This Nelson Music Room concert of baroque works, presented by Duke's Department of Music, featured the widely-heard and greatly-appreciated flutist Rebecca Troxler, who has been on the faculty of the Duke University Music Department since 1981. She was joined by Elaine Funaro at the harpsichord and John Pruett (with bio borrowed from Magnolia Baroque) playing baroque violin. Funaro is a popular presence at contemporary and early music festivals around the world and is currently president of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America. Pruett performs playing both modern and baroque violin and viola. He is regularly heard in the North Carolina Baroque Chamber Orchestra and El Ensamble Barroco de Arequipa in Peru. In this concert Troxler played the baroque flute and Pruett the baroque violin.
The program opened with the Sonate Op, 91, No. 3, for flute and harpsichord, by Joseph-Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755). Born in Lorraine, the composer moved to Paris in 1724 where he flourished alongside Rameau during the Rococo era of Louis XV. He published over 100 works and, especially due to the popularity of his vocal works, he became wealthy without the aid of patrons. Much of the music he wrote was for home playing. This sonata charmingly demonstrates the grace and elegance of the music in France during this era.
Next on the program was the Duo for flute and violin by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach (1714-88), the fifth child and second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara. This three-movement work (Andante, Allegro, and Allegretto) is rich in imitative interplay between the two instruments. In the middle movement, runs in thirds are interspersed with call-and-answer passages, sometimes echoed and sometimes inverted. Elements of classical style and development are apparent.
A less well-known composer was heard next. Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1692-1763) was born in Padua. In 1722, he took a post in Würzburg where he remained for the rest of his life. His Sonata IX for solo harpsichord falls toward the classical era. The first movement, Allegro, is energetic and developed in style and form. The second movement, Andantino, is a well-developed theme of sadness and longing. The third movement, Allegro assai, is dance-like, with bold key changes and chordal accompaniment. A piece like this makes the performance of the harpsichord a special event, and Funaro took full advantage of it on this occasion.
The Sonata in B minor, S.1030, a late work of J.S. Bach, served as a reminder of the genius of the Cantor of Leipzig. In the first movement, Andante, the harpsichord dances while the flute soars above with such joy that it seems a part of nature. The second movement, Largo e dolce, has the flute singing a beautiful, slightly wistful melody above grounded chords. The third movement, Presto, is a swinging dance that ties it all together beautifully.
The concert concluded with a charming little trio by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) from his 1731 cycle III Trietti metodichi (e III scherzi). This collection was written for the parlor musician who wanted quality music, not too long or too difficult. It is remarkable in that Telemann included details of ornamentation in the slow movements. As played by all of the artists, the music was delightfully buoyant, beginning with a dancing, swinging allegro, followed by a sweet and mystical grave, and ending with a vivacious presto.
Troxler remains the go-to artist in the Triangle whenever a flutist of technical and knowledgeable skill is required, and it was a joy to hear her on this afternoon with the superb supporting artists perform this collection of baroque and early classical gems.
Some of the best things in life are free, and Duke's frequent faculty (and guest) concerts are certainly among those. For more, see our calendar.