The Washington Post

At Baroque Bonanza, performers give grand musical style a soft beauty

Rosa Lamoreaux, from left, Elizabeth Field, Douglas McNames, Steven Silverman and Nina Falk. (Handout/Tom Radcliffe / Point of View Studio)

There may be few kinds of music as immediately likable as Baroque chamber music, which is usually heard on modern instruments. But its subtle beauties are better revealed by the delicate, soft-voiced instruments of the time, as was clear at Sunday’s Baroque Bonanza concert at the Church of the Epiphany, when two of the most gifted Baroque ensembles in the area joined forces for an afternoon of music making that captured the vitality of this music as well as its subtle nuances.

The unusual ensemble Sarabande (named for the several Sarahs who founded it) opened the concert with music for baroque oboes, baroque bassoon and percussion. These double-reed instruments have a particularly throaty and arresting sound, and in a half-hour of short works by George Frideric Handel, Jean-Baptiste Lully, André Danican Philidor and others, the Sarabande players used the rich, plaintive timbres and flavorful intonations to highly expressive effect. Alison Lowell, Meg Owens and Sarah Weiner turned in fine playing on oboe, as did Stephanie Corwin on bassoon, while Michelle Humphreys — playing tambourine and drum with a light, sensitive touch — added a feathery texture to the music that enhanced the other instruments.

Rosa Lamoreaux is one of the finest early-music sopranos to be found, and she opened the second half of the program by leading the Arcovoce ensemble in strikingly vivid readings of two chamber cantatas, Vivaldi’s “All’ombra di sospetto” and Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Correa nel seno.” The instrumentalists in this remarkable ensemble are equally strong, and Nina Falk (on baroque violin) turned in a mesmerizing account of the Sonata No. 3 in F major by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (one of the rare female composers of the time), while harpsichordist Stephen Silverman played two of Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas with rare insight and grace.

Brookes is a freelance writer



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