The Violins of Lafayette, a Washington chamber ensemble founded five years ago, brought a "family" concert to the Corcoran Gallery of Art on Sunday. Played on period instruments, the music gave a generous hint of the extraordinary extent and influence of Johann Sebastian Bach's musical relatives. Besides his Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042, and his cantata "Widerstehe doch der Suende," BWV 54, the group performed two works by his older cousins, Johann Michael Bach (an organist whose youngest daughter married Johann Sebastian) and his composer brother Johann Christoph Bach.
For most of the program, Michael Collver starred alternately as soloist--on the baroque cornetto--and as countertenor. In a work by J.M. Bach and in J.S. Bach's cantata, Collver transmitted the baroque feeling for drama encapsulated in the colorful melodic treatment of heart-wrenching emotions.
He did this by the inflections of timbre and detailed phrasing needed for the baroque's sacred, as well as secular, "stage." Only in his higher register did Collver's alto voice sound tense.
The group's instrumentalists, led by violinist and artistic director Ryan Brown, gave a vigorous luster to the concerto and other works, which also included a sonata by Matthias Weckmann (whose son preceded J.S. Bach as cantor in Leipzig) and a capriccio of Johann Jacob Loewe. Brown, who at times fell victim to technical obstacles, took on his solo role with crisp articulation and a zesty tempo.