Chatham Baroque Offers Holiday Cheer on a Cold Night

The Art of the Trio Holiday Edition

By George B. Parous

Chatham Baroque this weekend gave a series of three concerts which combined two of their annual traditions – the “Art of the Trio” and the “Holiday” concerts, offered in conjunction. The first allowed for the unalloyed pleasure of listening to Andrew Fouts, Patricia Halverson, and Scott Pauley playing their theorbo, viola da gamba and other period instruments as only they can play them, and the second, a rare opportunity of hearing “seasonal” music from composers who lived as far back as the 17th century. The large crowd on hand at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Saturday evening (the concert we attended) and Sunday afternoon – as well as the previous Friday evening at the St. Nicholas Church in Millvale – heard nothing of Rudolph or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. One or two melodies sounded familiar to my ear; surely more were known to others and none to some. 

Yet all were fascinating glimpses into the music of the lengthy Baroque period that grows in interest once the listener opens an ear to the beauty of not only the music, but to the unique sound of the period’s instruments. When Mr. Fouts plays his violins modeled after 18th century specifications, the sound is very much indeed that of the violin; but with, to my ears, a warmer and more mellow sound in certain areas of the staff. In the case of Ms. Halverson’s viola da gamba and violone (bass viols), or Mr. Pauley’s theorbo and massive baroque guitar, the instruments are simply not ones to be seen by looking into the average orchestra pit.    

(Top) Patricia Halverson, Andrew Fouts & Scott Pauley

The program was interesting and one of variety – the best seemed to be saved for first and last, but there was much to enjoy in the middle. Corelli’s Sonata in D Major, Op. 5, No.1, was a well-chosen start, and was played in the familiar manner which always does the trio and the composer justice. The first and last movements were especially fit as “mood setters” for the evening to come. The closing piece, the Sonata in F Major, Op, 1, No. 12 (HWV 370) was particularly interesting not only due to the beauty of the music, but also because some music historians disagree when it comes to giving Georg Frideric Handel credit as composer. As the program reminded, chamber music by Handel is not a genre to which he seems to have devoted much attention. His operas and oratorios dominate his output, but again, as the notes ask, “if not by Handel, then who? Brilliantly written, it follows the same Italianate sonata da chiesa [church sonata] form of four movements (slow-fast-slow-fast) codified by Corelli…” As a dyed-in-the-wool lover of his operas, my money’s on Handel.

In the first half of the evening, my favorite piece was the one with which I was most familiar – Bach’s “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645)” [“Wake up, the Voice calls,” or “Sleepers, Awake.”]. The charming and simple beauty of this piece might very well typify the appeal of the baroque era’s “sound.” The title of the piece may not ring bells with some, but a copy/paste into YouTube or a similar musical search engine will most likely have the listener humming along immediately. Likewise, the second half’s traditional “Greensleeves/What Child is this?”, as arranged by John Playford. The title(s) stand a better chance at recognition, even if last night’s arrangement didn’t quite mesh with the more blatant “tune” familiar from movies and television shows, the names of which probably aren’t on the tips of many tongues.

Again, as mentioned, the audience Saturday evening was on the large size, a trend that seems to be consistent with all live classical music performances I’ve attended this autumn (according to the calendar – fingertips and faces had a different opinion regarding the season). It also was warm and responsive, as were the players, who took the time to speak briefly, make an amusing turn out of a broken G string, and in general offer what can best be described as “holiday cheer.” For those who needed more than the music, a reception with refreshments was offered at the concert’s conclusion.

This brief notice most likely will not appear in time for the final concert on Sunday afternoon, but it’s very worth the music lover’s while to take in a concert by Chatham Baroque at a future date. Familiarity with the ensemble’s sound is appreciated a bit more with each event they offer. Next up is “The Isle of Delos – Seductive Baroque Cantatas and Sonatas by France’s Foremost Woman Composer,” on Saturday, February 4, at 7:30 PM in the Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside, and Sunday, February 5, at 2:30 PM, again at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Adding to the appeal of the unique program will be guests Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Kathryn Montoya, baroque oboe; Kathie Stewart, baroque flute, and Charlotte Mattax Moersch, harpsichord. Visit Chatham Baroque for tickets or more information.

The full “Art of the Trio Holiday Edition” program was as follows:

Part I

Sonata in D Major, Op. 5, No. 1 Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

i. Grave—Allegro—Adagio—Grave—Allegro—Adagio

ii. Allegro—Adagio Arpeggio / iii. Allegro / iv. Adagio / v. Allegro

Bach Schübler Chorales and a German Carol

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Est ist ein ros entsprungen Trad. Arr. Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

Komst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter (BWV 650) Bach

Sonata Pastorale, Op. 1, No. 13 in A Major Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)

i. Grave / ii. Allegro / iii. Pastorale: Largo—Presto—Largo—Presto—Andante

Part II

Sonata Seconda Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620/23-1680)

From Sonatae unarum fidium (1664)

A suite of French Dances and Noël

Prélude Robert de Visée (c. 1655-c. 1732)

Sarabande / Gavotte / Menuet et Double / La Sincope

Marin Marais (1656-1728)

Noël Nouvelet Trad. Arr. Michel Corrette (1707-1795)

Greensleeves/What Child is this? Trad. Arr. John Playford (1623-1687)

Sonata in F Major, Op. 1, No. 12 (HWV 370) G.F. Handel (1685-1759)

i. Adagio / ii. Allegro / iii. Largo / iv. Allegro

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