What a difference a venue makes. Having just been treated to the unexpected appearance of Freiburger Barockorchester in the concert hall of the KKL (cross-reference below), how disheartening it was to see but never clearly hear the considerable talents of the Berliner Barock Solisten.
Lucerne’s baroque gem, the Jesuitenkirche towering resplendently above the Reuss River, is no friend of music. With its magnificent ceiling challenging Mount Pilatus for the most spectacular peak in the region, the resultant three-second reverberation time plays havoc with ensemble and blend no matter what the musical forces might be. (Perhaps the solitary organ might have the least difficulty making its musical points.)
The repertoire presented was evenly matched: two instrumental secular offerings and a pair of voice-rich liturgical compositions.
Francesco Durante’s Concerto a quattro had engaging tempi (notably the easy-rolling “Andante”) but all of its lines lacked the requisite clarity to give the music bite, much less sonic brilliance. The underlying harmonic progressions (so convincingly rendered by their Freiburg colleagues) were as absent as nearly all of Björn Colell’s theorbo contributions (thank goodness for the “busyness” of the other instrumental work—on the other hand, Raphael Alpermann was the master of continuo with his organ and harpsichord contributions).
A lack of uniformity (from the opening downbeat) in Domenico Gallo’s La Follia would never have come into play if there had been a proper acoustic provided for these original instruments; the exuberance of the dances could be felt but not fully articulated.
Alto Bernarda Fink was the featured soloist in Johann Adolf Hasse’s Salve Regina. Her somewhat speedy vibrato was exacerbated by the acoustic, yet her melissmatic artistry and beautifully controlled lower register somehow managed to shine through nonetheless.
The major work of the uninterrupted program was Giovanni Pergolesi’s deeply felt Stabat Mater.
Joining Fink was soprano Genia Kühmeier whose exquisite changes of register (notably “Quis est homo qui non fleret”) more than made up for the strident result when the upper reaches were required to be delivered forte (e.g., “Cuius animam gementem”).
Despite his uncanny ability to pick exemplary tempi, music director Bernhard Forck was unable to hold his charges together (ably assisted by much eye contact between the violas and the note-length consistent cello and bass), yielding a few uncomfortable rough-and-ready measures including the closing “Amen.”
Nonetheless, the dramatic impact of “Fac, ut portem Christi mortem” was palpable and the overall blend in the “Allegro” of “Inflammatus et accensus” was a credit to all concerned.
With so many talented and dedicated artists performing these works at such a high level, let’s hope that more of their artistry can be heard “as it happens” instead of in its various reincarnations after bouncing to and fro around these storied walls. JWR