Concert Artists come up short in going for Baroque

November 22, 1999|By David Donovan | David Donovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Fifty years ago an all-Baroque music concert would have been unthinkable. Today, after all the advances in musicology and performance practices re-creating the varied styles of the era, an all-Baroque concert is usually a hit. Saturday evening the Concert Artists of Baltimore played four masterpieces of this musical period. This listener is sad to report that the program just did not come up to the excellence associated with this ensemble.

The Telemann Overture Perpetuum Mobile essentially opened the program with a thud. Scored for strings and continuo, Telemann offers a varied suite of dances after an opening French overture. The playing was so straightforward that all the charm inherent in the music was missing. This was just too much like a read-through and no insights were offered. Possibly this was the least-rehearsed work on the program.

Vivaldi's Concerto in A-minor for two violins was the strongest in the second half. Jose Cueto and Claudia Chudacoff were magnificent. Ed Polochick and the orchestra were perfect partners here. The slow movement was pure poetry.

The Bach Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor was the major disappointment. This is one of the glories of the Baroque era and it was entirely lacking in any kind of fire. Kristin Winter-Jones just did not have a sound big enough for this work. Many times Bach has the flute and first violins doubling the same melodic line. When that happened, she was totally swallowed by the orchestral sound. Perhaps the orchestra could have been reduced, but a modern flute should have no problem cutting through the strings. To her credit, the solo passages were clean and accurate. One could have asked for more purpose in the playing.

The choir always restores order. Handel's Dixit Dominus is one of the early defining works of his career. Material from this work resurfaced in his "Israel in Egypt." This is a glorious eight-part setting of Psalm 110. A certain magic happens when the total ensemble work together. Outstanding solos by sopranos Faith Okkema, Ah Hong and Jo Anne Dolan and contralto Alison Enokian did much to rescue the evening.

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