Aeolian Players play for mulled wine at Paekakariki

Hotteterre: Suite no.3 for oboe and basso continuo, Op.5
Bach: Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord in G, BWV 1027
Telemann: Trio Sonata for oboe, viola da gamba and basso continuo in G minor
Forqueray: “La Sylva” and “Jupiter” from Pièces de Clavecin
Bach: Trio Sonata, BWV 528
Buxtehude: Passacaglia from Sonata IV

Mulled Wine Concert
The Aeolian Players (Ariana Odermatt, harpsichord; Margaret Guldborg, cello; Calvin Scott, oboe; Peter Garrity, viola)

Paekakariki Memorial Hall

Sunday, 22 May 2011, 2.30pm

The Memorial Hall was not completely full, but there were probably over 100 people present to hear this concert of baroque music. Despite all the music being from the same era, there was considerable variety both in the music, and in the size of ensemble playing the various works.

Another matter of interest was the marvellous ‘Fishart’ exhibition on the walls. Many items were highly detailed illustrations of fish, some in the form of multiple small fish together making the shape of a whale’s tail, or a seahorse or other form. Others were punning assemblages of drawings and cogs in the various situations dogs might find themselves in (and indeed, most of the cogs were in doggy shapes), and other humorous art works made from found materials.

All this was the work of former Dominion cartoonist, Eric Heath. The wide scope of the exhibition and the skilled, colourful and accurate representations of fish were quite breathtaking.

The prelude of the first work on the programme immediately revealed what good acoustics the hall has for the oboe – and for the other instruments too. Unlike the case with other concerts I have attended at the Memorial Hall, this time the players were placed alongside the long wall on the sea side of the hall, the chairs for the audience being arranged in a semi-circle facing them. Hence it was much easier for the audience to see the performers than at previous concerts, when the musicians have been at the end of the hall. This siting seemed to improve the sound, also.

The five-movement suite was beautifully executed. There was robust cello playing, and plenty of contrast between the movements, with the lively Gigue ending a thoroughly committed performance.

In the Bach sonata, the viola was used in place of viola da gamba. The problem was that the superbly full, rich sound of the viola in Garrity’s hands was quite different from the sound of a viola da gamba, and did not fit well with the harpsichord sound, which was somewhat overwhelmed. Odermatt’s harpsichord playing was excellent. If here and elsewhere she sometimes lacked the flair of more mature harpsichord players, that may be something that will come in time. To be fair, these were mostly fully written parts as distinct from basso continuo parts. However, the Buxtehude Passacaglia at the end perhaps gave scope for more individual interpretation and variation, since the harpsichord part was endlessly repeated.

Telemann’s sonata employed all four instruments. Again, the oboe sound was mellifluous, while the viola sounded more baroque than it had in the Bach sonata. This was a delightful and most satisfying work.

It occurred to me, reading the details of the composers and the excellent programme notes, that we are fortunate that all these composers were long-lived; Bach the least so, since he died at 65; still a good life-span for his time. Hotteterre made it to 89. Thus there has been passed down to us a great body of compositions to enjoy. When we come to the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there are the untimely early deaths of Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schumann who, though prolific, never survived to the ages of their baroque predecessors, and thus we do not know what they might have written as they matured.

An aim of Mary Gow, who promotes these Paekakariki concerts, is to provide performances with unusual combinations of instruments, and that was certainly true this time. The oboe-playing of Calvin Scott was quite superb. His phrasing, and that of the other players, was very good, although there was not always a feeling of complete ensemble. Inaccuracies of intonation were few and slight, in the Buxtehude work only.

Forqueray’s “La Sylva” piece was a very graceful and appealing item for solo harpsichord. “Jupiter” was played with the manuals coupled (hence much louder) alternating with use of the upper manual only. This was much faster than the other piece. The contrasting sections and use of the lower register of the harpsichord made it most interesting. These were delightfully varied and imaginative pieces.

Bach’s trio sonata is probably more familiar as played on the organ. Hearing it on four separate instruments, with their distinctive timbres was stimulating. After the very short, very slow opening adagio, there was a gutsy vivace, that nevertheless had refinement too. After a smooth andante, the allegro was exciting and very intricate in places. Again, I felt the viola had too much vibrato; the oboe once more was impressive.

All four performed in the Buxtehude also. There was fast interplay between oboe and viola, while the harpsichord played her bass line over and over (how did she know when to stop?)

The concert was relatively short, and none the worse for that, on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon – and much appreciated by the audience.

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