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The apparent significance of Bodega Bay is that it is near the home of flautist Kathleen Kraft. She was joined in this performance by Bodega Bay Baroque by Leah Peroutka, violin; Gail Ann Schroeder, viola da gamba; Barbara Weiss, pentagonal Italian virginal; and Beverly Biggs, harpsichord.
This program at The Music House opened with Telemann's Sonate à 4 in A from the twelve Paris Quartets. Kraft, Peroutka, and Schroeder were joined by Weiss. The opening Soave was indeed sweet, if somewhat fast. The following Allegro showed an improved unity of purpose as the players coalesced into a strong ensemble. The long suspensions gave the flute an excellent opportunity to speak and to show beautiful flute color. An Andante, equally pleasant, was followed by a final Vivace. Of particular notice was the double stopping in Peroutka's violin part, sounding with bell-like clarity at the top of the ensemble. The gamba line was not mere continuo; the gamba had a solo line, cleanly delineated by Schoeder. Among so many careful and historically-informed players and among an ensemble with instruments typical of the time of Telemann (including a French double by Richard Kingston), who cannot look askance at the decision to use a keyboard instrument a hundred years out of synch and 900 miles out of place?
Antonio Soler composed six conciertos for two . . . well . . . organs (the generally chosen word), but since there is so much scholarly doubt about the actual instruments intended, in this case there can be no quibble about the use of Weiss' virginal and the Music House French double. The nasal reediness of the virginal is very distinct from the French sound. This binary piece is more typical of Scarlatti's sonatas than of a Baroque concerto. Biggs and Weiss played well together, tossing the music back and forth between their respective instruments.
Marin Marais' "Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève du Monte de Paris" is a remarkable program piece. Its driving three note bass marches and marches and marches along, suggesting three great bells being rung very rhythmically D-F-E D-F-E. This, so similar to English change-ringing bells and so unlike any modern European bell-ringing, suggests that this may be a rare echo of a lost form. Above, within, and under this little chaconne, both the violin and the gamba take turns playing variations of the melody. In this performance, Schoeder's large gamba and her amazing skill were balanced by Peroutka's powerful violin playing. We can assume that Marais wrote this piece for himself, with no allowance for a lesser performer; the gamba part is a tour de force, masterfully performed by Schroeder. Peroutka was also masterful in the performance of the parts allotted to violin. Biggs and Weiss played with unremitting dance band rhythm. It was delightful to sit and have the great bells roll over one, their sonorities doubled by the pairing of two harpsichords where only one is called for in the score, with the charming melodies of the gamba and violin for amusement.
Bach's Sonata in E minor for Flute and Continuo, S. 1034 offered an extended opportunity to hear the lovely, lovely tone and intonation of Kraft, playing a boxwood flute by Rod Cameron. The continuo was Schoeder, gamba, and Beverly Biggs, harpsichord. The beginning Adagio ma non tanto was smooth and flowing. The third movement, Andante, was more singing by the flute, with a precise and musical accompaniment. The final Allegro was rich and inspirational.
The Pièce de Clavecin en Concert, No. 3 is a musically big composition, peripherally related to Bach's Brandenburgs, especially No. 5; No. 3 is not the usual trio sonata of the period. Originally scored for violin, gamba, and harpsichord, in this case the violin part was allocated to both flute and violin, adding even more richness. The gamba and harpsichord are both obbligato, not continuo instruments, adding musical complexity. Rameau was not afraid of high notes on the harpsichord, but powerful bass sonorities rule this composition. Complex arpeggios with crossed hands, typical of French keyboard music of this period, were deftly handled by Biggs. The complex solo lines for gamba seemed effortless under Schoeder's fingers, and Peroutka was her usual excellent self.
All in all, a very worthy program, in the superb setting of The Music House.