Richard Egarr, making his debut with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, led this high-spirited program of Baroque favorites. The Handel half got off to a strong start with the B-flat Concerto grosso, taken at a brisk pace, offering especially vigorous playing from two violinists. The oboe solo in the plaintive Largo was gently lyrical and the final gavotte appropriately snappy. Next came the Sonata a cinque, a sort of violin concerto probably composed in 1707 when Handel was in Rome, working alongside Corelli. The first of its three movements features passages scored for violin and harpsichord, the Corelli part brilliantly executed by concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini. All of the musicians were fully engaged in the intricacies of the music, but Allifranchini’s sparkling contribution to the high-powered Finale warrants particular praise. Then seven selections from Water Music were given with vitality and elegance, including bright trumpets and clarity and warmth from horns.
For J. S. Bach a septet of players delivered an especially lithe and sprightly account of the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, supposedly written to show the Margave of Brandenburg what a splendid keyboard player Bach was. Taking on that role, Egarr gave a performance that was absolutely breathtaking, most obviously so in the lengthy and virtuosic cadenza, and also the elegant sounds of Allifranchini and Jasmine Choi deserve special mention. The Suite in D is written on a grand scale, and the largest ensemble of the evening performed it with unqualified splendor and jubilation, timpani, bassoon and trumpets particularly so, and the gentle strumming of Adam Cockerham’s theorbo came through pleasantly in the familiar ‘Air’.