Musical week in review: Pro Musica Rara

Here I am once again hoping for a little sympathy and some better-late-than-never leeway. This time, I'm way late on saying a few words about the last week of musical life in dear old Baltimore, and I just know you haven't been able to get on with your lives while waiting for me.

My plan had been to catch Pro Musica Rara's annual SuperBach Sunday on the 24th, and the Aspen Chamber Ensemble, or the equally enticing Peabody Trio, on the 27th. (I would have had the Evolution Contemporary Music Series on my schedule for the 26th, but a prior commitment to serve on a panel discussion about the future of Arts in Baltimore prevented that.) Where the heck did that week go, and how did I slip-slide away so badly?

As it turned out, I only made it to the Pro Musica event, and every time I tried to sit down to write a few words about it, something got in the way. So, for the record, here are those words about the SuperBach presentation at Towson University.

The first nice thing was

the turnout. This is, remarkably, Pro Musica's 35th anniversary season, and there were times over the past decade when things looked pretty dicey for the period instrument organization. So it was encouraging to see so many folks on hand in TU's large concert hall (Pro Musica usually holds forth in the center's more intimate venue).

The second nice thing was having Philadelphia's excellent Tempesta di Mare ensemble participate on this occasion with Pro Music Rara members, which resulted in a hefty sound (well, as hefty as original instruments can get) and some hot music-making.

Highlights included Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, with a finale at a presto speed that found the players maintaining admirable transparency and producing a good deal of color. A similar application of zip and expressive bite characterized the G minor Concerto da chiesa by Johann Georg Pisendel, one of the many gifted baroque composers who have been largely obscured by Bach and other other big guys. Violinist Emlyn Ngai gave a terrific account of the solo part in that piece, his tone sure and his phrasing animated by dynamic nuance.

The afternoon also featured stylish solo contributions from Gwynn Roberts (recorder) and Stephen Boyd (oboe). Throughout the concert, lutenist Richard Stone and harpsichordist Adam Pearl provided supple support.

Given Tempesta di Mare's Baltimore connections -- Roberts and Stone teach at Peabody, for example -- it would be cool if the group could team up with Pro Musica for a program each season.


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