Cathedral Bach

19 October 2019, St Peter’s Cathedral

Bach concert explodes with the sound of OzAsia fireworks.

The Adelaide Chamber Singers soldiered on through Elder Park fireworks, their lovely sound and beautifully shaped phrases reverberating around St Peter’s Cathedral.

This excellent concert of Bach had fireworks – literally. In the midst of Bach’s very moving motet, Jesu, meine Freude, sung exquisitely by the Adelaide Chamber Singers, explosive eruptions began in nearby Elder Park to mark the end of OzAsia Festival’s Moon Lantern Parade. It might have been merely distracting, or faintly humorous, but the coincidence of the words about peace in the midst of angry enemies suggested a scenario more like Dresden on February 13, 1945.The Chamber Singers soldiered on, their lovely sound and beautifully shaped phrases reverberating around the cathedral.

Two of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were given sparkling performances. No.5 has a demanding solo role for the harpsichord expertly played by Katrina Brown, although some of the detail was lost by the time the sound reached the back of the cathedral. The delightful No.4 had three admirable soloists – Simone Slattery (violin), Lynton Rivers and Jayne Varnish (recorders).

The highlight of the evening was the cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen.The voice soloist was Bonnie de la Hunty, a young singer of great promise with a voice of notable purity and flexibility. Richard Fomison was superb on the baroque trumpet, a difficult instrument which he plays very skilfully.

Adelaide Baroque Orchestra is going from strength to strength, filling an important gap in Adelaide’s musical life, and long may it continue.

​— Stephen Wittington

Revelling in the Pleasure

13 January 2019

The stark interior of the Dunstan Playhouse is a far cry from the gilded halls of Versailles

But music can transport you to other times and places – if you close your eyes – and that’s exactly what this program of music from the French Baroque played by the Adelaide Baroque Orchestra, succeeded in doing.

Under the very capable direction on Ben Dollman, this ambitious enterprise appears to be flourishing.

There are evidently enough good players around Adelaide to create an orchestra which in a relatively short time has achieved a commendable standard of performance.

The program began with Lully – music for Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme – with the opening gesture coming from the old-fashioned conductor’s staff with which Lully famously and possibly apocryphally banged his foot with ensuing blood poisoning, and death. It’s delightful music with the delicate tones of flutes, recorders, gut-stringed violins and cellos counter pointed by the rather raucous oboes and bassoon.

Somewhat more quirky were two suites by Jean-Fery Rebel, whose surname proclaims his disdain of convention, vividly illustrated by his evocation of chaos in Les Elements.

A musical of giant of the age, Jean-Philippe Rameau provided the conclusion to the program with music from his opera Hippolyte and Aricie.

The Adelaide Baroque Orchestra admirably captured the spirit of the music as they revelled in the pleasure – le plaisir – of playing this lovely music that is so perfectly conceived for their instruments.

​— Stephen Whittington, The Advertiser



Beasts and Battles

24 November 2018, UKARIA

Beasts and Battles was the evocative title of an early music fest featuring the superb Adelaide Baroque Orchestra – a slightly expanded version of our wonderful local ensemble – and countertenor Max Riebl.

The battles were mainly orchestral. The splendid and highly entertaining Battalgia a 9 by Heinrich Biber – including the preparations for war, the conflict, and the aftermath – were given new life in music.

The gathering of the motley groups of soldiers, all singing their own songs, was a discordant mishmash, and how refreshing it is to be obliged to laugh out loud during a ‘serious’ concert.

A battle of a different sort in Telemann’s Burlesque de Quichotte, a charming and gently humorous recounting of Don Quixote’s ill-fated pursuits, was another vivid depiction.

The beasts related particularly to the monsters in Handel’s opera Orlando, specifically the aria Fiammi combattere (Go bid me fight monsters and beasts), sung in the most spectacular style by Max Riebl.

What agility he brought to the rapid-fire runs, made even more exciting with spectacular ornamentation on the repeat. He was duly accorded a rock-star ovation.

An extraordinary concert by extraordinary musicians. How lucky we are.

