The Hesperus chamber ensemble last night served up a veritable feast of Italian baroque music at the Corcoran Gallery of Art: antipasto, pasta and sweets enough to sate even the gluttonous.
The heavily ornamented menu of nine pieces, from an early baroque canzon by Giovanni Gabrieli to a concerto by Vivaldi, seemed to emphasize and explore the music's voluptuous possibilities.
Though perhaps too much for one sitting, the program was admirably democratic--giving all seven performers a chance to cook. Robert Eisenstein, best known for viola da gamba, also played the recorder, joining Scott Reiss in a Monteverdi canzonette.
The music, from the country in which the baroque style began, is more often lyrical or brilliant than methodically contrapuntal. The sound Hesperus produced was often fat and full , especially in pieces such as Gabrieli's "Canzon prima," which added David Magoon on cornetto.
In Fontana's "Sonata sexta"--scored for viola da gamba, recorder and harpsichord--Reiss gave a taste of virtuosity on the recorder, but also showed his ability to make the instrument sing.
Soprano Ann Monoyios brought impeccable style and warmth to songs of love--mostly unrequited--by Monteverdi and Caccini, and a measure of passion to Alessandro Scarlatti's "Bella Madre de' Fiori" ("Lovely mother of the flowers"), a richly scored cantata about love and lamentation. The performance, with James Wright's able harpsichord playing, paired two recorders, then Linda Quan on baroque fiddle and Tina Chancey on pardessus de viole, against Monoyios' voice: the last a shimmering diamond, brilliantly displayed.
Violinist Quan brought equal glitter to Corelli's Sonata in F, Op. 5, No. 4, at one point taking two lines of a fugue and making each as clear and light as the other. The evening ended with Vivaldi's Concerto in D, for which Reiss and Eisenstein, this time on viol, achieved an aptly pastoral tone.