The Triangle Recorder Society and the Triangle Early Music Presenting Organization (TEMPO) presented the Dutch early music ensemble Camerata Trajectina (Bernard Loonen, tenor; Saskia Coolen, recorders; Erik Beijer, viola da gamba; and Louis Peter Grijp, lute and cittern) in a program of exclusively Dutch music at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in South Durham. The Camerata, founded in 1974, has a long catalog of successful recordings to its credit on the Globe label, and unlike many Dutch ensembles, its discography highlights Dutch works. It was greeted by a disappointingly small audience (less than forty hardy souls).
The program highlighted the contributions of recorderist Coolen and tenor Loonen – the string players were strictly accompanimental, with no solo moments. Coolen entered playing – the familiar "Boffons" from van Eyck’s collection of tunes for recorder with variations, here supported with basso continuo from the lute and gamba. She has a charismatic presence, mastery of her instruments, the capability of making a musical line that always breathes and is expressive – she could certainly sustain an entire concert on her own.
The next set presented four vocal works by poet and composer Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687, father of the noted mathematician and astronomer Chrisiaan Huygens). Huygens is better known for his poems than his compositions, but perhaps because more of them survive (of the compositions, only about 50 of the more than seven hundred works he penned have been retained). These were capable and stylish compositions, and sung expressively by Loonen (whose art could be appreciated elsewhere in the program only by those fluent in Dutch).
The instrumentalists deconstructed a set of variations (originally for keyboard) by Sweelinck on the folk tune "Onder de linde groen," performed with skill and verve. Perhaps the highlight of first half was the set of variations by van Eyck on "Engels nachtegaeltje" ("English Nightingale"), beautifully interpreted by Coolen on unaccompanied soprano recorder. The resonant space of St. Stephen’s could not have been better suited to the music.
Not having a mastery of Dutch, I confess that for me the most enjoyable moments of the second half were the set of English melodies (from a Dutch collection of 1621) and the "Ensalata Trajectina," in which the instrumentalists produced an extempore medley of the various tunes in their repertoire. Despite the best efforts of tenor Loonen, I was not convinced that the various historical poems were any more worthy of the concert space than similar English broadsides would be.
All-in-all, however, a thoroughly enjoyable concert, and distressing how few attended