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An enticing musical tour

Trinity-St Paul’s Centre - Jeanne Lamon Hall
10/11/2017 -  & October 12*, 13, 14, 15, 2017
Giovanni Battista Fontana: Sonata XIV for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo
Biagio Marini: Sinfonia & Allemanno from op. 22
Daro Castello: Sonata X for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo, from Book 2
Agostino Steffani: Suite from Niobe
Pietro Antonio Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F major, op. 4, no. 12
Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello: Orchestral suite in G Minor
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for violin in F Major, op. 8, no. 3 ("Autumn" from I quattro stagione) – Concerto for 2 oboes in C Major, RV 534

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Elisa Citterio (director and violin)

(© Sian Richards)

The second set of Elisa Citterio’s “calling card” concerts, this set entitled “Elisa’s Italian Adventure”, took us on a concentrated tour of norther Italy, focused on her home town of Brescia, birthplace of two of the seven featured composers: Giovanni Battista Fontana and Biagio Marini, both born in the 1580s. The tour led also to Castelfranco Veneto (birthplace of Agostino Steffani), Bergamo (birthplace of Pietro Locatelli), and Bologna (home town of Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello), and finally to Venice, where the rather mysterious Dario Castello was active, and where Antonio Vivaldi was born. (With a reminder: Vivaldi’s father was from Brescia.)

The three opening works (those of Fontana, Marini and Castello) all date from the early 1600s and resonate with the textures we associate with Monteverdi and Cavalli. The Fontana and Castello works feature the dulcian, a chubby progenitor of the bassoon, played by the orchestra’s bassoonist, Dominc Teresi. It seems to have more of a drone role in an ensemble, although was given a solo in the Castello work. Single instruments or groups seemed to be engaged in friendly arguments at times. The three works were linked with brief interludes taking us from one register to another.

Agostino Steffani’s suite from his opera Niobe, regina de Tebe (premiered in Munich in1688) took us on a stylistic and sonic leap into the era we recognize as “baroque”, with its foretaste of Handel and Vivaldi. Its nine sections begin with a stately Entrée and feature many “conversations” between instrumental groups. The music seems rather jaunty for a tale that tells of a woman punished by the gods by having her children killed and then being turned to stone. (Another grisly tale from Ovid.)

Pietro Antonio Locatelli’s Concerto grosso is a playful, almost giddy, work as four violinists echo one another. The effect of the work is somewhat like overhearing convivial laughter.

Giuseppe Brescianello was one of the many Italians transplanted to Germany, specifically where he composed the Orchestral Suite in G Minor in the popular style of the day, with a galant French-style Ouverture followed by eight sections, notably a stately, rocking Siciliana. Its concluding Gigue ends with a unison foot stomp from the players.

Two works by Vivaldi concluded the concert. “Autumn” from The Four Seasons, the opening Allegro with lots of dazzle and snap, then the finely sustained Adagio molto quickly replaced by the bouncing conclusion. The Concerto for two oboes gave John Abberger and Marco Cera a chance to shine, as it presented a series of delightful surprises before reaching its hectic conclusion.

All the terrific characteristics of the Tafelmusik Orchestra are well in hand under Elisa Citterio’s lead, namely the players’ evident engagement with the music and with one another, plus their infectious enjoyment in playing. (And let’s not overlook fine musicianship.) In addition Ms. Citterio adds a personal element of humour to the proceedings, often giving almost a wink to the audience as a particularly intricate or surprising passage looms. The four-year process looking for a new music director certainly seems to be a success.

And kudos, once again, to the people behind the acoustic improvements in Jeanne Lamon Hall!

Michael Johnson



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