One tends to think of Baroque music as preoccupied with process, but the Smithsonian Chamber Players brought the romantic side of the Baroque to the Hall of Musical Instruments on Saturday.
Marais' dark but opulently ornamented Suite for Two Violins painted a somber and brooding picture of hardly restrained passions. The Biber Sonata for violin and continuo that followed was an extroverted and emotional outpouring. It gave violinist Marilyn McDonald's bow arm a super workout, and she, in turn, gave it a super performance.
While gamba player James Caldwell prepared to assume a new role as oboist, James Weaver on the harpsichord provided a melodramatic musical interlude. Bach's "Ode on the Departure of a Beloved Brother," a piece about Johann Jacob, who was, appropriately enough, about to become an oboist in the band of the king of Denmark.
When oboist Caldwell returned, it was to play a C.P.E. Bach sonata that was a veritable outpouring of affections, in a performance that was troubled by an unconscionably stiff reed that squawked occasionally.
After intermission the Mozart Horn Quintet cleared the air of all this romantic enthusiasm and ended things with a proper sense of balance.
The performances throughtout were very serious but quite effective.