Baroque music, rare and familiar, in a happy St Andrew’s concert

HyeWon Kim (violin), Jane Young (cello), Kris Zuelicke (harpsichord)

Leclair: Sonata in C, Op.2 no.3
Cervetto, Giacomo Basevi: Sonata in F, Op.2 no.9
J.S. Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971 (1st movement)
Sonata no.1 in G minor for solo violin, BWV 1001
Handel: Sonata in A, Op 1 No 3, HWV 361

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 28 November 2018, 12.15pm

A larger-than-average audience came to hear this programme of a mixture  of familiar and unfamiliar baroque works.

Sometimes musical (and other) works from the past are lost sight of because their worth is slight.  This seemed to me to be true of the Cervetto piece.  Extraordinary as it is to read of a a composer from 17th-18th centuries who lived to be at least 101 (c.1682-1783), his music didn’t live up to the quality of other music presented.

The programme began with another rather lightweight piece, by Jean Marie Leclair ((1697-1764).  It had a slow, even lethargic, but tuneful andante opening movement.  The second movement (allegro) was lively, but again, somewhat undistinguished.

Next was a largo movement (you can see the pattern: slow-fast-slow-fast).  The music included a lot of sequences and repetitions, but its character was pleasant.  The allegro final movement was buoyant and dance-like.  The relationship between the instruments featured skilful interweaving, but the violin seemed the only one to carry the melody, with the others accompanying.

The Cervetto Sonata was for cello and harpsichord; the composer was a cellist, and apparently did a lot to popularise the cello as a solo instrument in England, where he lived for the latter half of his life.

The solemn andante first movement featured much double-stopping for the cellist; the second, comprised of a minuet with two trios, was lyrical and rhythmic with the cellist contributing fast passage-work.  Some splendid melodies emerged, and the composer utilised a wide range up and down the cello strings.

The caccia (literally ‘chase’, so in the style of hunting music) last movement had a very strong pulse, and much repetition.  The cellist achieved great resonance especially in this movement.

The Bach excerpts were well-played, but it might have been more satisfying to have had the whole of the ‘Italian’ concerto on the harpsichord or the whole of the violin sonata, rather than one movement of each.  Of course, programming single movements gave each instrumentalist a chance to shine on their own.

As the performers told us, Bach’s counterpoint is more dense and complex than that of the other composers featured.  The ‘Italian’ concerto is a familiar work, utilising the two-manual harpsichord to obtain the contrasts that in a ‘normal’ concerto would be made by a soloist and an orchestra.  Kris Zuelicke gave a very satisfactory performance.

The solo violin sonata was typical  of Bach’s exacting writing for the instrument, frequently requiring for the violinist to play chords on two or more strings, and execute double-stopping.  HyeWon Kim produced splendid tone, and gave a very fine performance.  She played in a baroque style, without vibrato – as did Jane Young on the cello.

Finally, we had the Handel, with the same four-movement tempo sequence as in the Leclair sonata.  The sombre andante had an appealing melodic line.  The trio played as an organic unit, and together brought out the broad sweep of the music, which contained less detail than found in the Bach compositions.

The third movement (adagio) was slow and contemplative, but very short, while the final movement startled me with its familiarity – I think I learned it as a child, as a piano piece.  It was cheerful and elevating at the same time, contained some interesting modulation, and made a happy, smiling ending to the concert.

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