting of two
harpsichords, recorder (Vincent Lauzer), traverso and string quartet,
was playing. Vivaldi displays the mutability of Proteus by shifting
the tune between all voices, and the different textures certainly made
for an interesting set of sounds.

The middle of the concert was taken up with two pieces (Pasquini
Sonata #10 in c minor for two bassi continue, and Bach Concerto in C
major for two harpsichords) for two harpsichords. This was
problematic for this reviewer, seated at about the middle of the hall,
because the similar sounding harpsichords were nested at center stage, and there was no
way I could tell which harpsichord was playing which notes. People
closer to the front, or even off to one side, had less of a problem
with this, but for me, the dueling improvisations of the Pasquini were
completely lost.

The First Lutheran Church is beloved of _a capella_ vocal groups
because the high, vaulted ceiling takes the sound and bounces it
around until it sounds blended even if the voices are not in fact as
even as one might wish. Unfortunately, this isn’t really what you
want for chamber music.

The concert concluded with the Telemann Concerto in e minor for
recorder and flute. This wasn’t as problematic as the two
harpsichords, because the flute and the recorder do have different
timbres, and you could see which was playing in solo passages. But
other times I’ve seen this concerto performed, but soloists were at
oppposite side of the stage, where here the two wind players stood
next to each other, giving no stereo separation between the sounds.

I was relieved, however, that where most of the concert seemed to have
been aiming for “stylish and elegant”, the final presto of the
Telemann was performed as though the people dancing it might have had
boots on.

Der Getreue Music-Meister

Masters of German baroque music

Performed by the Early Music faculty of the University of North Texas

Monday, June 10, 2013, 6:30 pm

Church of the Covenant

67 Newbury St., Boston

The University of North Texas faculty weren’t making any rookie
mistakes about placement of the performers. And Paul Leenhouts’
recorder playing took aggressive advantage of the recorder’s wider
range of articulations than the oboe (played by Kathryn Montoya) in
the Telemann Concerto in G major (TWV 43-G6). So I was surprised when
Paul made the announcement that Petra Somlai wasn’t going to play her
planned Haydn Sonata, because the harpsichord was missing keys on both
the top and the bottom. It was also small for the large church it was
playing in. As a continuo instrument, it was fine when it was being
supported by the cello (Allen Whear), but seemed more like background
music when it was playing solo, obviously with the cello sonata
(Telemann Sonata in D major, TWV41:D6), but also in a violin sonata
(Bach, BWV 1017, played by Cynthia Roberts).

The rest of the concert (a solo oboe Sonata by Kirnbirger and a Trio
sonata for recorder and violin by Telemann) was admirable baroque
chamber music, with continuo driving the rhythm while the soloists
produce beautiful lines.

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