Two appreciative audiences were treated to a delightful season-ender as the Gallery Players of Niagara brought their Baroque music sampler to the peninsula on Sunday (this program was also recorded earlier in Toronto and will be broadcast on CBC Radio 2’s “Music Around Us”).
Guest soloist Alison Melville added warmth and fluidity to the fleeting accompaniments which wafted happily from the period instruments of her colleagues. The ensemble was faithfully anchored by Michael Jarvis’ “Civic-sized” harpsichord and Margaret Gay’s steady cello.
Highlights abounded: Melville’s unerring technique and phrasing were particularly enjoyable in the jolly Sammartini, which closed the varied program; violist Patrick Jordan was more than equal to Telemann’s C-minor essay; Linda Melsted and Julie Baumgartel weaved and bowed as one, perfectly complementing Melville’s marvellous breath control in Vivaldi’s (despite its mode) perpetually sunny concerto (so much more “true” than the many flute renditions I have heard); and the second movement of Corelli’s Sonata will linger long in memory as it resonated so calmly throughout St. Mark’s Anglican Church.
The opening works suffered from slight lapses. In the rarely heard Church Sonata, the basso continuo doubling of keyboard and gut-string cello occasionally fell off the rails, but that was just a quibble. More serious was the difficulty in Telemann’s Trio Sonata which followed where the recorder’s phrase endings couldn’t duplicate the decay “al niente,” of the viola’s matching lines.
And I must confess to being more of a substance than sound supporter in the perennial question of using “original” instruments and techniques rather than their modern counterparts when performing “early” music. I can’t believe that the resultant pitch problems and uncertain sound production(particularly in the brass) were ever “imagined” by their composers. When this was brought up at the post-performance chat, it was suggested that if Vivaldi, say, had a modern instrument, he would certainly write something different than what he created during his era—“he could only write what he heard around him.”
That line of reasoning works fine until the voice is taken into account. That instrument is the least “improved,” yet most universal “tool” for the communication of melody, ideas and stories since time began. For me, the most important indication of a composer’s craft is his “original” thoughts rather than the method employed to reproduce them. (Think of Salieri reading Mozart’s score—did old oboes, modern ones, or sheer genius flood his mind with envy and admiration?—cross-reference below)
However, all of that aside, the music presented was rendered in a tasteful, dedicated manner. It was a privilege to partake of this musical feast. Can’t wait for the announcement of next season’s menu! JWR