​— Peter Burdon, The Advertiser

Anne Whelan, Harpsichord

14 July 2018, North Adelaide Baptist Church

Renowned harpsichordist Anne Whelan is among the many Adelaideans whose pioneering work since the 1970s has seen Australia in general, and Adelaide in particular, punch well above its weight in early music performance and performance practice. Her recital Across the Channel, featuring works by English and French composers in and around the 17th century, was at once a masterclass, an illustrated lecture, and a sheer delight.

Some of the music is well enough known, like the celebrated Purcell Trumpet Tune, but few know that it was originally written for the keyboard. Likewise the 1648 Chaconne by Louis Couperin, often enough played with the utmost splendour on a vast pipe organ. Its original version, subtle by comparison, is no less grand.

It was in the byways of the repertoire that much interest was to be found. Martin Peerson, for instance, apparently widely published in his time, of whose works just four remain. Or some of the melancholy tombeaux, commemorating the death of noted people.

The challenge to any harpsichordist is to make this music really sing using an instrument that is of its very nature devoid of expression: the string is plucked, and that’s that. In this, with a masterly technique and a deep affinity with the compositions and the composers, Whelan succeeded admirably.

— Peter Burdon

Vivaldi – Adelaide Baroque Orchestra

19 May 2018, Elder Hall

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi as you’ve never heard him before was the promise and, while I’ve heard a lot of Vivaldi performed on authentic instruments with regard to the performing practices of his day, I hadn’t heard him played by a local ensemble of players versed in Baroque performance, to this standard, and I certainly hope to hear the Adelaide Baroque Orchestra again, and regularly.

Adelaide is a UNESCO city of music and home to one of the world’s most influential arts festivals and as I sat in the Elder Hall, I thought “yes, we should have a baroque orchestra, and this is an impressive beginning”.

There are the expected strings, probably with some strung with gut, a violone, elder brother to the ‘cello, and some properly ligneous woodwind, and a harpsichord. The sound from the stage is softer than it would be from an ensemble of contemporary instruments, but engaging, and drawing the listener in by the ears.

It’s frequently alleged that Vivaldi wrote not four hundred concerti but the same concerto four hundred times. Certainly, his style is instantly recognizable, and the three-movement form, frequently allegro/largo/allegro, forming an inescapable template, within those constraints he explores rhythms, melodies, and instrumental textures, rendering each work individual and enjoyable.

There were seven concerti on the program, and the sinfonia to his opera L’Olympiade, also in the traditional three-part model. The majority of the works featured oboes, recorders, and violins in the principal roles. It turns out that oboe playing was a core skill taught at the Ospedale della Pieta, where Vivaldi was master of music, and the demands of providing fresh material for the orphan girls gave him the opportunity to explore sonorities and instrumental combinations.

The orchestra was led by Italian master, Davide Monti, whose baroque performance credentials are impeccable. The programme makes note that he likes to speak with his violin, a Guadagnini dated 1766, and he’s particularly elegant in his communications, pacing and pouncing across the stage, encouraging his players. They have been drawn from Adelaide’s own pool of baroque enthusiasts, with others from across the country, and their CVs in the programme is a rollcall of Baroque ensemble playing.

The playing from everyone was committed and enjoyable. Two of the concerti featured the full line up, one in D minor and one in G minor, written for the court orchestra in Dresden. Others explored various combinations of solo instruments against the full strings or the basso continuo.

It was great to hear Linton Rivers, one of the stalwarts of Adelaide baroque, playing the recorder. His commitment to the music of the period, and the instrument deserves more recognition. Elsewhere, Monti directed a splendid performance of the most well known (only well known?) item in the program, the Violin Concerto no.4 in F minor (1721) RV 297 L’inverno, Winter from the Four Seasons. He prefaced each movement with the words of the original poem in Italian but did the real communication, as indeed throughout, via his violin. The G minor Concerto, for ‘cello, strings, and basso continuo, showcased Anthony Albrecht, who recently took his instrument across Australia in a lengthy concert tour. His impeccable playing was a delight and the slow movement was especially impressive, with his line spinning out against the slightly spooky accompaniment.

