Music / CIMF Concert 21: “The Art of Speech: Australian Rhetoric in Music”. At the National Gallery, Sunday, May 7. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY
ON a beautiful Canberra Sunday morning, bright sunshine, filtered by white curtained additions to the normally stark Fitters’ Workshop, made the perfect setting and atmosphere for some Bach!
From the opening Sinfonia of the “Cantata BWV4” this was a “let-the-music-wash-over-you” morning.
Under precise and accurate guidance from artistic director Madeleine Easton, who conducted with her violin bow as is the European custom, Bach Akademie Australia produced a lush, full ensemble sound that truly did allow the beauty of Bach to wash away the concerns of the outside world.
The cantata showcased the talents of soprano Susannah Lawergren, alto Jo Burton, tenor Richard Black and bass Andrew Fysh and, apart from some imbalance in Verse 1 when the ensemble overpowered the four voices, this was a performance of the highest quality – rich, vibrant and passionate. Verse 6, a soprano and tenor duet, was a particular and absolute delight.
Next on the 80-minute program was the adagio and fuga from the “Sonata in G Minor”. It was just the solo violin of Madeleine Easton and the interpretation from this world-renowned Bach expert demonstrated why she is an established star on the international stage. Her tight control, particularly during the complex and intricate fuga, was admirable.
On to the “Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G Major” and two recorders joined to enlarge the Bach Akademie Australia ensemble. During the opening allegro excellent balance ensured every recorder note was clear and distinct amongst the hurly-burley of the interplay between them, the solo violin and the rest of the ensemble. Andante and presto movements were similarly tight and exact with deep sonority in the slow time then crisp, clean sound as the fast movement scurried along energetically.
The four singers plus two oboes and a trumpet of the period joined for the concert finale – the “Cantata BWV 127”. The opening chorale was solemn and reflective, the tenor recitativo moving and really well sung and the soprano aria emotive and passionate with wonderfully haunting oboe obligato backing. A rousing Andrew Fysh bass recitativo and aria with flourishing trumpet embellishment led to a short ensemble final chorale – a lovely ending.
With the sun still streaming in the window a warm glow seemed to have descended amongst the audience and I’m sure many, who may have arrived feeling stressed, worn out or weary, were transformed as the Bach magic kicked in and were now calm, relaxed and at peace.