Enchantments of baroque instrumental combinations: Archi d’amore trio

Archi d’amore Zelanda (Donald Maurice – viola d’amore, Jane Curry – guitar, Emma Goodbehere – cello)

Vivaldi: Largo from Concerto for viola d’amore and guitar, RV540
Piazzolla: Café 1930
Michael Willliams: Fugue
François de Fossa: Sonata No 1 in A (from Op 18)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 2 March, 12:15 pm

I last heard this trio in October last year in the Adam Concert Room at Victoria University where I was taken with the unexpectedly charming effects of the combination of three instruments, none of which demand attention to itself at the expense of the music or of each other.

The Ryom catalogue of Vivaldi’s works lists eight concertos including the viola d’amore, and this is the only one that is scored for the lute as well as the viola d’amore. Many of the pieces played by a group of this kind necessarily involve arrangements, but here we could enjoy the most minimal of translations from lute to guitar. The performance of R540 captured the singularly opulent tone of the viola d’amore, the effect of the large number of strings – 14 – half of which are passive resonating strings, threaded through the lower part of the bridge and not played. Its play of sounds with the guitar was enchanting.

Though it is still fashionable to deprecate – ever so slightly – Vivaldi’s music on account of its Telemann-like profusion and its to-be-expected stylistic similarities, one listens to it, always, with pleasure and admiration, and in my case, more than Telemann.

Then came Piazzolla’s four-movement Histoire du Tango: the second part, Café 1930. It begins with the guitar alone, wistfully; and the viola d’amore’s entry, so lyrical and idiomatic, removed it from the Buenos Aires café to a French café with the sensual tango tamed to a more sedate character. It’s music for the heart rather than the feet, Donald Maurice remarked, for by 1930 the tango had become a more sophisticated that the bordello music of the turn of the century, music to listen to, interesting and involving.

They had a new piece to play, Fugue, composed for them by Hamilton composer Michael Williams; they’d premiered it the week before in Bangkok. It opened sounding like a very traditional fugue with a useful diatonic tune, shifting in the middle to a lively phase, never striving for anything resembling an avant-garde or strenuously ‘original’ character. It formed a nice link between Piazzolla’s Latin idiom and their next step back to the early 19th century.

François de Fossa’s name cropped up earlier last year in a St Andrew’s concert by a trio of Jane Curry, with saxophonist Simon Brew and flutist Rebecca Steel. There they played a trio in A minor.

This time the piece was listed as a sonata, No 1 in A, and though I could not recall the music played last year, I suspect it was the same ‘Trio in A, Op 18’ played then: the four movements shown in today’s programme were the same as those shown in the Wikipedia partial list of his works, for Op 18 No 1.

In any case, after recording my impressions of this performance, I found they were very similar to what I wrote ten months ago, though I’m sure that the present combination sounded more authentic and convincing than the adaptation for saxophone which, while interesting, did not altogether persuade me. Here, I was quite won over both by the warmth and femininity of the viola d’amore combining with guitar and cello, especially in the Largo where the three ebbed and flowed so charmingly from one to another. Though the cello’s role was essentially a ‘continuo’ one, there were surprising little flourishes occasionally.



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