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The Triangle Early Music Presenting Organization continued its inaugural season with another concert at downtown Durham’s historic First Presbyterian Church. The Clarino Consort, a Baroque trumpet ensemble, performed a program of seventeenth and eighteenth-century sacred, concert and military music.
Clarino Consort's repertoire is drawn from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries, when the average European's exposure to music was somewhat limited. "Art" music was the stuff of royal courts; in everyday life, music had to serve a purpose — in worship, in battle, in storytelling, in starting the day. The program drew from the compositions of aristocratic musical progenitors, with works by Handel, Telemann, and Bach, but the Consort also spent time on a series of brief fanfares, flourishes, and other martial or ceremonial musical tropes of the time period.
Trumpeters Barry Bauguess and Patrick Dougherty are the core of the Consort, which is North America’s only professional Baroque trumpet group. Organist John O’Brien provides regular accompaniment. For this performance, the Consort was joined by Baroque trumpeter Uriel Rozen and percussionist Lance Pedigo on Baroque timpani. Baroque trumpets are long, valveless “natural” trumpets, restricted to playing the notes of the harmonic series. But performers can lip notes up or down in order to play diatonic melodies, and many modern replicas feature small holes in the tubing that can be covered or uncovered to adjust intonation. O’Brien’s instrument is a small, portable organ with a wide range and variety of tone colors, very similar to a period instrument but for its electric blower. Pedigo, who currently heads the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drums, played two small timpani, tuned a fifth apart.
The trumpets, organ, and drums all played short solo or soli pieces prefaced by a brief introduction to the instruments’ development and construction. The most engaging moments, however, occurred when the full five-piece ensemble played together, as on Bach’s energetic “Sinfonia in D” from BWV 529. Telemann’s “Concerto for 3 Trumpets” featured a brief, pretty largo movement for organ and the trumpets in a series of up-tempo extended phrases; nearly all of the art music performed was embellished with scalar figures and driven by tier upon tier of sequential harmonic motion.
The middle segment of the concert was devoted to short fanfares, martial figures, and short, explanatory lectures. Stately court flourishes, a triple-time battleground fanfare, and a centuries-old Polish fanfare still played every morning in Krakow showed how these instruments served both practical and ritualistic purposes. Pedigo stood out on a subtly expressive solo timpani march, propelled by careful rhythmic accents and dynamic echoes.
Along with their unique instrumentation and engaging mini-lectures, Clarino Consort illuminated a seldom-heard area of music history with top-notch performance. TEMPO may have only just begun its first season, but programs like this one show promise for this intriguing new element in the Triangle’s chamber music scene.