This was the culminating concert of a week’s summer school for young musicians from all over Australia and New Zealand, specialising in early music. The week was under the mentorship of The Muffat Collective.
The tutors Rafael Font (violin), Anton Baba (cello) and Anthony Aboudamad (harpsichord) joined the students for this all-baroque concert in the resonant acoustics of the church of St James, King Street. All played period instruments; violins, violas, cellos, bass, theorbo, guitar and harpsichord.
The start of the program, the Johan Adolph Hasse Sinfonia in minor Op 5 No 6, was strong and energetic. Strong unified and rhythmic pulsing were evidence of a thorough rehearsal process. Although the tone was robust, individual voices in the score were clearly audible; a tribute to careful balancing, intonation and phrasing.
Heinrich Biber’s Battalia à 10 in D major had plenty of interesting musical effects to simulate the battalia; devices such as the double bass imitating a snare drum, a sailor’s drinking song and a final lament for the dead.
However, a wild and unbearably dissonant contrapuntal movement, representing the chaos of battle, was the most arresting piece in the program; I have never heard such a cacophony from a baroque composer; this was worthy of works written during the world wars of last century; astounding for the 17th century! The musicians clearly relished this moment.
The piece Sperantis gaudier from Florilegium Primum by Georg Muffat was a warm wash of sound, played to the acoustics of the building. Phrasing and articulation were cohesive and carefully rehearsed.
Franz Richter’s Sinfonia a Quattro in B flat major was played with delicacy and refinement. The “terracing” demonstrated tonal as well as the obvious dynamic contrasts. The Andante movement was played muted to produce a languid and pastoral character.
Handel’s Concerto Grosso in B flat major Op 6 No 7 again showed delicacy and togetherness in phrasing of the opening fugal sections; long notes surged and receded with musical understanding. The strong bass section and continuo grounded the texture, but it was ultimately pleasing to hear some ornamentation at the cadences and in the cadential flourish at the end of the second movement. The piece was rhythmically vibrant and filled with lively pulsing.
The final work, Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in d minor Op 3 No 11 was a delight. There was a welcome contrast between concertino and ripieno (solo group vs the full ensemble). The solo violin playing was ecstatic and full of imaginative ornamentation. The most beautiful passage was the Largo violin solo over the staccato upper strings.
The lively buoyant tone of final Allegro provided a brilliant end to this enjoyable concert.