The Four Seasons, four of the twelve concerti in Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell Inventione, were probably the first of his concerti to be known to the general public, and most probably through the recording by I Musici. It was delightful to hear it in the context of Vivaldi’s oeuvre.

There was one eccentric component to the entertainment. Charles Southwood, a former ABC Classic FM presenter, prefaced each work with a brief quote, either from Vivaldi’s biography, his birth evidently triggered an earthquake, or from Robert Dessaix’s Night Letters. Strange, but there it was.

There are lots more Vivaldi concerti to listen for, and his vocal music contains more joys than the famous Gloria, performed in Elder Hall later that day, and then there are the operas to look forward to.

For over forty years, Adelaide Baroque has presented music of the period with small groups and has now taken the very audacious step of establishing an orchestral ensemble. It is an ambition that deserves support. Check out their website for more details, especially for their Baroque exploration series in the Tynte Street Baptist Church throughout the year.

​— Ewart Shaw,

Vivaldi & Venice

19 May 2018, Elder Hall

‘ In the Teatro San Angelo, Vivaldi played a free fantasy which astounded me. He put his fingers but a hair’s breadth from the bridge, on all four strings at such speed. His contemporaries called him the ‘Red Priest.’ If Davide Monti had had red hair, I might have thought I was seeing Vivaldi!

Monti, as guest director, led the newly formed Adelaide Baroque Orchestra in a whirlwind of Vivaldi’s music. Pauses for breath were provided by readings from historic sources and from Robert Desaix’s book, Night Letters read authoritatively by Charles Southwood. It was very well curated, the readings set the scene and sometimes the music crept in and sometimes it exploded. The intensity and contrasts kept one on the edge of the seat; Monti’s total immersion in and command of the music unified the whole ensemble. They felt the pauses together and attacked the openings as one.

There was variety in the program; even though Vivaldi is always recognisable he is inventive enough to surprise the listener. The concertos for different combinations changed the sonorities and brought players into the spotlight. The Violin Concerto Winter highlighted Davide’s natural improvisation talents; he and his violin are one. The background colour of the ensemble was brittle and clear like ice while Davide fluttered and danced above them.

Visiting cellist Anthony Albrecht made the virtuosic acrobatics of the G minor Cello Concerto sound effortless! His amazing bowing shaped the phrases and flew around the cello. The cunning accompaniments were sometimes only upper strings or just lower strings leaving the cello in the spotlight.

Even the bassoonist, Jackie Newcomb had her spectacular moments! The Concerto for Recorder, Oboe, Violin and Bassoon was demanding and showy for all instruments and was executed with drive and enthusiasm.

The Concerto ‘per l’Orchestra di Dresda’ involving two oboes, two recorders and two solo violins had blocks of colour as the instruments alternated that sounded like playing on three keyboards of an organ. The oboists Jane Downer and Doug Patterson performed on their simple Baroque oboes with such a mellow sound. Jayne Varnish and Lynton Rivers played as one with the melting tone of their recorders. The two violins, Davide Monti and Simone Slattery achieved a perfect virtuosic duet despite being at opposite ends of the platform.

As in all the Concertos, the accompanying instruments were balanced, sensitive and the continuo parts inventive and grounding. The violone, played by Robert Nairne gave that sonorous depth so important to Baroque music and partnered the cello in some nifty passages! The Italian harpsichord had a light,delicate sound that added a distinctive timbre especially to the strings. Either Anne Whelan or Katerina Brown were always playing! As were all the continuo players! The tutti players were synchronised, always aware and full of energy supporting the soloists. The whole concert given by the Adelaide Baroque Orchestra was a delight and rapturously received by the audience. Look out for their next appearance on November 24.

— Gabrielle Scherrer, 5MBS

Cafe Zimmermann

17 March 2018, Burnside Town Hall Ballroom

This yearly event is always well attended and appeals to variety of music (and food!) lovers. The casual atmosphere, sitting around tables with a glass of wine or cup of coffee intends to emulate J.S.Bach’s Friday evening gatherings in the Leipzig café, where players and listeners were involved in new compositions and in discussions. We enjoyed the wonderful music and maybe next year the musicians could mingle and engage in conversation with the audience, too.

