On a somewhat dull winter afternoon in Sydney, I attended a ThoroughBass concert named “Overture and Concerto” at the Mosman Art Gallery. The Grand Hall, previously a Methodist church featuring lovely stained glass windows and an expansive timber ceiling that provided great acoustics, was an ideal setting for chamber music. The group, comprising Shaun Ng and Daniel Cortes, violins, Tara Hashambuoy, viola, Lucy Cormack and Angus Ryan, cellos, and Diana Weston, founder and harpsichord player, was joined by well-known Israeli keyboard player, Michael Tsalka. On this occasion, he played the harpsichord.
This concert featuring eighteenth-century music commenced with an elegant Ouverture from the orchestral Suite in G minor FaWV K:g2 by German violinist and composer Johann Friedrich Fasch, arranged for two harpsichords by Stephen Yates who was in attendance. Both Tsalka and Weston played single manual harpsichords, the larger of the two being a Zuckermann reproduction built in 1974.
The remainder of the concert featured concertos, mostly pieces arranged for a small ensemble and written in the Italian style where there were up to three movements ending with a fast movement. Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto RV 319 arranged for two harpsichords by Stephen Yates comprised 3 movements, fast-slow-fast. The middle movement involved the use of the lute register in the smaller harpsichord played by Weston. Next up was Alessandro Scarlatti’s Concerto III for Harpsichord and Strings arranged by Ottavio Dantone. Weston was the harpsichordist for this two-movement work that commenced with a slow fugue and ended with a fast movement. The first violinist Ng was noted to use a shorter Baroque bow consistent with the musical era.
The highlight of the afternoon was Tsalka’s performance as soloist in the Concerto I in F minor for Cembalo accompanied by strings, composed by Georg Antonin Benda (baptised 1722 – 1795) and once again consisted of three movements, fast-slow-fast. He swapped harpsichords with Weston at this point to play the smaller, more delicate instrument. Another Vivaldi Violin Concerto arranged for two harpsichords by Stephen Yates was next, this time RV 229. JS Bach’s famous Harpsichord Concerto No 4 in A major BWV 1055 completed proceedings with Tsalka the soloist and Weston adding to the continuo mainly provided by the two cellists.
A lovely afternoon tea followed at the rear of the Hall after the concert.