Varied Musical Entertainments in Cercles from Itinéraire Baroque

FranceFrance Itinéraire Baroque [2]: Baroque en Cercles: Église Abbatiale Saint-Cybard de Cercles, France, 26.7.2019. (CC)

Alberto Rasi and Lorenzo Bassotto © Jean-Michel Bale

L’Élégance du Basson: Concerto Delaborde (Wouter Verschuren [Baroque bassoon/director], Rie Kimura [violin], Marion Moonen, [traverso], Kathryn Cok [harpsichord], Robert Smith [cello/viola da gamba]) 12 noon.

Telemann Tafelmusik: Sonata for Four Instruments in D minor, TWV 43:d1; Sonata for flute, viola da gamba, bassoon and harpsichord in C
C. P. E Bach – Trio Sonata in A minor, Wq 148
Tiehl – Sonata No.12 for bassoon
Fasch – Sonata for Four Instruments in D, FaWV N:D1
D. Scarlatti – Keyboard Sonata in D, Kk 492
Schwarzkopf – Sonata for Viola da gamba and Bassoon
Vivaldi – Chamber Concerto in D minor, RV 96

The first concert (of three) for the day centred around Cercles offered specialist fare, offering a chance to put our attention on the baroque bassoon. And what a cornucopia of delights it was. The Ensemble Delaborde was founded by Wouter Verschuren and Kathryn Cok to advance the cause of music for bassoon, harpsichord ‘and friends’. Their disc, released on the Globe label in 2017, The Elegant Bassoon, is superb; hearing the repertoire live, the experience is even more involving.

After a hugely hot day in France on the 25th, change was on the way for the 26th, relevant to this report only because of the atmospheric thunderings from outside the church that enhanced Telemann’s D minor Sonata, its second movement Vivace a virtuoso display for Verschuren, beautifully rhythmically alive, the Largo perfectly gallant. The C. P. E. Bach took us into a completely different expressive orbit; lovely to have the link with that composer’s songs the previous evening, too. A critical nod to the flute and violin (Moonen and Kimura), who worked so superbly well together. The seamless flow of the Allegretto, the lachrymose slow dance of the Adagio and the spiky, even occasionally rough, play of the finale offered an alternative to Telemann’s gentilité.

Interesting to hear music by Johann Georg Tiehl (1671-1743), a composer about whom little seems to be known: his Sonata for bassoon and harpsichord (performed here without continuo). The husband and wife team of Verchuren and Cok worked beautifully in this fine piece, in which the solo line becomes ever more animated and complex. It was the Telemann Sonata in C that brought an immediate smile in its wake, though: immediately recognisable as Telemann, the gamba solos from Robert Smith were just superb (incidentally, Smith’s new recording on the Resonus label of music by Marin Marais – La Gracieuse – is spectacular: RES10244).

This was a full-scale concert at lunchtime, complete with interval: no mere trifle, but a proper exploration of Baroque bassoon. The Fasch Sonata in D minor (bassoon, flute, cello and harpsichord) made magic with very simple means, a Handelian Allegro, gloriously happy, finding high contrast in the slow third movement, with its sighing gestures. Impeccably crafted music, its joy was only enhanced by Cok’s superbly articulated harpsichord performance of Scarlatti’s exuberant Sonata in D, Kk 492, playing on the same harpsichord Koopman had used the previous night. In her hands, one felt the modernity of Scarlatti’s thought, the composer seemingly revelling in his own sense of intention.

One of the joys of festivals such as this is the exposure to new repertoire one might not otherwise encounter. Such is the case with Theodor Schwarzkopf, whose Sonata for viola da gamba, bassoon and continuo was a revelation. We know Schwarzkopf was baptised in 1659 in Ulm and died in Ludwigsburg in 1732. He was a member of the court at Stuttgart, where the taste leant towards the French style. The piece here is in five movements, more of a suite, especially as the first is cast as an overture. The repeated chords of this first movement gave the impression of a dignified procession, while the sheer freshness of contrapuntal invention elsewhere was utter delight. The performance was simply impeccable: once can hear these performers (not this performance – one given in Delft, The Netherlands)  on YouTube here.

Finally, some decidedly palette-refreshing Vivaldi in the form of the Chamber Concerto, RV 96, Smith superb on gamba. The finale, a suave dance, was the perfect close.

