Saturday, May 16, 2009

Barrocade presents "Les Elements" in Baroque works.

The fourth concert in Barrocade’s 2008-2009 season was a program of works by Telemann, Naudot, Clerambault, Vivaldi and Rebel. The theme of this program, May 6th 2009 at the Mary Nathaniel Hall of Friendship, YMCA Jerusalem, was inspired by J.F.Rebel’s unconventional work – “Les Elements”. Each work performed represented one of the elements, the Rebel work symbolizing all four.

The Barrocade Ensemble’s performance of G.P.Telemann’s (1685-1767) “Ouverture a 11 for Wind- and String Instruments” was an Israeli premiere, the wind instruments being the association with Air. Opening with a noble, French-style overture, dances of the suite have non-musical titles, as do a number of works by Telemann. The composer named the second movement “Cyclopes”. It is a Loure, a slow or moderate dance in ternary meter, and it grotesquely depicts the one-eyed primordial giant dancing. The jolly Minuet and Trio presented a number of different instrumental combinations. This was followed by “Galimatias en Rondeau”, “galimatias” being a term for “nonsense” or “gobbledygook”; it was performed with some quirky accents, in keeping with its character. In this mix of elegance and humor, we heard some very fine playing, in particular, that of oboist Aviad Gershoni.

French composer J.C.Naudot (c.1690-1762) was well known as a teacher and virtuoso flautist, moving exclusively within the aristocratic and rich bourgeois circles of Paris. Most of his oeuvre consists of flute concertos and sonatas. His “Flute Concerto no. 2 in E minor” (from Concertos a sept parties, 1737) was the Water element, with the many flowing passages in the flute part suggesting water in nature. Flautist and instrument-builder Boaz Berney, on Baroque flute, delighted the audience with his ease, agility and choice of ornaments. The opening to the second movement - Largo - was heavy and ominous but the solo flute presented a different message, with tender- and singing melodies and birdlike effects, each gesture beautifully crafted. Berney’s energy and technical velocity never rule out delicacy and good taste.

Composer and organist, Louis-Nicolas de Clerambault (1676-1749) composed sacred works and music for harpsichord and organ. He became best known, however, for his 25 cantatas, written in a fusion of French and Italian style. His “Le soleil, vainqueur des nuages” (The Sun, Conquerer of the Clouds), constituted the element of Fire. Composed in 1721, the composer refers to it as an “Allegorical cantata on the recovery of the King’s health”, the king being Louis XV. Soloist was soprano Ye’ela Avital. She shows vocal ease and flexibility, communicates with her audience, is expressive and takes the listener through the text together with her. Appearing frequently in Baroque concerts, Avital is never an observer of the plot : she is involved, affected and sympathetic. The work also provides plenty of say for the instrumentalists - in pairs, groups and solo. Kimberley Reine’s flute solo was very pleasing. In the second recitative, bass instruments reinforce the drama of the moment:
‘But the day grows dark,
Ye gods! What gloomy clouds suddenly cover the splendour shining on us!
The blackest blast that Thrace has produced spreads thick darkness everywhere and makes day yield to the horrors of night.’

As an encore, Ye’ela Avital sang the bittersweet French song “The Falling Leaves” (Kosma/Prevert) to a delicate Barrocade arrangement, with Amit Tiefenbrunn plucking bluesy harmonies on the bass viol. Shlomit Sivan’s violin’s gently swayed, improvisatory playing of one verse was a nice feature. Avital is engaging and feminine, her caressing, well-controlled piano tones invite her audience to emote with her and the audience loved it. I asked myself how fitting this was in a concert of Baroque music.

A very nice choice for the Earth element was Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Concerto “La Pastorella” for Recorder, Oboe, Violin and Bassoon in D major, RV 93. Recorder soloist Katia Polin was joined by soloists Shlomit Sivan-violin, Aviad Gershoni-oboe and Gilat Rotkop-bassoon. This is a fine concert piece, in particular for Polin (who is also Barrocade’s violist.) With the recorder and bassoon holding opposite ends of the spectrum, Polin and Rotkop both shine and enjoy responsibility for the outer layers of the ensemble. Polin has the lion’s share of solos: her full tone and secure technique are fired by youthful energy and forthright temperament.

Composer and virtuoso violinist, Jean-Fery Rebel (1666-1747) was among Louis XIV’s favourite musicians. He composed his ballet music, “Les Elements, Simphonie Nouvelle” at age 71; it was premiered in 1737, but without its “Le Chaos” movement. “Le Chaos” is an astounding description of the birth of the Elements from pre-existing chaos…and chaos it is, opening with a thunderous dissonance. In his introduction, Rebel wrote “I have dared to link the idea of confusion of the Elements with that of confusion in Harmony. I have risked opening with all the notes sounding together, or rather, all the notes in an octave played as a single sound”. Violins scream and flutes sing. Dances following this boast imaginative scoring, representing the various elements and offer players individual moments. There are hunting calls, two rustic “Tambourins” and the warbling of nightingales, the latter evoked by Boaz Berney on piccolo with Shlomit Sivan on violin, to mention but a few of the ideas depicted. The full score of the work has not survived, thus encouraging groups of a creative and imaginative approach, as is Barrocade, to take their own decisions as to interpretation.

Barrocade is now completing its second season. The ensemble works and performs without a conductor, all performances being the result of discussion among all the players.

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