Akademie für alte Musik Berlin in New York [Telemann, Bach & Handel]

Overture in F minor, TWV55:f1
Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D, BWV1050
Violin Concerto in E, BWV1042
Concerto Grosso in F, Op.6/2
Concerto in E minor for Flute and Recorder, TWV52:e1

Akademie für alte Musik Berlin [Georg Kallweit, Kerstin Erben, Thomas Graewe, Elfa Kristinsdottir Stephan Mai & Uta Peters (violins), Clemens-Maria Nuszbaumer &Stephan Sieben (violas), Jan Freiheit (cello), Walter Rumer (double bass), Christoph Huntgeburth (flute & recorder), Anna Fusek (recorder), Christian Beuse (bassoon), Michael Freimuth (lute) and Raphael Alpermann (harpsichord)]

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 7 March, 2011
Venue: Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City

Akademie für alte Musik Berlin. Photograph: www.akamus.dePerformances by early-music ensembles often feature works by little-known composers who have been ‘rediscovered’. Not so in this concert by the superb Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, which programmed five compositions by the best-known German-origin baroque composers.The ensemble adheres to a style appropriate to early-music performance-practice: strings are played without vibrato or portamento, and ‘period’ wooden wind instruments are used, all with marvellous results.

Telemann’s Overture in F Minor is a suite of dances, with some non-dance movements mixed in. Tempos generally alternate between fast and slow, with instrumentation also varying to add to the contrasting moods. The ‘Overture’ began and ended in stately fashion, with Christoph Huntgeburth’s flute highlighting a sprightly central section. A pair of ‘Menuets’ featured two recorders, played by Huntgeburth and Anna Fusek. Then a quick-paced ‘Rondeau’, a solemn ‘Sarabande’ and a triple-time ‘Passepied’ led to the ethereal ‘Plainte’, with the flute playing a melodic lament over soft strings and continuo. After a graceful ‘Allemande’, the two recorders were again prominent in a ‘Chaconne’ and a lively ‘Gigue’ that ended the work.

Violinist Elfa Kristinsdottir and harpsichordist Raphael Alpermann joined Huntgeburth in a spirited performance of Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Alpermann’s harpsichord was hard-pressed to hold its own dynamically against the stronger violin, flute and accompanying strings, but it came through brilliantly in the extended cadenza at the end of the opening movement and also in the second one, joining the other solo instruments in a delicate trio. The three soloists struck up a lively tempo to begin the finale, with the other instruments joining in the rollicking Allegro.

After the interval, Georg Kallweit was the soloist in Bach’s E major Violin Concerto, playing in a distinctly baroque style, including several brief transitional improvisations. After a very playful traversal of the opening Allegro, the strings began the Adagio as a lament that was then taken up by Kallweit, with Jan Freiheit’s cello prominent – and excellent – in the continuo accompaniment. The entire ensemble attacked the finale with vigor, and Kallweit negotiated its tripping figures and syncopated rhythms in delightful fashion.

Handel’s Concerto Grosso in F was characterized by the beauty of its melodies, particularly in the opening Andante larghetto. The only wind instrument used in this work is a bassoon, which served as part of the ripieno that supported a concertino of two violins and cello. The first Allegro featured a rapid-figured conversation between the two violins set against some delightful counterpoint. The delicate, pastoral Largo that ensued was in turn linked by a brief eingang on Kallweit’s violin to the final Allegro, in which lyrical solos abounded.

In Telemann’s Concerto for Flute and Recorder, Huntgeburth and Fusek tossed the theme of the opening Largo back and forth over the soft, rhythmic strings. The soloists were quite virtuosic in the Allegro and then lyrical in the second Largo, with pizzicato strings providing the accompaniment. The final Presto is based on Polish folk-music, with its infectious dance-rhythm enhanced by Alpermann playing a tambourine. As an encore, the ensemble performed Tambourins I and II from Rameau’s “Dardanus”, which also featured foot-stamping rhythms with tambourine, ratchet and piccolo joining the strings and continuo.

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