Kathryn Kok and the ever-excellent Robert Smith provided excellent continuo work in this concert.

Échos de Venise à Lübeck: Music from the Dawn of the Baroque: Le Concert Brisé (Plamena Nikitassova [violin], Odile Bernard [recorders], Jean-Christophe Leclere [organ], Hadrien Jourdan [harpsichord/organ], William Dongois [cornett/director]) 6pm.

Merula La Catarina. Cantate Domino. Capriccio cromatico. La Trecha

ScheidemannBenedicam Domino after Hieronymus Praetorius. Dic Nobis Maria after G. B. Bassano. Toccata and Fugue. Jesus Christus unser Heiland, WV 10. In dich habe ich gehoffet (Chorale). Betrübet ist zu dieser Frist, WV 104. Pavane lachrymae and Galliarde after English themes.

Arrangements of organ music by Heinrich Scheidemann (1595-1663) and sonatas and motets by Tarquinio Merula offered a mini-overview of the music at the turn of the Baroque. The Concert Brisé (which means ‘Broken Consort’) was founded in 1990 by William Dongois, a superb cornettist. There is overlap here in the Scheidemann pieces with the ensemble’s Accent disc, The Art of Heinrich Scheidemann. Flute, cornett and violin combine with organ and harpsichord in a celebration of this transitionary period. Wonderful to hear Scheidemann’s Benedicam Domino after Hieronymus Praetorius; a reminder, too, of that Praetorius’s stature, something confirmed by the recent release of motets by Hieronymus Praetorius on Inventa Records.

Violinist Plamena Nikitassova was capable of the most amazing, throaty sounds (Merula’s Cantate Domino, here for flute, violin and organ) while organist Jean-Christophe Leclere shone in Scheidemann’s Betrübet ist zu dieser Frist (after an anonymous song). Merula’s keyboard piece, Capriccio cromatico, is remarkable in its exploratory manner, beautifully done here by Hadrien Jourdan.

A short concert, perhaps intended as a palette-cleanser before the evening’s entertainment …

Moi, Marais!: Life and Music of the greatest violist of the 17th century Works by Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745), Monsieur de Machy (c. 1640-c1705), Tobias Hume (1569-1645) and Sainte Colombe (c.1640-c. 1700) plus improvisation. Lorenzo Bassotto (actor/comedian); Alberto Rasi (viola da gamba) 9pm.

Marin Marais was one of the great musicians of the Court of the Sun King: this was an attempt to document dramatically a dialogue between the composer and his own instrument while narrating his own life from where he plays ’for the cherubim’. Intended to invoke some of the splendour of Versailles, Moi, Marais! seemed to emerge from nowhere – suddenly Alberto Rasi, Professor of viol at the University of Verona, playing on an instrument by Raffaee and Antonio Gagliano, is playing Antoine Forqueray’s Chaconne La Buisson. Taking the part of Marais himself, comedian/actor Lorenzo Bassotto, fully in costume and all rouged up, dismissed the Forqueray (‘That’s enough! We are not here for the devil’). And we were off in this exploration of ‘the greatest violist of the 17th century,’ or alternatively ‘the greatest violist of all time’ (depending on whether one goes with the programme or the freesheet translation that came with the concert). The fact we know so little about Marais’s life allowed imagination to roam in Bassotto’s entertainment.

Bassotto’s musings to the counterpoint of Toba Hume’s Touch me lightly was the highlight of the evening: this is a terrific piece, haunting beyond measure, as was Marais’s own, fairly extended Les voix humaines. Remarkable how modern Marais’s Le tombeau de l’operation de la taille sounded; while one of his more famous pieces, Les folies d’Espagne carried a certain nobility. As Rasi closed with Marais’s La Rêveuse, Bassotto left the stage, singing the gamba line. It was a lovely close. Bassotto clearly adored every second of his role. I only wish Rasi was as attuned; he sometimes came across as rather neutral rather than as an equal participant. A fun and thought-provoking experience, nonetheless, and one that brought us into one version of Marais’s psyche.

Parenthetically, horn players will of course know Marais’s name via La Basque, a favourite encore of Dennis Brain, as jaunty a tune as you like and described by Brain in his introductions as ‘the shortest piece I know’. There is clearly much, much more to explore.

Colin Clarke

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