Adelaide Baroque – Let the Bright Seraphim

Adelaide Baroque’s latest concert demonstrated the precision, imagination and excellence that one expects from their productions. It was a pleasure to hear lesser-known works among more familiar ones performed by a close-knit, competent ensemble and brilliant soloists.

Handel was a prolific composer who astounded with his diversity: not only in the scope of his works, from operas to Concerti Grossi, but also the style, harmony and unexpected turns of his genius. The opening Sinfonia in Bb major was written while in his early 20’s and demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the scope of strings and keyboards; he played both. It was refreshing to hear all the string sections involved in exciting semiquavers in the fast movements – not just the violins! The rhythmic drive was arresting. The Adagio middle movement was enhanced by the inclusion of the bassoon in the continuo section adding colour to the strings’ drawn-out harmonies.

Another youthful work followed; sections of the Cantata ‘Diana Cacciatrice’, a story about hunting boar. An ideal subject for the baroque trumpet commandingly played by Leanne Sullivan. Her fanfares and rallying calls were imitated expertly by the soprano, Jessica Dean; the Cathedral resounded with their exciting tones.

Their later performance of “Let the Bright Seraphim” showcased their skills even more. The sweet tone and amazing virtuosity of the trumpet, echoed by the commanding virtuosic figures of the singer, were performed with such panache one thought it must be easy! What a triumphal piece of music, the glories of the soloists with a background of supportive strings & continuo adding their discreet touches!
In both halves of the concert we heard a Concerto Grosso, but how different they were. The first one, opus 6 no 1 was cheerful, with imitative string entries, the running passages played with ease and style and the sparkle of the harpsichord occasionally audible. In the Adagio the cello was prominent with a lyrical melody backed by the chamber organ. The conversation between the concertino & ripieno was very effective, such good ensemble playing.

The Concerto Grosso in the second half of the concert, op 6 no 6, was almost sombre. The theorbo and harpsichord were audible through the sustained chords and harmonic shifts; the atmosphere was well captured and the dancing violins in the 3rd movement Musette and the drones in the bass were a lilting contrast. The Allegros livened the mood at the end, but the opening fitted in well to the preceding work.
The aria from “Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne’ is named ‘Eternal Source of Love Divine’. It was a captivating opening after the interval; those soaring, peaceful, perfectly controlled notes of the soprano blending with the trumpet and backed by the organ were magical. One held one’s breath, suspended in another world.

The Sonata in Bb major was really a Violin Concerto and is also a youthful work. Handel met Corelli while in Italy and the 30 years older composer influenced Handel considerably. The form & style of his Concerti Grossi and Sonatas show this. Ben Dollman played the Sonata as a Concerto, perfectly showing off the fast technical passages and lacing them with appropriate improvisations. The slower movements were sweetly lyrical and the quite chromatic harmonies well showcased. The articulation, phrasing and timing of the whole ensemble was admirable. The conclusion was like a controlled free for all!

The final work in this brilliant concert was a Sonata and Aria from the Cantata ‘O Come Chiare e Belle’ on a warlike theme. Hence the trumpet fanfares triumphing over the orchestra and leading the way for the soprano aria. The two soloists interwove their parts, perfectly attuned to one another and the concert ended on a high! The audience responded with enthusiasm and repeated calls. A wonderful combination of talents, a memorable concert.

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