Featured  image (l to r): Will Hansen -Baroque Double Bass, Ella Bennetts-Baroque Violin, John Ma-Baroque Violin, Hans-Dieter Michatz-Recorder, Heather Lloyd- Baroque Viola, Sally Melhuish- Artistic Director and Recorder, Monika Kornel-Harpsichord, Tim Blomfield-Artistic Director and Baroque Cello.

Salut! Baroque | Corelli’s Magic

Sydney Arts Guide reviewed by Paul Nolan, 23 August 2023

This brilliant Baroque ensemble has been an institution on the early music scene in Sydney and beyond for over two decades. Its enthusiastic following enjoyed this event’s substantial programme. The chosen works were linked by the theme of a study of ‘Corelli’s Magic’ or influence. The group’s intelligent, eloquent approach to all composers’ music graced Canberra and Sydney venues this month.

Appreciative gasps and cheers from audience members articulated their delight in Salut! Baroque’s exploration of Baroque music and especially the great output and finesse with regard to ensemble writing of Corelli, of his global contemporaries and of his predecessors and successors.

The programme of nine items progressed fluidly without interval. The Verbrugghen Hall acoustic was responsive and clear for the alternating combinations of strings, harpsichord and recorders to present the various soundscapes.

‘Corelli’s Magic’ was a concert with works from a firm network of composers spanning out from the compositional foundations, flair and fine legacy from Corelli, the prolific composer of trio sonatas and concerti grossi and master of these balanced forms.

Sadly this concert marked the farewell to recorder player Hans-Dieter Michatz who played his final concert. This made the last work on the sprawling, chameleon programme all the more special.

There was much magic as well as inimitable energy on offer as the well-balanced group played Corelli’s 1712 Concerto Grosso in C minor Op 6 No 3 as arranged by Walsh & Hare thirteen years later with flutes (recorders) joining the strings.

This was a fine vehicle with which Hans-Dieter Michatz could exit Salut! Baroque. The arrangement was played with fine gesturing, shaping and dialogue consistent with playing throughout the event.

As in the opening concerto grosso by Corelli’s student Geminiani, the recorder playing by Michatz and his colleague Sally Melhuish was beautifully phrased and balanced both between the wind player and in delicate voice articulated with soulful integrity at the centre of the entire ensemble.

Salut! Baroque introduced us to work dedicated to Corelli by the Swedish Johan Roman (‘La Folia’-1709). A direct contemporary of the German Telemann and Italian Valentini, whose works were also included in this study of Corelli’s influence.

Violinists John Ma and Ella Bennetts demonstrated the successful expressive resourcefulness of Salut! Baroque as they delivered the drama and some well-sculptured voice leading as the texture was reduced to just two expertly entwined lines and continuo in Valentini’s attractive Bizzarria Op 2 No 1 from 1703.

This excerpt has encouraged me and hopefully others to discover the entire expressive set of Bizzarria compositions from this composer.

The superb, detailed programme notes by the group’s cellist Tim Blomfield made for a superb concert companion and a very entertaining read later also.

Suitable reference was made in these notes to the progression of form that moving from the composer Stradella led to the perfection which was the concerto grosso of Corelli’s time.

The dynamic work included in the programme from Stradella showcased the virtuosity and group energy of Salut! Baroque. It also was an exciting tribute to the origins of this compositional form to be emulated by other fans of the form across Europe and perfected by Corelli.

As this concert’s works ebbed and beautifully flowed, we heard the concerto grosso prototype and saw the ensemble change in number and timbre to effectively show contrasts in form, caricature and expression from Team Corelli composers.

Will Hansen’s Baroque Double Bass was a fine addition to the fuller textures. The drama of the Sinfonia Funebre by the expat to Amsterdam, Locatelli (Valenti’s pupil) was a significant change of intensity and colour towards the end of the programme.

It was impressive to witness Salut Baroque embrace the requiem mood in heightened unison and with full, broad strokes in the venue.

This concert-musicological journey of discovery introduced us to many related composers and work. The somewhat six degrees of separation network drawing the well-researched programme together would not have been complete without Couperin’s salute to the composer.

Played with an enviable dramatic display from all players was Couperin’s tribute to Corelli, Le Parnasse, which unfolded with svelte programmatic colour, Salut! Baroque’s signature momentum and shifts in the described action.

All works and the overall trip around Europe to visit Corelli’s legacy was cleverly and passionately executed. The hour and a quarter of music sans interval flew by in fitting style.

Read the article on Sydney Arts Guide.