Balmain Baroque performed for a small audience of mainly friends and family in the sympathetic acoustics of the St Peters Presbyterian Church in North Sydney.
They played a range of mostly sonatas and arias by Schutz, Telemann, Boismortier, Bernardi, Handel and Corelli. One of the benefits of this early music is that it was common practice to slot in whatever instruments were available at the time and there was a bit of that sort of thing going on in this concert. The instruments presented were two treble recorders, violin, baroque flute, voice, harpsichord and ‘cello.
A blow by blow review of this concert is not possible because many of the movements were only a minute or so long; too many about which to go into detail. Some of the highlights can however be picked out.
One of my favourite was Lidia Bara’s performance on the violin of Corelli’s Sonata in C Major (Op 5 No 3). Her florid ornamentation and phrasing, especially in the opening Adagio was nothing short of spectacular. It was authentic and convincing and it flowed and surged and carried me along irresistibly. Throughout all the pieces she played, her articulation was well thought out and phrasing sympathetic. The double stopping was very good too; during the last Allegro, with eyes closed you would have been convinced there were two violins playing. Impressive. I look forward to hearing more of her and watching this young musician’s development over the coming years.
The treble instruments, when they played together in various combinations, produced some nicely blended sounds, enhanced by the resonant but clear acoustic of St Peters. One of my favourite pieces on the program was by a French composer of whom I had not heard before; Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, a contemporary of JS Bach. This sonata in F major for 3 Recorders Op 7 No 1, here played by two treble recorders (Dina Ahmad & Tony Eyers) and the violin, no continuo, was rhythmically spritely and the players produced some lovely tonal blends. The articulation was clear and thoughtful.
The flautist in the group, Amanda Louise Muir, also sang a motet by Schutz and and aria from the opera Orlando by Handel. I was impressed by the accuracy of her melismas. No mean feat considering the difficulty of this music.
The Bach pieces on the program had to be foregone because of a persistent cypher on the pipe organ; a note that won’t stop playing. Another Boismortier piece was sightread by the trio on stage; a sort of open rehearsal. This sort of thing is fine for family and friends, but do this at your own peril! It is never a good idea when perfect strangers have paid to see your concert.
It is heartening to see a local group like this getting together and working on this delightful repertoire. Always to be encouraged.