The Adelaide Baroque Orchestra is a relatively new addition to the Adelaide Ensembles and it was gratifying to see and hear so much local talent engaging with each other. During the concert, different formations meant each player was a soloist and yet they merged very well with each other as a group.

The guest singer, Sally-Anne Russell, embodied her songs, illustrating the words with dramatic actions that brought the music to life. Zelenka’s expressive Italian arias were full of passion and Handel’s aria “Dopo Note” also showed the Italian style of the era. The final aria by Handel “Verdi Prati” was beautifully performed, with deep feeling and yet reserve.

The program was a good mix of colour. The Telemann pieces used the sonorous sound of the full orchestra, plus two recorder players, Jayne Varnish and Lynton Rivers, who played a lovely solo Musette. The two cellists, Anton Baba and Kate Morgan shone in the virtuoso Vivaldi Concerto for two cellos and the leader of the orchestra, Ben Dollman, gave a fluent, expressive performance of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor.

The Adelaide Baroque Orchestra is trying to establish a secure footing in the Adelaide music scene and their vision is to find sponsorship in the corporate world. Their confident, informed performances could be an asset to a culturally-minded organisation and the audience was asked to help them make contacts. So spread the word and if you didn’t hear the concert this year, look out for it next year!

— Gabrielle Scherrer, 5MBS



Celebrating 40 Years

27 November 2017, Ukaria Cultural Centre

ADELAIDE Baroque has been spreading good musical taste around for the past 40 years. But not a word of self-congratulation was spoken from stage during their double concert bill at UKARIA to celebrate. Refreshingly they let their music do all the talking. That’s taste.

Two 75-minute sessions with a half-hour between provided a real musical feast. The first all German, the second all French, there was never a dull moment as things kept rolling along with shortish numbers performed by constantly varying ensembles drawn from a 10 strong musical cast. In addition they had invited back older founding members to play alongside current and recent ones and the resulting mix of performing styles was fascinating to watch and hear.

Among the younger artists, tenor Robert Macfarlane and violinist Simone Slattery proved standout hits in all they played. Macfarlane’s tour de force, three recitatives and airs from Rameau’s cantata L’Impatience, not only overwhelmed with their brilliance but also demanded total audience attention through almost mesmeric characterisation. You didn’t need to speak French to be in the know.

Slattery too commands the stage and many moments from Muffat’s Armonico Tributo to Rebel’s Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully remain memorable for her warmth, energy and sheer brio.

Founding luminaries made their mark too. Among them Lynton Rivers proved no slouch and very persuasive in Couperin’s oh-so- French Neuvième Concert and Anne Whelan’s wonderfully poised Prélude from D’Anglebert’s Deuxième Suite was a gem.

— Rodney Smith, The Advertiser

Rarities a Hallmark of Adelaide Baroque’s Repertoire

24 April 2017, Ukaria Cultural Centre

BACK in the 1970s and ’80s, Adelaide was Australia’s epicentre of early music research and performance, the latter due in no small part to the outstanding ensemble Adelaide Baroque. Now in its 40th year, that proud tradition continues unabated.

​A hallmark of their programming over the years has been to include rarities alongside better known fare and the concert at Ukaria was no exception, with Bach and Telemann sharing the bill with Couperin and Lully and the splendidly-named D’Anglebert. Soprano and tenor duo Kate and Robert McFarlane were very welcome in the program. Both have spent the past few years honing their craft in Europe, and have developed a sophisticated affinity with baroque performance practice, as they amply demonstrated in Telemann’s Epiphany cantata Heir ist mein Herz, geliebster Jesu and an extract from Lully’s opera Armide. The instrumentalists were uniformly excellent.

It was a special delight to hear Anne Whelan at the harpsichord, especially in her solo accounts of a small Couperin set and D’Anglebert’s immensely demanding music, not for the notes, for few are written, but because the success of the piece is entirely down to the performer’s skillful interpretation. The packed house all clearly wished that the closing instrumental section, variations on a simple descending bass, would never end. But it did, and was greeted with thunderous applause.

— Peter Burdon, The Advertiser

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