Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A European Gathering: Gabriela Galván and Isidoro Roitman perform Baroque music for flute and lute at the Harmony Cultural Center, Jerusalem

Gabriela Galván, Isidoro Roitman (photo: Alejandro Held)
A concert of European salon music from 1700 and on was the bill for “Tertulias Europeas”, performed by Embouchure – Argentinean early music specialists  Gabriela Galván (Baroque flute) and Isidoro Roitman (lute) at the Harmony Cultural Center, Jerusalem, on January 9th 2019. Embouchure focuses on exploring the rich repertoire of sonatas for traverso and basso continuo of the 17th and 18th centuries. Isidoro Roitman spoke of all the works on the program as the genre written for leisure activity, music played in the home by people who knew how to dance and who played musical instruments. In fact, the Spanish word “tertulias” can refer to a social gathering or a regular informal gathering.


The whirlwind European tour began in Rome with Arcangelo Corelli’s Sonata Op.10 No.5 in F-major. Corelli published his only set of violin sonatas, Opus 5, on January 1st, 1700; they are arguably the finest and most influential ever assembled. Written in the Italianate style of his time, in its most polished and classic form, they became regarded as the hallmark of a musician’s skill and musicianship. In fact, all other Baroque sonatas can be defined as being pre- or post-Corelli. Existing as only a bass line and the unadorned violin part, with no harmonies, figurations or ornamentation, they also make demands on the player’s creativity and imagination. Sonata Op.10 No.5 is a suite, with four dances following an “abstract” prelude. From Galván’s pensive and highly expressive playing of the Prelude, she and Roitman presented the mood of each movement, balancing the sensitive gestures of the Prelude and Saraband with the forthright joy of the other movements, with Roitman adding more texture to repeats.  Galván’s playing was free, lush and ornamented, with some delectable concluding ornaments and flutters.


Another Italian composer Pietro Locatelli settled in Amsterdam, where he seems to have led the life of a freelance teacher, performer and composer. As a violinist, he was known as a fine improviser who jealously guarded his gifts. In one contemporary account we read that “Locatelli is so afraid of people’s learning from him that he won’t admit a musician into his concerts”. His Op.2 Sonatas were written for flute and continuo. Showing particular attention to the soft-toned flute and its articulation, the sonatas are well conceived for the instrument, exhibiting Locatelli’s galant writing to perfection. Galván and Roitman’s performance of Op.2 No.4 in G-major (1732), a sonata da chiesa, was performed with much elegance and with some stylish inégal moments. The artists highlighted the personal expression inherent in the third movement (Grave), amidst profuse ornamentation by Galván. An inventory of Locatelli’s possessions at his death in 1764 listed four violins, a viola, a double bass, two harpsichords, a fortepiano, two transverse flutes, one flûte d'amour and six music stands,  giving a lively picture of domestic music-making, it is highly probable that Locatelli was himself a flautist and played his own sonatas.


Sonata in E minor (HWV 375)  for flute and keyboard  (assumed to be) by Georg Friedrich  Händel, published in 1730 and referred to as Halle Sonata No. 2, is thought to be an early work, composed  before 1703, when Handel was a boy in Halle, but attribution is uncertain.(In 2001, Stanley Sadie wrote: “It is impossible to say how many flute sonatas were composed by George Frideric Handel, but the correct number is somewhere between none and eight “) Whatever its source, the artists performed the work with great refinement, Galván’s limpid traverso sound addressing and fashioning each small motif of the opening Adagio, taking on its chromatic leaps with agility and embellishing lavishly. Following the Allegro played with a sense of urgency and excitement, the small, pastoral Grave displayed some enchanting lute spreads and much expressiveness, with the elegance of noble court gallantry and French-mannered notes inégales seeing out the final Minuet.


Georg Philipp Telemann wrote the Metodische Sonate (Methodical Sonatas, 1728-1729)  to be performed either by solo flute or violin; written for the study of ornamentation, the score shows ornaments for the music below the staves with the melodies. This system invited players to either improvise ornaments or to make use of those suggested by the composer. A compendium of styles and genres of the period, well-crafted with a wealth of invention, one nevertheless tends to hear them played as didactic, pedestrian and “methodical” exercises. Galván and Roitman’s reading of Metodische Sonate Op.13 No.4 was, on the other hand, no wallpaper music, but playing finely sculpted in the opening Andante, intense in the Presto movement, then tender and ornate (Con Tenerezza) and concluding with the liveliness of the gigue-like Allegro.


The tour ended in Paris with French composer and flute virtuoso Michel Blavet’s Sonata Op.2 in G-minor “La Lumagne”. Perhaps the most distinguished French flautist of his century, Blavet, serving as first flautist in the orchestra of the Paris Opera, was well known for his purity of tone and brilliant technique. His second set of compositions, “Sonates mêlées de pièces pour la flûte traversière avec la basse” (1732), comprises sonatas of four alternating slow and fast movements, based on the Italian model. They are actually intended to be characterizations of persons, usually specified in the title; ”La Lumagne”,  a suite of dances, is no exception.  Galván certainly met the virtuoso demands made of the 18th-century flutist, combining elegance, subtlety and flair with energy and a substantial flute sound. Roitman’s playing offered interest and individual utterance. The final movement “Le Lutin” (the imp), a rhythmic character piece, combines the delicate with the intense, as Galván incorporated a profusion of lavish ornaments into the movement’s weave.


Lute and traverso concerts are rare to non-existing in Israel, and more the pity. Isidoro Roitman spent several years in Israel before leaving for London and eventually returning to Argentina. Today, he  works with early music ensembles and Baroque and Renaissance dancers in Argentina, Israel, Italy and England and has performed widely in Europe, South America and Australia. He has recorded CDs for Stradivarius and EWM and is a sought-after coach of singers, chamber groups and masterclasses. Playing on a lute lent to him for the concert, he missed the grandeur and flexibility of his own archlute. Gabriela Galván is a Baroque flautist of exceptional ability and emotional expression. She has performed on Baroque- and Classical flute in Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Israel and at the United Kingdom. With a passion for teaching, she works with groups of children and adolescents and teaches flute and chamber music at the Fine Arts School of the National University of La Plata. On an evening of decidedly European weather, the warm space of the Harmony Cultural Center provided a splendid environment for a social gathering to enjoy Baroque salon music.

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