On a hot and seemingly ‘summer-esque’ and seriously smouldering Sunday at St Peters Presbyterian Church in North Sydney, the well-known Balmain Baroque presented a delightful program of Vivaldi, Handel, Quantz, Mattheson and two of the most underappreciated composers of the Baroque – Zelenka and Fasch.
Opening with a reduction of Zelenka’s “Salve Regina” (ZWV 135), the group was very engaged and displayed a great understanding and natural flare for Zelenka’s style of writing. The performance was energetic which was enforced by the Soprano, Amanda Louise Muir’s, affectual and inspired performance.
Donny Mendoza’s performance of Handel’s Keyboard Suite in G minor (HWV 432), was also a delight during dreadful weather. With harpsichord pitch moving quickly, his florid ornamentation on the ground bass of the Passacaille, made particularly famous as an adaptation for strings by Johan Halvorsen, was so exciting that all tuning trouble seemed non-existent.
One of the most notable highlights of this performance was Lidia Bara and Dina Ahmad’s stylish and fun performance of Johann J. Quantz’s Trio Sonata in C major for Recorder, Violin and Basso Continuo (QV 2:Ahn 3). Bara’s vast palette of colours drew the audience in and painted a wonderous picture over the ominous hum of fans. Ahmad’s dexterous technique and playful phrasing further painted those pictures in contrasting yet simultaneously sympathetic colours, especially during the fast movements ‘Alla breve’ and ‘Vivace’. The interplay between these two musicians made for a fine rendition of this well-known piece.
After a brief performance of Handel’s Aria “Credete il mio dolore” from his Opera “Alcina”, Balmain Baroque’s performance of Johann Mattheson’s Trio in C major (Op 1 No.5) was a real treat and with a reasonably small audience, brought off the ideal musical saloon experience. One felt as if they were transported back to the time that this piece was written, although the consistent page turns caused minor disturbance to the overall performance. The performance was solid and executed with taste, tact and tenacity.
The Vivaldi Cello sonata in A minor (Rv 43) was interesting and performed with confidence. Her overall sound world was pleasant, however there could have been greater consideration in relation to Baroque homage. There was little difference, as far as affect is concerned, between the four movements (Largo, Allegro, Largo, Allegro) but regardless of this, the performance was fresh and exciting.
Lastly, Johann Friedrich Fasch’s ‘Sonata in G Major for Flute, two Recorders and Continuo’ went down as something very special to end the concert. With Muir now on Baroque Flute, this change of colour was that extra drop of honey in a fine cup of iced tea. Stylistically performed and with true homage to the title of each movement (Andante, Allegro, Affettuoso, Allegro), the sweet tones and interplay between the three wind instrumentalists made for an overall delightful conclusion to a balanced Baroque blend.