An Entertaining Opening to Itinéraire Baroque 2018


FranceFrance BAROQUE ITINÉRAIRE 2018 [1], ‘Baroque en Cercles’  Bach, Telemann, Werner, Albrechtsberger and A. Marcello: Tilman Lichdi (tenor), Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra / Ton Koopman (conductor). Église Abbatiale Saint-Cybard de Cercles, Périgord Vert, France, 26.7.2018. (CC)

Bach – Cantata No. 209, ‘Non sa che sia dolore’: Sinfonia
Telemann – Concerto for Oboe d’amour, strings and continuo, TWV51:A2
Werner – ‘Ihr blumenreiche Felder’ (Cantilena de immaculata); ‘Steinhartes Felsenherz
(Oratorio, Der gute Hirt); Concerto for Organ, two Chalumeaux, two Violins and basso continuo
Albrechtsberger – Trombone Concerto
Bach – Cantata No. 66, ‘Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht’
Telemann – Concerto in D for two chalumeaux, strings and continuo, TWV523:d1
Marcello – Oboe Concerto in D

Last year, it was an absolute pleasure to immerse myself in Ton Koopman’s Baroque Itinéraire Festival. 2017, crowning the experience with an interview with the man himself.  Then, it was Telemann who was in the spotlight; this year, there was a Spanish tinge to the programming, although that thread only makes itself clear later on in the festival.

The rather interesting title for the opening concert referred to the solo instruments of the evening. But first, a Bach Cantata Sinfonia as an overture, that for one of Bach’s few Italian Cantatas, BWV 209. If the church acoustic gobbled up some of the clarity, one revelled in the sound of Marian Moonen’s transverse flute.

The Telemann Concerto for oboe d’amore can be conjecturally dated to around 1717. It begins with a swaying Siciliano, contrasting with the (here) furious energy. (Some, for example Thomas Stacy and the Toronto CO on Naxos, take a more leisurely view). The true crown of the piece is the dark Largo, with its opening keyboard solos and ensuing Trio Sonata texture. The finale is, as one should perhaps expect from Telemann, exquisitely crafted. Telemann’s writing takes in a good portion of the oboe’s register, soloist Antoine Torunczyk despatching the solo part with true command of his instrument.

Gregor(ius) Josef Werner was Kapellmeister at Esterházy from mid-1728; from 1761, Haydn was hired as vice-Kapellmeister. There is a rather famous letter from Werner to the Prince Esterházy that seems to slur Haydn’s activities. Werner wrote somewhere in the region of 18 oratorios. The first piece heard was the most eloquent, heartfelt ‘Ihr blumenreiche Felde’ (Ye flowery meadows), scored for tenor, two violins con sordini, two chalumeaux and organ. Lichdi’s voice was clean, clear and beautiful. The sound of the chalumeaux was absolutely haunting, casting a palpable shadow over the smooth legato lines of Tilman Lichdi (who has sung in both Bach Passions under Koopman). The aria ‘Steinhartes Felsenherz’ from the oratorio Der gute Hirt led to the remarkable Concerto for organ, two chalumeax, two violins and basso continuo. If the florid organ lines of the central Largo were a touch clunky and the end of that movement felt somewhat peremptory, the piece is worthy of repeated hearings; Ernest Schlader and Markus Springer were in fine form as the chalumeauists.

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger’s concerto for trombone is a tricky piece with more Classical than Baroque leanings. It was performed with real aplomb on the sackbut by Simen Van Mecheien, whose lip trill I’d buy any day. His cadenza was intensely musical and, one concentration lapse aside, his central Andante was nicely lyrical before the fast articulation of the charming finale found technique and style in blissful harmony. The piece deserves to be better known – so does Albrechtsberger in general, probably – and it is fair to say that this performance was one of the highlights of the festival.

The Bach Cantata Ich armer Mensch (I, wretched man [a slave to sin]), to a text by Christoph Birkmann (movements 1-4) and Johann Rist (movement 5), is Bach’s only cantata for solo tenor. The solo wind instruments are flute and oboe d’amore. It was composed for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity and first performed on November 17, 1726. Lichdi has a full lower register that enabled the text of the first recitative to register fully; his lightness up top was perfectly complemented by the flute obbligato for the aria, ‘Erbarme dich’. The work is a plea for mercy from an omnipotent Deity by someone who believes they have sinned; Lichdi’s achievement was that he brought into relief the fragility of human emotions.

It’s good to report that Telemann suffered not one jot in his juxtaposition with JSB. The Concerto for Two Chalumeaux, TWV52:d1 is simply remarkable, the passages in the first movement for unaccompanied chalumeaux almost invoking a hurdy-gurdy, before the gloriously multi-coloured Allegro took over. Telemann dares to pare down the textures to almost nothing in this concerto. The suave playing of Ernest Schlader and Markus Springer was simply remarkable.

Finally, for this first evening, Alessandro Marcello’s well-known D major Oboe Concerto. The strings’ angular opening made its point through tight ensemble (the viola player Yoshiko Morita, deserves a mention for the strength of her contributions). Antoine Torunczyk, the oboe soloist, seemed to particularly relish the decorations of the central Adagio while the strings certainly relished the opening suspensions. The finale, taken at a proper Presto, was defined by its clarity.

Colin Clarke

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