Solace & Joy: Music of the German Baroque
Saturday 26 November 2022, St Peter’s Cathedral
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation, here in Adelaide, of Australia’s first dedicated early music ensemble. And for more than 40 years, Adelaide Baroque has been a national leader for its championing of authentic performance, and a knack for programming that’s second to none.
Their programs have explored the byways of early music, with many an unfamiliar name, but in their final concert for 2022, Solace and Joy: Music of the German Baroque, it was back to basics: JS Bach and a spot of Handel for good measure.
And what Bach is better-known than the so-called “Air on the G String” which was a quite perfect opener. For all its familiarity, what an exquisite piece it is, and how sensitively it was played. A cantata followed, Komm du süße Todesstunde BWV 161, one of many dealing with the inevitable journey towards death. Alto (Nicolas Tolputt) and tenor (Richard Black) soloists both have fine arias, the former with some exciting writing and the latter with some delicious word-painting on “verlangen” (longing) with tense, taut suspensions.
The elegant A Minor concerto for violin and strings BWV 1041 showed guest leader Rachael Beesley in full flourish, even if the performance was somewhat subdued. A trio of arias began the second half, with the other soloists Jessica Dean (soprano) and Alex Roose (bass) also making their presence felt.
Probably the most interesting piece was the Brandenburg Concerto No 6 BWV 1051. With violas da gamba and no violins, it stands apart, and any performance is an occasion. The orchestra was slow in settling, with some awkward intonation in the first movement, though this sorted itself out in due course.
The Handel was a rare performance of his setting of the Latin hymn Gloria in excelsis with Jessica Dean in scintillating form. It’s a youthful piece, and at times recklessly exuberant, but then again, immature Handel is still better than just about everyone else. The vocal writing is spectacular, with the opening movement and especially the Amen counting as virtuosic displays of coloratura fireworks. Brava!
There was a certain melancholy in the air, for the recent, incomprehensible decision not to renew the ensemble’s State funding means it may well be their last concert, at least in this expanded form. That would be an utter tragedy in the self-proclaimed State of the Arts.
— Peter Burdon, The Advertiser