Musick for several friends: No 3: Baroque wind
Music by J J Quantz, Leclair, Philidor, Duphly, Telemann, J S Bach
Kamala Bain (recorder and voice flute), Penelope Evison (baroque flute), Douglas Mews (harpsichord)
Adam Concert Room
Sunday 9 September, 4pm
This was the third of three concerts that offered various perspectives on the music of the Baroque period; the first for viols, the second for two harpsichords and this one for wind instruments. And their musical delights were enhanced by offerings of snakc and drinks afterwards.
J J Quantz was a flutist, one of the principal musicians at the brilliant counrt of Frederick the Great who was himself a flute player and also a composer. Quantz’s Sonata for recorder, flute and continuo was a substantial, four-movement work that offered both tunefulness and opportunity for display which these players were very well-equipped to deal with. It is not common (for me anyway) to hear recorder and flute playing together, and it was a real pleasure to hear how well they sounded together, the recorder with a resonant sound, though not so capable of producing vibrato and varied articulations.
A Leclair sonata was introduced by Douglas Mews, recalling the composer’s sticky end on the violent streets of mid 18th century Paris, and the mixed influences of Italian and French music to be heard in his music. Here, the flute lay in a slightly lower register than was called for in the Quantz, and it also presented technical difficulties which caused minor slips later. But in general the music and its playing was charming.
The next piece was also French, from Pierre Philidor, a composer from a large musical family; his cousin, François André, thirty years younger, was one of the most famous French opera composers between Rameau and the Revolution (a major early exponent of opéra-comique).
For this piece, in addition to Penelope Evison’s baroque flute, Kamala Bain produced her voice flute which, she said, could be called a tenor flute. Its sound is something that might cause the flute sceptic to revise his views. The second movement, marked Chaconne, was not the sort of chaconne we are familiar with listening to the typical, slow, triple time German piece. It was bright and quite lively. Here was a thoughtful piece, emotionally quite expressive in which the two instruments blended beautifully.
Douglas Mews then played, alone, two pieces from a set simply called Third Book of Pieces, by Jacques Duphly. Unlike music French music of the time – a generation after Philidor – dotted rhythms were did not predominate and it did rather suggest a German character. The first movement, La Forqueray (honouring the composer so-named), was in slow common time, written to exploit the harpsichord’s lower range, so producing an agreeable resonance, giving it a feeling of substance and depth. The second piece was La De Belombre (the name unknown to me, to the New Grove Dictionary and to Wikipedia), and its brighter character suggested a spirited fellow, who liked dancing, but who also saw the trade of composing music as being quite important.
Then the musicians took us back east, to north and central Germany. Telemann’s Sonata for recorder and continuo displayed his rhythmic inventiveness and facility in all the compositional devices that marked one for success in the early 18th century, and alternating darting forays by recorder and harpsichord, . The Larghetto had a singing line that emerged without the assistance of vibrato; the Vivace last movement was quite a aural spectacle, demanding virtuosity from both instruments. And the trio played another Telemann piece, from a concerto for flute and recorder, as an encore.
Finally I heard, for the second time in a week, Bach’s Sonata for two flutes and continuo, BWV 1039; the Nikau Trio played it as a ‘Trio Sonata’ at Lower Hutt. As so often with concerts of baroque music, after a variety of less-known music by lesser composers, the Bach sounded like a masterpiece, more profoundly lyrical where that was the intent, ornaments than were integral to the shape of the music, use of the two flutes with real flair and imagination. I particularly enjoyed the two instruments in the Adagio third movement, handling the slow, rising four-note triad, creating a pensive tone. The Presto was a charming, lively piece that sounded most accomplished in these hands.
The entire concert was interestingly constructed, supplying the curious with music that carried various styles and influences as well as a lot of pure pleasure.