Monday, July 4, 2011

Barrocade signs out of the 2010-2011 concert season with "Concerto"

The concert was titled “Concerto”, and St. Andrews Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem, was filled to capacity June 28th 2011 for the Barrocade Ensemble’s last concert of the 2010-2011 season. Established in 2007, Barrocade consists of some 12 instrumentalists and a singer and performs mostly without a conductor. The ensemble’s musical director is Amit Tiefenbrunn. Harpsichordist Yizhar Karshon led and directed this concert.

The program began with A.Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Concerto for Strings, RV 117. Of his more than 500 concertos, some 40 of these small gems are for string orchestra (ripieno concertos) and adopt the three-movement format. Adding flute (Geneviève Blanchard) and a plucked timbre (Jacob Reuven-mandolin, Eitan Hoffer-theorbo) to its string ensemble, Barrocade gave the concerto’s outer movements an accented, strongly profiled character, reflecting the composer’s passionate temperament, the Largo lyrical and poignant.

Vivaldi’s “Stravaganza” opus 4 (the title suggesting “originality” or “eccentricity”) -composed from 1712 to 1713 – constitutes twelve concertos for violin, strings and basso continuo, music that was distinctly experimental for its time. The concertos boast swirling melodies, dazzling solos, compelling gestures and wonderfully lyrical, contemplative moments. An early Vivaldi collection, its music, nevertheless, inspires and transports both player and audience. So how is the Violin Concerto no. 6 in G minor of opus 4 to work with the mandolin as soloist? Paring down their large, solidly anchored sound, the Barrocade instrumentalists and mandolin player Jacob Reuven take the audience into a sound world of both delicacy and exuberance, however, on the mandolin’s terms. Reuven’s melodic lines are finely crafted and articulate, sparkling with vitality and brilliance as he leads his listener through Vivaldi’s harmonic- and tonal minefield. His competence, constant eye communication with fellow players and deep musicality, coupled with technical ease, made for a magical performance of the work.

G.F.Händel’s opus 3 concertos owe their existence to John Walsh, an English publisher, interested in publishing works by some of Europe’s foremost composers. He encouraged Händel to supply him with material as an ongoing arrangement, and, in 1734, the composer (or possibly the publisher) quickly assembled reworked sections of Händel’s previous pieces together with new material, making up the opus 3 Concerto Grossi. Händel, at this stage, was beginning to take more of an interest in non-operatic works, aware that amateur musicians would be interested in performing them. (He was never one to let opportunities pass him by.) The first two movements of Concerto Grosso no.3 are arrangements of anthems written at the time the composer was in the employ of the Duke of Chandos, and the last movement is based on a keyboard fugue from the same time. With Blanchard playing one of the concertino parts , there was much lively passagework on flute and violin (Shlomit Sivan, Yasuko Hirata), Blanchard’s treatment of the Adagio movement appealing and sensitive.

Like Händel, the Italian violin virtuoso Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) also made his home in London, a city fast becoming a major European music centre, partly due to Händel’s presence there. Both composers had studied with Corelli in Rome. Geminiani was quick to establish himself in London, performing, composing and publishing “The Art of Playing the Violin”(1731) there. When invited to play for George I in 1715, Händel accompanied Geminiani on the harpsichord. Geminiani’s opus 3 Concerti Grossi (1733) were immediately to become very popular, proving him to be a master of the genre. As to his rhythmic and melodic approach, his contemporaries referred to him as “il Furibondo” (the furious). Barrocade took on board Geminiani’s Italian, non self-conscious personality, presenting the opening Adagio statements punctuated generously with dramatic pauses. Violins (Sivan, Yasuko Hirata) and viola (Daniel Tanchelson) created a richly legato singing concertino, Geminiani assigning the viola with a much more significant and independent role than composers before him.

Written in his time as Hof-Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold in Cöthen (1717-1723) J.S.Bach’s (1685-1750) Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in D minor BWV 1052 is thought to be based on a lost violin concerto. The manuscript calls for a two-manualed harpsichord; the work uses the Italian ritornello form. It was in Cöthen that the composer wrote a great variety of secular works and many instructive pieces. The prince, himself a skilled musician, was particular about the standard of music at court. When Bach became director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, where weekly concerts were held in Zimmermann’s coffee house, he was to supply the music. In the Barrocade concert, Yizhar Karshon performed the solo on a Titus Krijnen two-manualed harpsichord. From the outset, Karshon and the ensemble set out clearly the dramatic conflict between solo and orchestra, their (sometimes) separate agendas, the decidedly large variety of Bach’s ideas as well as the major-minor shifts inherent in the work, the latter not common practice in the Baroque period. From the first notes, Karshon displayed consistently fine playing of the dense harpsichord part, his textures exciting but well controlled and measured, the work’s urgency never lacking direction. In the Adagio movement, also in a minor key, Karshon and his fellow players created the austere, transparent aria-like melody with breath-taking expressiveness, Karshon’s playing unmannered and convincing, his ornamenting delicate and tasteful. In the final Allegro, we, once again, luxuriated in the richness of Bach’s tonal changes, the scoring’s fullness alternating with intimate moments and the nuances of Bach’s writing. Karshon’s playing bristled with sparkle and virtuosity, his quiet confidence allowing for the work’s timeless musical message to emerge.

In his autobiography of 1718, G.P.Telemann (1681-1767) wrote that he was no great lover of concertos; this statement might have meant that he disliked the display of virtuosity for its own sake common in the Italian-style concerto, a genre in which he had encountered “many difficulties and awkward leaps, but little harmony and even poorer melody”. Telemann preferred the four-movement sonata da chiesa model, his interest lying in innovative structure, scoring and style. Only three of his concertos were published during his lifetime; manuscripts of the others do not indicate dates of composition, but it is supposed they were composed before 1735. Telemann’s instrumental training was in harpsichord, violin and recorder, but we read in his 1740 autobiography that he wished to familiarize himself “also with the oboe, transverse flute, chalumeau, gamba etc., up to the double bass and trombone pitched a fifth below”. In his Concerto for Flute and Recorder in E minor TWV 52:e1, Telemann juxtaposes the recorder with the transverse flute, a combination extremely rare in the Baroque, a farewell to the old, a welcoming of the new. Barrocade players Geneviève Blanchard (traverso) and Adi Silberberg (recorder) delighted the audience in a stellar performance of the concerto, their precision, collaboration and uncannily finely matched intonation matched with sweetness of tone and grace. Orchestra and audience reveled in the rousing final movement – a raucous Polish-style dance - with its bass drones and fiddle motifs.

This was an ambitious program, performed with flair, joy and excellence. Barrocade took leave of the concert season on a high note!

1 comment:

Yaron Naor said...

Wow, that is great, thanks.