Joy of watching good musicians at work

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Bach Akademie Australia.

Music / CIMF, Concert 6 – “Bach’s Orbit”, Bach Akademie Australia. At Fitters’ Workshop, May 5. Reviewed by IAN McLEAN

IT’S just great watching good musicians at work!

Similar to the marimbas of yesterday’s CIMF concert 3, the players of the Bach Akademie Australia this morning talked to each other with their eyes and gestures as they set out on their journey to bring to life the Vivaldi “Violin Concerto RV208”.

That understanding, trust, belief and dependence on each other resulted in a most pleasing interpretation and a glorious start to Concert 6 of this year’s festival.

Solo violinist Madeleine Easton was as virtuosic as always.

It is telling how her fellow performers watched and listened somewhat mesmerised by her flawless and commanding playing, particularly in the demanding cadenzas.

Ensemble sound was tight, excellent in dynamic control and instrumental balance and always suitably subservient to the solo voice.

The second offering provided a complete change of pace. Three short movements from Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude who had been quite influential in shaping the writing style of the young JS Bach.

Based on a Luther hymn the Cantata was originally funeral music.

A slight oddity of the score is that the parts were not written for specific instruments.

The Bach Akademie Australia reduced to a five-member string ensemble plus organ and that combination provided most appropriate elongated backing to the powerful voices of Anna Fraser (soprano) and Andrew Fysh (bass).

They both filled the confines of the Fitter’s Workshop with sonorous and well-phrased words of lament.

The concert concluded with another reduced Bach Akademie Australia ensemble, this time joined by organ and lute to perform the “Stabat Mater” from Italian composer GB  Pergolesi. He was just 25 years old and terminally ill when he wrote the setting for two voices (soprano Susannah Lawergren and mezzo-soprano Hannah Fraser) and strings which tells of the anguish of Mary, mother of Jesus, as she witnesses her son’s crucifixion.

This is music of despair, deep sorrow and grief and certainly does pull on the emotional strings.

The voices of the soloists interpreted the sad passion with heartfelt understanding and emotional clarity while Roland Peelman, who conducted the ensemble, demonstrated similar understanding of text and tune as he ensured, through perfect tempi, beautiful phrasing and controlled dynamics, that compassion was always at the forefront.

A joyous “Amen” ended the 12-movement work leading to a standing ovation, fitting reward for a most moving and reflective concert of fine music performed by excellent singers and musicians.

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