Review / Sydney trio focuses on Bach and sons

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THE Sydney Consort are a trio of violin, recorder and harpsichord, specialising in music of the baroque. The trio are all highly skilled musicians with decades of experience in Australia and Europe. This concert focused on the music of J.S. Bach and three of his sons whose work spanned the changes in musical styles through the 18th century.

The concert opened with selections from J.S. Bach’s musical offering BWV 1079 written in 1747, which included “Ricercar a 3”, “Trio Sonata” and “Canon Perpetuus”. This caused a little confusion in the audience as the program listed only the three titles, ignoring the four movements of the sonata. The ricercar is a work for solo harpsichord which sets the musical theme for the entire offering and the trio moved straight from it into the first movement of the sonata. Most of the audience burst into applause after the second movement of the sonata, assuming that to be the last of the three works listed. The musicians smiled politely and proceeded to play the last two movements of the sonata and the canon.

The next two works were by by the eldest sons of J.S., Wilhelm Friedermann Bach. The first was a “Fantasia” in E minor for solo harpsichord, which allowed Monika Kornel to demonstrate her keyboard skills. This is in short sections, punctuated by the flick of the page turning, and requiring absolute precision in runs up and down the keyboard where each note blended into the previous. She looked quietly pleased with herself at the end of it.

The trio returned for a Trio Sonata by Wilhelm with violinist Stan Kornel switching to a viola d’amore, a rare 18th century instrument with extra sympathetic strings that run under the fingerboard. This gives the instrument a hollower, more nasal tonality which contrasted well with the treble recorder of Hans-Dieter Michatz. This was a highlight of the concert. 

The final two works were a duet in G major for recorder and violin by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and a short “Sonate Notturne” in G major by Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son. Again both works played with great skill and the latter work obviously marking a shift into the new classical forms. 

This was an old fashioned sort of concert. There was little spoken explanation or introduction with a formality that younger generations of musicians seem to have left behind. The musical skills of the trio are there for all to hear, but it just lacks a little in presentation.

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