An excellent offering of baroque trio sonatas was given Friday night at the Hall of Musical Instruments by the Smithsonian Chamber Players.
Dietrich Buxtehude's extemporaneous and often audacious style shone throughout this program, which featured four of his trio sonatas. An extended and serious conversation between the violin and the viola da gamba in the Sonata in G Minor, Op. 2, No. 3, was effectively played by violinist Jaap Schroeder and da gambist Kenneth Slowik. James Weaver provided the essential keyboard support on the harpsichord. Considering that the viola da gamba was thought to be more aristocratic than the violin, Buxtehude took a bold step in giving the violin a buoyant, extended solo in the Sonata in A Major, Op. 2, No. 5. The trio gave a lucidness to this sonata's frolicsome opening Allegro.
Violinist Schroeder's enthusiasm was catching in the Partita in A Major for solo violin by Johann Paul von Westhoff. Works for solo string instruments have a special intimacy and immediacy; one can easily perceive Westhoff's influence on later Bach compositions in this genre. Schroeder's technique was riveting throughout, particularly on the linear and pensive Sarabande.
Also represented in this concert was Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, whose Sonata "Secunda" in E Minor is quieter and more songlike than the Buxtehude and features dance movements such as Courante and Gigue. James Weaver played the chamber organ for this piece, which gave it a nice resonance. Washington is indeed fortunate to have an ensemble committed to performing these too rarely heard 17th-century works.