Meet the Raleigh Camerata, a baroque ensemble consisting of flute, violin, cello and harpsichord. Since this fine organization has been around for barely a year, let their website perform the introduction. "The Raleigh Camerata is a group of period musicians … dedicated to the performance of small to midsize chamber music of the Renaissance through early Classical periods…. Led by artistic director Kelly Nivison Roudabush,* the Raleigh Camerata strives to bring the seldom heard literature and composers to audiences through creative concert programming, bringing early music to life in the Raleigh-Durham area."
Wake Forest Baptist Church, with its Virginia Tull Music & Arts Series, hosted this offering called "Persuasion of the Affections." Here were four masterly musicians "bringing early music to life" in skilled and honest manner. Performing were the aforementioned director Roudabush, baroque flute, Allison Willet, baroque violin, Brian Carter, baroque cello/viola de gamba, and Jennifer Streeter, harpsichord.
The Italian composer Carlo Tessarini (1690-1766) furnished the three-movement opener, Trio in D, Op. 12, No. 2, for flute, violin, and continuo. The Largo movement seemed to reach an apex of sorts in the baroque literature. Here the flute and violin swapped melodies back and forth, with the cello and harpsichord maintaining the foundation, in a near-classical manner. These same players led to intermission with Telemann's (1681-1767) Quartet in E minor from Tafelmusik (Music for the Table). Again, as in the opening piece, the slow movements (Adagio and Dolce) seemed to point forward in time.
Between the Tessarini and the Telemann came a work of special merit. Franz Biber's (1644-1704) "Passacaglia: The Guardian Angel" featured Allison Willet as solo violinist. This "senior" composer of the evening must surely have inspired the solo efforts of the younger J.S. Bach. Here was as engaging a solo work as one is likely to encounter. Utilizing what the English conductor Roger Norrington has called "pure tone," the soloist negotiated these plaintive measures lovingly and with highest competence and not a hint of distracting vibrato.
First up after intermission was the obligatory Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and his uncommon Sonata in B minor, S.1030. This three-movement sonata called for flute and harpsichord, but the latter instrument was not limited to the usual "figured bass" role. Instead it performed as an equal melodic partner with the flute, allowing Streeter to demonstrate her considerable dexterity and musicianship.
If you did not clearly see just four musicians, you might have thought a small chamber orchestra was performing Louis-Gabriel Guillemain's (1705-70) Sonata, Op. 12, No. 1, for flute, violin, viola de gamba, and harpsichord. From the composer's Conversations Galantes, this "big" number featured exemplary work by Carter on the bass viol. The group closed with the evening's most "modern" offering, Trio in C, Wq. 147 / H. 571, for flute, violin, and continuo by the youngest of the Bachs, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88). In these three movements the ensemble ably presaged the styles of such luminaries as Haydn and Mozart.
Note to music lovers everywhere: If your taste runs to the Baroque, then these players can meet most of your esthetic needs. But if you're the type who can take Baroque music or leave it, you should seek out performances by this Raleigh Camerata. You just might become a true believer.
*All artists' bios are at the ensemble's main website.