Dance has much to tell us about European music of the composers of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, particularly those of France and of composers such as J.S. Bach, whose instrumental music was much influenced by French models. The bourree or saraband movements -- each marking is a particular kind of dance -- in a suite by Bach were not meant to be danced. But understanding how these dances moved can tell us something, for example, about the tempos of the instrumental music of the period and place it in
a richer context than we would otherwise have.
It was, therefore, an interesting idea that Pro Musica Rara, in its first concert of the season yesterday afternoon at the Baltimore Museum of Art, featured the Ken Pierce Baroque Dancers of Boston in several pieces on the program.
But it was a good idea that worked only fitfully.
When the four dancers of the company came out for a few minutes in short pieces by Lully or Louis Saladin, the audience did not have a context in which to understand what the dancers were doing or enough time watching them to establish one for themselves.
Matters were somewhat different in the concert's concluding 20 minutes, which featured incidental music and dances from Purcell's "The Fairy Queen."
While it still would have been nice to have had notes (or a short lecture) that explained the rhetorical significance, as it were, of the movements, the dancers held the stage long enough so that the visual and aural aspects of the performance began to meld.
The purely instrumental portions of the program -- an orchestral suite by Johann Fischer, a trio sonata by Telemann and the "air" from Bach's Suite No. 3, which was played in memory of the late violinist, Bruce Wade -- were all well-performed. The Telemann -- which featured polished and sensitive wind playing by flutists Leslie Starr and Sara Landgren and bassoonist Phillip Kolker -- was a particular delight.