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Tuesday, May 7, 2019


(Dr Bridget Rennie-Salonen)

One of the most enjoyable Baroque 2000 concerts I have attended. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Baroque 2000 concert at the Mariannhill Monastery last Sunday offered something a little away of the norm, in that it featured works which were composed just before or just after what is regarded as the “Golden Baroque” period. This period coincides with the life span of Johan Sebastian Bach, 1685 to 1750.

It was an enchanting concert full of surprises (quite literally in one case) and exhilarating music.

To get things underway the ensemble, which included Dr Bridget Rennie-Salonen on flute and the KZNPO’s Stephane Pechoux on percussion, gave a refreshing performance of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s (1623 – 1680) Fechtschule (Fencing school)

Schmelzer was an Austrian composer and virtuoso violinist who served at the Hapsburg Court where he became close friends with his patron, Emperor Leopold 1. The emperor even raised Schmelzer to the ranks of nobility. Fechtschule (Fencing school) is a ballet suite that evokes the dance-like movements of fencing and combat, while the final aria Bader, is a salute to the barber-surgeon who arrives at the end of battle to stitch the wounded.

The second, and main, work on the programme was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s (1714 – 1788) Flute Concerto in D Minor Wq.22 which featured Dr Bridget Rennie-Salonen as soloist on the flute.

CPE Bach was the fifth child of Johan Sebastian and, by some way, the musically most successful of all his many children.

A brilliant keyboardist, he was an influential figure in the early days of the Classical era. During his lifetime, and for some time after, his success overshadowed that of his father. However, his reputation waned during the 19th century as musicians re-discovered the music of his father.

The Flute Concert in D Minor, one of five written by CPE Bach, is in three movements.

The first movement (Allegro) is bright and cheerful and moves along at a fair lick. But it is the slow second movement (Un poco andante) which is the standout. It is an exquisite piece of music played with sensitivity and passion by the ensemble. Languid, tender, affectionate and moving, it is enough to bring tears of joy to the eyes.

The final movement (Allegro di molto) is filled with blazing fireworks and gave flautist Rennie-Salonen plenty of opportunity to show off her not inconsiderable virtuosic skills.

Rounding off this excellent concert was Joseph Hayden’s (1732–1809) popular Symphony No.94 G Major, nicknamed Surprise.

The surprise happens in the second movement when the soft and gentle flow of the music is interrupted by a startling loud chord accompanied by a loud bash on a drum. This was accompanied by startled reactions from the ensemble (and the audience) and alarmed voices from off-stage.

The ensemble played up this charming movement beautifully with percussionist Stephan Pechoux sneaking on from the wings like a cartoon baddie every time a crash on his drum was required.

The fun did not stop when later in the work, concertmaster Ralitza Macheva entered into a tongue-in-cheek discussion with the other musicians about whether they should play in a major or minor key.

These amusing antics in no way detracted from the musicians’ brilliant performance of this work, and for that matter of the entire concert. The Baroque 2000 ensemble were unquestionably at the top of their game.

They were rewarded with an extended standing ovation for what I think was one of the most enjoyable Baroque 2000 concerts I have attended.

The next Baroque 2000 concert will be held at the Mariannhill Monastery Church on June 2 and will feature Vivaldi’s Concerto Per Molti Instrumenti (Concerto with many instruments).

For more information contact Michel Schneuwly on 031 312 5539 or 082 303 5241 or email – Keith Millar