No love is as unrequited as that propelling an Italian baroque cantata. Take, for example, Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Su le sponde del Tebro,” sung Thursday night by soprano Nola Richardson — joined by Andrew Balio’s trumpet. The Scarlatti was part of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s all-baroque program at Bethesda’s Strathmore Music Center. The concert opened with J.S. Bach’s exuberant Cantata No. 51, followed by Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 6, No. 8. After the Scarlatti, the evening closed with Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043.
In Bach’s cantata, emotion reigns, compelled by boundless joy. Richardson’s soprano was vigorous but a bit sharp on her highest notes and sometimes overshadowed by the orchestra in her lowest range. Balio’s trumpet delivered a nonstop rhythmic pulse, reinforcing the relentless drive that typically propels Bach’s music.
The Corelli followed the Bach, with Jonathan Carney, Qing Li and Dariusz Skoraczewski as the solo group pitted against the full orchestra. The musicians sustained the slow sections so that Corelli’s dissonances deepened the pathos of the music.
Richardson hit her stride with the Scarlatti — the lament of an anguished soul. Her voice opened up with confidence and dramatic conviction, full of redolent passion. The story was taken from Roman mythology, depicting the suffering of Aminta, writhing in wretched pain after a scornful betrayal by his beloved. Richardson’s voice matched all the passion of his disillusionment with widely diverging doses of emotional color, perfectly matched by Balio’s trumpet, which reinforced the passion of the moment with electrifying trills and clearly articulated rhythm.
Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (Carney and Igor Yuzefovich) ended the evening with a magical, sometimes demonic drive, every player sharply enunciating firepower with furious bowing, all in total agreement. In the Largo movement, the solo violins reached ethereal heights, joining delicacy with reverence.
Porter is a freelance writer.