Baroque’s many musical languages

Salut! Baroque, always excels in its programming…

Canberra City News “The Cosmopolitans”, Salut! Baroque. At Albert Hall, October 6. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

MUSICAL styles of nations varied greatly in the baroque period, and musicians had to adapt to that diversity. This concert showed how they grasped the many musical languages of that era.

The players in Salut! Baroque were, Sally Mellhuish, Alicia Crossley, recorders; John Ma, Bridgitte Holden, baroque violin; Heather Lloyd, Suzie Kim, baroque viola; Tim Blomfield, baroque cello; Julia Magri, baroque double bass; Jack Peggie, percussion, and Monika Kornel harpsichord.

The concert opened with a violent work. The “Ouverture from Opera Zoroastre” by Jean-Philippe Rameau. With pounding drum, strings, recorders and harpsichord, this punchy, driving celebration of sound made a high-impact start.

Following on with another overture, this time from Telemann, his “Ouverture in B flat Major Les Nations”. With a tambourine sounding the way, this dramatic work expressed the musical sensibilities of the nations of Turkey, Switzerland, Russia and Portugal. Each stately piece gave a musical insight into how nations can be depicted through music. What a fascinating journey it was.

Salut! Baroque always excels in its programming. This insightfully titled concert, “The Cosmopolitans” traversed the European continent and beyond through the elaborate baroque music of the 1600s and 1700s.

Moving to a more sedate work by Johann Rosenmüller, his “Sinfonia quinta in D minor”. This was a union of exquisitely rich sounds over just five movements woven in a highly textured composition.

Then a work by Michele Mascitti, “Sonata in A minor, Op. 1, No. 8”. With just two movements performed, the adagio and then the allegro for a quartet of players was an elegant piece. The pensive nature of the adagio softly drifted by until the sprightly allegro, which had some delightful first violin tunes, wound up these entertaining movements.

Then the French composer Francois Couperin, with his “Second Ordre L’Espagnole from Les Nations”. With two recorders added to the quartet, their warmth and diversity of sound made this ornamental piece of just three movements, gentle, sweet and sad.

“Marche pour la Cérémonie des Turcs” by Jean Baptiste Lully brought back that pounding drum. Sounding like a war march for all the players, this had a strong sense of the dramatic about it. Only lasting for a minute, it created a great impact.

A piece by Johann Joseph Fux followed, his “Concerto Le dolcezze e l’amarezze della notte”. The three movements were eclectic in style. They owned a unique musical perspective. Tunes within tunes were offset by sections that sounded independent of each other. It frequently changed voice and style. A work that captured the imagination.

Bach’s 1713 “Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 18” came next. This darkly dramatic piece had some great bass work interspersed with transcendent recorder tunes, all held together with that tight Bach precision.

Four works by Boccherini, Georg Muffat, Henry Eccles, and André Campra concluded the concert. The fascinating and highly entertaining works performed proved the immense diversity and creativity of music coming out of the Baroque period.

When Salut! Baroque move over to the Fairfax Theatre in the National Gallery of Australia next year, I’m sure they will bring more of their wonderful programming and performance style to that more suitable space.