I was lucky to attend a concert at Darton Theater by a group named Ensemble Chaconne. The show was named: European Maters in the 18th century in England on 02/08/2012 at 7:30 pm. This concert was a live performance that included compositions for baroque flute, viola da gamba, baroque lute, and English guitar. The four selections performed at the program were as follows:
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Georg Frideric Handel’s Sonata in A minor (Hallenser Sonata No.1)
Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759) settled in London in 1712 after returning from Italy. He found himself in the circle of English aristocrats and middle-class people, who financially supported musicians’ activities. The title of the sonata, “Hallenser,” refers to the young Handel’s stay in Halle, but it was probably written much later as it accords in style and technique with the works of the 1720s.
The musicians began the concert with this piece, which, at first, did not impress me since, during the first minutes, the trio tuned in and played a little unevenly. However, then I was carried away by the sad melody of baroque flute, supported by the deep and sentimental sound of viola de gamba and the gentle and highly technical plucking of the English guitar strings. The sonata consisted of four movements in Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro tempo. This transition created the necessary dynamics and conveyed the sad and solemn mood of the sonata.
Starting from the second movement, the musicians played harmoniously and technically. The Sonata in A minor is a well-known piece of music that is probably familiar to many people. Therefore, the perfect and original melody of the song completely compensated for the initial disappointment.
Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major (per liuto)
Antonio Vivaldi’s (1675-1741) music was popular among the aristocracy of the 18th century. Initially, the musician lived in Italy, where many of his fans came on Grand Tours. However, over time, he decided to move to London, as the kings’ attitude towards musicians in England was less controlling. The move allowed Vivaldi to fully control his destiny and creativity, write sonatas and operas, and give personal lessons.
Concerto in D Major consists of three movements in Allegro guisto – Largo – Allegro tempo. I liked the performance, especially the technicality of the baroque lute sounding. It seems to me that baroque flute and viola de gamba drowned out the modest and gentle sounds of baroque lute a bit, which could be corrected by adequately setting the microphones. I consider this a significant omission since the concert was written for the baroque lute, and this instrument was supposed to be the main one. However, I don’t blame the musicians, considering that baroque flute and viola da gamba naturally sound louder and more resonant. I liked that in this small piece, it was easy to recognize the style of Antonio Vivaldi since some of the passages with the participation of viola da gamba reminded me of excerpts from the Seasons.
Carl Friedrich Abel’s Solos for viola da gamba in D minor
Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) was the composer and viola da gamba virtuoso who grew up in a family with friendly relations with Johann Sebastian Bach’s family. In 1759 Abel moved from Germany to England to become one of Queen Charlotte’s musicians. In London, Abel met Bach and shared lodging with him until 1773. Friends created the Bach-Abel concert series that lasted sixteen years.
It was my favorite piece since I much enjoy the music performed with string instruments. The unaccompanied performance allowed one to enjoy viola de gamba’s lonely sound, but it also left some emptiness. However, performer Carol Lewis managed to quickly fill this void with the expressiveness of the pauses between passages. The piece consisted of two movements in Adagio – Allegro tempo. I liked the performer’s passion, who enjoyed the music and played quite technically.
Thomas Linley, Sr.’s When Sable Night
The composer Thomas Linley, Sr. (1732-1795), collaborated with playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, head of the Drury Lane Theater in London. “When Sable Night” aria is a part of The Duenna, a ballad opera by Linley.
I liked this piece more than others since the aria was performed mainly by English guitar, an instrument from the sitar group tuned in B major. English guitar became popular in the 18th century, and was used by American musicians. There is evidence that Tomas Jefferson compared its sound to banjo music. Olav Chris Henriksen masterfully performed this piece, written in a major key, conveying a light and joyful mood. While I was listening to this piece, it seemed to me that the musician was speaking about distant southern countries, carefree sea voyages, and the inhabitants of seaside towns who enjoy the first summer breeze, sitting in a cafe by the pier.
In general, I liked the concert, as in the process, I was able to get acquainted with the history of music and appreciate the works of famous composers in their original sound. I would rate it 93 out of 100 on the Likert-type scale rating, lowering the points for some technical inconsistencies. I liked the overall quality of the sound and the cozy chamber hall of the theater. The audience was well-disposed, as were the performers. The public listened with interest to the musicians’ stories about composers, instruments, and historical context. The programs that included the information presented during the concert helped me a lot in writing this critique. Today, there is a growing interest in the rediscovered and reconstructed musical works of bygone eras, performed on authentic instruments. In general, the performance can be considered very successful, as the audience was delighted and happily welcomed and saw off the musicians.
“ChaconneEnsemble2012.” You Tube, uploaded by USG eFaculty, 2017, Web.
Program: European Masters in 18th Century. 2012, Web.