A new and attractive addition to this year's Maryland Handel Festival at the University of Maryland's Memorial Chapel is the incorporation of original (or facsimile) instruments. As the players marched on stage to perform two concerti grossi last night, appearances seemed usual, but the sound of the first few notes would have been startling to an unsuspecting listener. Oboes and bassoon resembled the sound of krummhorns, a kazoo-like drone reminiscent of a snake charmer's song. Added to the primitive and less resonating strings, which results in a predominance of percussive bow-to-string contact, the overall sound was not dominated by any particularly ringing tones, as would be the case with modern instruments. The music produced by the Handel Festival Players was as lively and compelling as Handel ever is, with the utmost care taken in creating a clear and unwavering baroque sound.
The "Dettingen Te Deum" resembles much of Handel's other sacred music, with a condensed and limited choral text and never-ending final-sounding cadences. The University of Maryland Chorus did a commendable job in making each movement present itself as the last word in devotional expression. Paul Traver's baton and leadership brought unity to the performance, and it was obvious that much rehearsal time was spent on developing a precise choral sound, powerful but impeccable.