Pro Musica Rara gives vibrant toast to Boccherini


This year marks the 250th birthday of the Italian classical composer Luigi Boccherini, a composer all too often overshadowed by Austrian contemporaries Joseph Haydn and Mozart. Pro Musica Rara's concert yesterday at the Baltimore Museum of Art celebrated this anniversary with music by Boccherini, Michael Haydn and Johann Christian Bach (as transcribed by Mozart).

Guitarist Nathaniel Gunod appeared as guest artist in two Boccherini works, a Sonata in C Major for cello, guitar and gamba, and in a Quintet in D Major for guitar and strings. Performing on a 19th century French guitar, Mr. Gunod is a persuasive advocate for the period instrument movement.

His collaborators in the performance of the cello sonata -- cellist Allan Whear and gamba player Elizabeth Ferrell -- joined in giving the work a vibrant reading. The three artists were technically brilliant, but their dexterity did not prevent them from shaping the music with a flexible and natural expressiveness.

The opening work, a divertimento by Michael Haydn (performed by horn player Mary Bisson, violist Sharon Pineo Meyer and Ms. Ferrell) was less successful. The performance was fine, but lacked the sparkle and conviction of the Boccherini sonata. Such qualities are desperately needed if little-heard music can hope to persuade an audience.

In Mozart's Concerto in G Major, K. 107 (after the Opus 5 sonatas of Christian Bach), harpsichordist Amy Rosser's polished performances may be a bit restrained at times, but her poised approach to the keyboard reveals the music simply and elegantly, inviting us to explore it further.

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