A new Baroque ensemble on a cold evening at Wesley Church, Taranaki Street, musical strengths, but…

Camerata: Haydn in the Church

Handel: Concerto Grosso, Op.6 no.9
Alessandro Marcello: Oboe concerto in D minor
Haydn:. Symphony no.1

Camerata, led by Anne Loeser, with Peter Dykes (oboe)

Wesley Church, Taranaki Street

Thursday, 28 May 2015, 5.45pm

Camerata is a new, small chamber orchestra.  Anne Loeser is a violinist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, where Peter Dykes also plays.  For the first item, the group consisted of four violins, viola, cello and double bass; only the latter two instruments were played by males (not counting Peter Dykes).

Its programme was attractive, but the hour-long concert did not attract any more than a small audience.  Other negatives were the lack of a printed programme, and above all, the fact that the church was not heated.  On a cold winter’s night, that made the experience much less enjoyable than it should have been.  I was tempted to leave between items on this account alone; my feet, neck and hands were very cold, despite a woolly jumper and a thick coat.

The Handel concerto grosso is a most appealing work.  I did not hear all the introductory comments from the lectern, although there seemed to be some connection with the composer’s organ concerto that is usually given the subtitle ‘The Cuckoo and the Nightingale’.  Perhaps it was too cold a night for these birds; I was not aware of them.  Wikipedia says “The second and third movements are reworkings of the first two movements Handel’s organ concerto in F major, HWV 295, often referred to as “The cuckoo and the nightingale”, because of the imitation of birdsong.

The playing was fine, and idiomatically baroque.  The contrasts between the movements was delightful.  The fast final movement was not quite as accurate as the earlier ones.

Next, oboist Peter Dykes entered, to play Marcello’s oboe concerto – the one commandeered by Bach for a harpsichord concerto (no.3).  This was splendid oboe playing, with appropriate ornamentation according to the practice of the Baroque period.  Marcello was roughly contemporaneous with J.S. Bach.  The adagio slow movement is particularly beautiful.

After its solemnity comes the delightful third movement, presto.  Again, lots of flourishes ornamented the movement gloriously.  The piece is not easy; it is pitched high in the oboe register throughout.

Then came the Haydn in the Church: his Symphony no.1.  Now two horn players were added to the chamber orchestra.  I could hazard a guess at their names, but as one was hidden behind the viola player, I couldn’t be sure.

This is a very bright and enchanting work.  The oboe and horns play in the first and third movements but not in the andante second movement.  The whole was played gracefully with a splendid variety of dynamics. In the second movement for strings alone, I couldn’t help remembering the Baroque Players of old, founded and directed by Peter Walls – a former Wellington-based chamber orchestra.

Intonation was not always perfect, particularly in this movement.  I wondered if the players’ fingers were cold.

The presto finale had the winds back in fine fettle. Altogether, this was a series of creditable performances.  More credit would have accrued if the church had been heated.


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