Review / Family jewels shine again

Music / Salut! Baroque, “Sons and Brothers”. At Albert Hall, Friday, November 3. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

MOZART said: “Bach is the father. We are the children”. However, he was referring to CPE Bach rather than his father, JS Bach. In this concert, we found out if there are contrasts and similarities in the compositions of musical family members.

The musicians were, Sally Melhuish, recorder; Hans-Dieter Michatz, recorder; Jane Downer, Baroque oboe; Matthew Greco, Baroque violin; Rafael Font, Baroque violin; Valmai Coggins, Baroque viola; Tim Blomfield, Baroque cello and Monika Kornel on harpsichord.

The concert began with Giovanni Sammartini’s “Sinfonia in C Major”. It bursts into life with a rush of C major brightness on strings and harpsichord. Later we got to hear his equally talented son, Giuseppe. Another son of a famous composer, Daniel Purcell was an excellent composer. His “Sonata in D minor”, is a classically beautiful Baroque piece. The two alto recorders that led this music in a clear and evenly flowing composition held perfect intonation throughout.

JS Bach’s gentle “Air on a G String” maybe the quintessentially perfect piece for a small ensemble, and when it was performed so lovingly as Salut! Baroque did, it left you wanting more. Salut! Baroque always offers diverse and interesting concerts, and to prove that, this was the first time in its 22-year history that it had performed this popular “Air”.

CPE Bach’s “Sonata in C minor”, followed his dad’s music. The slow start to this piece had echoes of his father’s sound, but the uncharacteristic slow-fast design of the opening adagio shows he wanted to set his music apart from his father’s style.

Giuseppe Sammartini’s older brother Giovanni, his “Concerto in F Major”, came next. The soprano recorder in this piece floats above all the string instruments, but the wood recorder had such a mellow tone, it blended in perfectly. While there is hardly room for breath in this piece, Hans-Dieter Michatz’s sensitive and clear playing created a special performance.

After the interval, we heard Henry Purcell’s “Abdelazer” or “The Moor’s Revenge”, he stands out as a melody writer and a composer of finely crafted music, and these attributes were on show in his music, even though it was in a reduced format.

Then we heard two works from the Scarlatti family. First, it was Alessandro with his “Sonata in F major”, which I found particularly wonderful, and then from his son Domenico and his “Fandango del Sgr Scarlate”, for solo harpsichord, which set the Albert Hall alight. I wish there were more solo harpsichord music in Baroque concerts, especially when Monika Kornel is performing. Her playing thrilled everyone; it’s not often you hear roaring and cheering at a Baroque music concert.

For the final work, we heard Alessandro Marcello’s “Concerto in D minor for Oboe”, which added another unique sound to this impressive concert. Earlier we heard from his brother Benedetto. The wooden Baroque oboe exudes charm and, as it was played so delicately and effectively by Jane Downer, who doubled on recorder earlier, brought out the best of this instrument in a grand end-of-year concert from this superb ensemble.

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