Gems of German Baroque at St.Andrew’s

Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Calvin Scott (oboe)

Margarte Guldborg (‘cello)

Ariana Odermatt (harpsichord)

St.Andrew’s Lunchtime Concert Series 2010

Wednesday, 3rd March

Here, throughout this lunchtime concert at St.Andrew’s, was old-world charm and sensibility aplenty, a kind of “window in time” feeling, adding to the pleasure of it all. The music was delivered by three skilled musicians bringing varied instrumental voices and markedly different temperaments to play in their combinations, of the kind that nicely brought out that “baroque” sensibility of contrasting conversation and elaborate soliloquy. A sensitive, small-toned harpsichord threw into bold relief a bright, cheery oboe sound, while the ‘cello took a middle course, now soft-grained, now penetratingly nimble in passagework, always alive to what was suggested by the other two instruments. Contrary to my expectations regarding this composer’s music, the CPE Bach work that began the programme was more than usually urbane and straightforward, played here by oboist Calvin Scott with plenty of warmth and feeling, though I thought harpsichordist Ariana Odermatt took a while to warm up at her instrument, producing steady, but overtly mechanical playing throughout the first movement. The Adagio second movement brought out a more expressive manner, with flexible pulsing from both players and some admirably sustained notes from the oboe. Not even in the finale did CPE Bach reveal his sometimes peppery and idiosyncratic side, apart from a certain insistence in the music’s repeated, stuttering notes at one point, the music remaining highy engaging in a conventionally conversational manner, nicely brought off by both instrumentalists.

The next two items came from “Old Bach”, a Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-flat major (BWV 998) for solo harpsichord, followed by a sonata written for viola da gamba and harpsichord in G major (BWV 127). The harpsichord solo established a stately, gracious mood at the opening, the formalities being allowed to nicely “unfold” in Ariana Odermatt’s hands. The player seemed not to be inclined to use the upper keyboard of the instrument, except for the occasional “echo effect” in the last movement. With the sonata for viola da gamba (played here on the ‘cello by Margaret Guldborg), the music’s expressive capacities moved upwards several notches – the opening Adagio, though surprisingly light on its feet, was given a soft-grained and sensitive performance. This was followed by an Allegro in which the players again brought out the lyrical than the rumbustious aspects of the music, which might have been thought by some a little too much of a good thing by the time the subsequent Andante had finished – but I loved the way the “held” notes from the ‘cello allowed the harpsichord’s voice to decorate the linear spaces. Happily, the concluding Allegro moderato sparked exchanges of gaiety between the instruments (“gambolling” I wrote), with some skilful rapid passagework by the ‘cellist.

Calvin Scott returned with his oboe for a Sonata in E Minor by Georg Philipp Telemann, for oboe and basso continuo – he produced a lovely, creamy sound in the opening Largo, and set the tone for fine teamwork in the following Allegro, stimulating a skilful give-and-take between the instruments.The brief pastoral Grave was an idyllic moment between two separate energies, the Vivace finale going at a great lick, but with the players finding a balance between driving energy and boisterous spirits – delightfully adroit phrasing from the oboe, and some telling touches from the ‘cello, solidly supported by the harpsichord.An eloquent conclusion to the concert was provided by a sinfonia from one of JS Bach’s cantatas, No.156 “Ich steh’ mit einem Fuss im Grabe” – a heart-easing performance,with musical touches in every register – oboe lyrical and plaintive, ‘cello gently purposeful, and harpsichord tastefully colouristic and decorative.

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