The Baltimore Consort has a core of six expert instrumentalists who, together, are what was known in the 16th century as a "broken" consort, an ensemble of treble and bass viols; lute, bandore and cittern (plucked instruments); and flute or recorder. Saturday at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, they played a program of English and Scottish music that started out subdued and, at times, colorless, but then gained in spirit, interest and variety.
A marvelous and cheery set of variations on "Greensleeves" and an untitled dance for bandore, cittern and bass viol, attributed to John Singer, livened up the first half of the program. But the second half, which featured a large group of Scottish folk tunes with their modal melodies and droning accompaniments, and which introduced the bagpipes to the ensemble, was considerably livelier.
Mary Anne Ballard, an outstanding treble viol player, proved to be as fine on the fiddle. Mindy Rosenfeld-Hedges squeezed melancholy notes from her wooden flutes, and the rest of the ensemble provided rhythmic and at times swinging support. Guest artist Edwin George, with a remarkably refined set of pipes, had a fine time with various dances.
It is not easy to plan a program of small pieces of this period, and the Baltimore Consort was not altogether successful with this one. There were 32 somewhat similar, dancelike pieces whose rationale for being together was that they share the same source or a similar background. But it takes more than just proximity for them to make sense together as a program.