Hurricane Florence's walking tour of the Carolinas forced Heartland Baroque to reschedule concerts in their tour of North Carolina. There was a good turnout of music lovers in the Gathering Place in Fearrington Village for this evening replacement for the afternoon September 19 original.
Heartland Baroque is made up of early music specialists from all over the United States. They perform on reproductions of 17th-century instruments applying HIP (Historically Informed Practices). The players are violinists Marie Perry and David Wilson, cellist Barbara Krumdieck, with Keith Collins, dulcian (an early form of bassoon), and Billy Simms, guitar and theorbo. (Their biographies are here.) They were joined by soprano Molly Quinn and Dennis Delmar, a Charlotte-based actor who read excerpts from chapters 22 and 23 of The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1835-1910). These humorous impressions of Venice were interspersed between musical selections.
The program focused on eleven instrumental and solo vocal selections from six 17th-century Venetian composers. The most familiar were three settings by Claudia Monterverdi (1567-1643): "Iste Confessor," "Quel Sguardo sdegnosetto," and "Confitebor." To these was added "Vulnerasti Cor Meum" and "Justus germanibit sicut lilius" by Alessandro Grandi (1590-1630). Different combinations of instrumentalists accompanied soprano Quinn. Her radiant voice has an almost instrumental focus and purity with extraordinary exact intonation. Her diction was superb and conveyed the emotional tones beautifully.
Typical of the instrumental selections were two "Sonata Duodecima," from Livre 1 and 2 by Dario Castello (1590-1658). About him, William S. Newman, in The Sonata in the Baroque Era, notes Castello "already divides into movements that contrast clearly in style, meter, and tempo (marked 'Adagio' or 'Allegro')." He fully exploits the violin's capabilities and treats the bassoon with virtuosic elaborations. Violinist Wilson showed me the score which has tempos changes running continuously instead of separate movements.
The Castello Livre 2 selection that opened the concert was given a rousing performance by all the Heartland Baroque instrumentalists with Simms playing theorbo. The brilliant pairings and juxtapositions of the violinists were delightful, as was the pungent dulcian, paired with the low bass sounds from the long strings of the giant lute. Castello's Livre 1 selection was a breathtaking tour de force by Collins on the dulcian, the range of which he plumbed from its sepulchral depths to its top with remarkable ease and speed!
Other instrumental sections were Sonata, Op. 8, No. 1, by Biagio Marini (1594-1663), "Sonata Quartadecima" and "Sonata Undecima" by Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589-1630), and "Sonata Settima" by Giovanni Antonio Bertoli (1590-after 1645). All received infectious, lively performances with Simms switching between theorbo and guitar. His highlighted plucking of both instruments' strings as well as continuo support were a constant pleasure. So, too, was the full, rich sonority of Krumdieck's cello.
Do not miss a chance to catch one of the Heartland Baroque's rescheduled concerts. This program repeats Saturday, September 22, at St. Paul's Episcopal in Winston-Salem, and Sunday, September 23 at St. Alban's Episcopal in Davidson. There is also a performance in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on Tuesday, September 25, at Mount St. Mary's University. For more information on those performances go here.
The group's debut CD, The Benevolent Monarch, will be released in the fall of 2018.