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Canberra Today 8°/11° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Impressive debut from new baroque duo

Apeiron Baroque… fortepianist Marie Searles and violinist John Ma. Photo: Graham McDonald

Music / Apeiron Baroque. At Wesley Uniting Church, November 13. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD

THIS was the first concert by Apeiron Baroque, the duo of fortepianist Marie Searles and violinist John Ma.

They are recent arrivals in Canberra, moving here from the Netherlands earlier this year. They have spent the last 16 years in Europe and have decided to make Canberra their home, Searles having extended family here.

The idea is that this duo will be the core of a flexible ensemble focusing on music of the Baroque and Classical periods.

This first concert concentrated on late 18th century music, the period where the fortepiano enjoyed its few decades of popularity, before being relegated to the byways of musical history by the louder pianoforte in the early 19th century.

It was the type of instrument that Mozart and Beethoven used and slowly having a revival in the ongoing search to find the right sound for early music.

The lower notes have a harpsichordlike percussiveness, while the upper register is much more like a modern piano.

Ma holds the violin in the baroque fashion, with no chin or shoulder rest, tucking the violin under his chin with a piece of soft leather and is obviously enjoying himself on stage.

Searles is more restrained with the occasional smile at the end of a work. The quieter sound of the fortepiano blends well with the violin, not dominating as can happen with modern pianos.

The concert was of three sonatas for keyboard and violin, by Luigi Boccherini, CPE Bach and Jean-Frédéric Edelmann as well as a solo piece by each musician. Searles performed a slow and reflective work by WF Bach, while Ma presented a showpiece by German composer Johan Georg Pisendel full of double stops and the bow bouncing across the strings.

Of the duo sonatas, the first movement of the CPE Bach work was particularly impressive. A precise walking bass and rippling arpeggios from Searles combined with the violin weaving in and around was quite delightful, though nothing of the concert disappointed in any way.

This was a most impressive first concert for this duo. This might well be the start of some very interesting music making in Canberra and I look forward to hearing what they do next.

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