ThoroughBass, a Sydney ensemble founded in 2009 and which performs lesser-known baroque and contemporary music, served up wonderful musical fare on Sunday afternoon in another of the St Luke’s Concert Series in Mosman. Diana Weston led from the harpsichord, and was joined by Anna Fraser (soprano) and Dr Shaun Ng (viol da gamba and baroque violin). Together they treated the audience of several dozen music lovers to some delightful but little known pieces by early 18thC French composers.
The concert was aptly named Tout Français, an all French program that presented music composed during the reign of Louis XIV, often for dances at his court. The well-known composers of the time (including Forqueray, Lambert, Boismortier, de la Pierre, and d’Hervelois – hardly household names today) were virtuoso players and gifted composers who incorporated dance rhythms into much of their music. Dance was certainly the name of the game in this program – we were treated to gavottes, allemandes, sarabandes, minuets, and rigaudons on harpsichord and viola da gamba/violin and although no one started dancing in the aisle, I’m probably not the only one who was tapping my toe on several occasions! It was easy to close one’s eyes and imagine gorgeously dressed 18thC men and women of the Sun King’s court moving in stately fashion to the music.
Boismortier’s suite of dances was written for viol da gamba virtuosos, and Shaun Ng accompanied by harpsichord played the nine movements of the first Suite superbly. Diana Weston performed Forqueray’s Jupiter on solo harpsichord – the piece was originally written for viola da gamba but later rearranged in the interests of making it more commercially attractive. Anna Fraser sang in two of the five pieces on the program with much feeling and excellent diction. She is a strong and expressive singer whose voice seemed perfectly suited to the acoustics of the space. Translations from the French were provided in the program notes. Well-deserved applause, including in the middle of D’Hervelois’ Suite after one very difficult movement with frantic finger work by Shaun Ng, attested to how satisfying it is to attend a concert such as this with outstanding performers presenting music that is rarely heard and probably difficult to purchase on CD.
The afternoon concluded with complimentary nibbles and champagne to celebrate the launch of Magpie Baby, a musical storybook written and produced by Diana Weston and based on Nadje Noordhuis’ music, previously presented by ThoroughBass in 2013. It can be purchased from their website www.thoroughbass.com.au