Review / ADHOC Baroque brings beauty in a storm

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ADHOC Baroque are a small ensemble of musicians based in Canberra who are committed to bringing vocal and chamber music of the Baroque to local audiences.

Adhoc Baroque. Photo by Peter Hislop
St Paul’s Church in Manuka was a wonderful place to be on such a stormy and wet afternoon in Canberra. But, it was especially ideal to hear the performers of Adhoc Baroque, offering a good sized audience a selection of religious music during Holy Week.

It began with the “Salve Regina” from Alessandro Scarlatti. It’s a simple arrangement of music that was held together well by the strength of the two singers, soprano, Greta Claringbould and mezzo-soprano Maartje Sevenster. Peter Young led the group from the organ, with Barbara Jane Gilby and Pip Thompson on violin, Michelle Higgs on viola and Clara Teniswood playing the cello.

Charpentier’s “Magdalena lugens” followed. It’s a fine example of Baroque music with some depth. The sustained notes of the organ and cello filled in the bass as the singer’s bright melodic lines added a pleasant touch of colour to the performance.

Next on the bill was Alessandro Stradella’s cantata “O vos omnes”. It’s a flowing piece that was beautifully captured by the clear voice of the mezzo-soprano. Watching singers is fascinating. It’s amazing how much their tone and strength improves when they move with the flow of the music. This was the case with the mezzo-soprano throughout this responsory. Stradella’s composition was played exceptionally well by the whole group.

Adhoc Baroque. Photo by Peter Hislop
After the interval, we heard the first Australian performance of the “Stabat Mater” by Giovan Gualberto Brunetti. Born in Tuscany 1706, Brunetti died in Pisa in 1787. He was maestro di cappella in Pisa and also wrote operas and cantatas. His sons were musicians and composers. His youngest son, Antonio, a violinist, was also Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court, where Mozart composed for him, but held Antonio in low esteem.

Brunetti’s hymn to Mary Magdalene was the most complex piece played on the day. It’s an engrossing composition that stood out. The soprano and the mezzo-soprano’s blending were at its best during this work.

All through this Latin Hymn, there were lively variations between the instrumentalists and the vocalists. The range of difference in its character and construction through the 15 movements of the piece, would I imagine, make it a challenge to perform, however, it was a compelling work to hear.

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