Arts & Events

Voices of Music Perform Corelli, Vivaldi & Telemann

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:28:00 PM

Voices of Music, a Bay Area ensemble headed by Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler, gave a series of holiday concerts in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto featuring virtuoso concertos by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1753), Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). I attended their Berkeley concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen on Sunday evening, December 18. The concert opened with Corelli’s ever-popular Christmas concerto, the Pastorale, Opus 6, No. 8. Featured soloists in this Corelli concerto were violinists Carla Moore and Lisa Grodin, and cellist Elisabeth Reed. One of the themes used by Corelli is based on a tune traditionally played in Rome on Christmas Eve by shepherds on the Zampogna, a rustic bagpipe.  

Next on the program was Telemann’s Recorder Concerto in F Major featuring Hanneke van Proosdij on recorder. The opening movement, marked Affetuoso, is a liltingly beautiful melodic piece, and the second movement offers dazzlingly difficult rapid passagework for recorder, brilliantly performed by van Proosdij. The third movement is a lovely Adagio, which is followed by a double Menuet that brings this work to a close.  

Antonio Vivaldi was an extraordinarily prolific composer, and over 470 of his concertos survive, and evidence shows that many more were lost. Vivaldi composed many of these concertos for the female musicians of Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for women. Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major, RV 564, features two groups of soloists who constantly interact with one another. Here the soloists were Carla Moore and Gabrielle Wunsch on Baroque violins, and Elisabeth Reed and Tanya Tomkins on cellos. The violins play as one unit and the cellos form a second unit, and they trade themes back and forth in endlessly inventive variations.  

The final work of the first half of the program was a Suite by Michael Praetorius ( 1570-1630), from his volume of French instrumental dances Terpsichore. A Prelude was set to Praetorius’ Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A Rose Grew Forth). Percussionist Peter Maund was featured, as was Hanneke van Proosdij, who played alto recorder, tenor recorder, and sopranino.  

After intermission, Voices of Music first played a work by Jewish composer Salamone Rossi (1570-c1630), an instrumental setting of Rossi’s hymn in Hebrew, “Shir hamma’a lot, Ashkei kol yeri Adonai. Next came Vivaldi’s well-known Concerto in G minor for two cellos. This was brilliantly played by cellists Tonya Tomkins and Elisabeth Reed, who shone particularly in the lovely Largo. The final movement, marked Allegro, also featured pizzicato accompaniment on Violone by Farley Pearce and subtle accompaniment by David Tayler on archlute.  

Following this was another Vivaldi work, the D minor Concerto, RV 565. Soloists in this concerto were Carla Moore, Lisa Grodin, and Tanya Tomkins. After the violins open this work, a brief Adagio ensues, followed by some of Vivaldi’s notorious “hard knocks,” which may be reminiscent of the three knocks which traditionally were heard at the beginning of a play in the theatre. Vivaldi then presents a fine double fugue, intricately wrought. Then comes a beautiful Largo with cantabile melody played by the first violin over thick string accompaniment. The final movement opens with solo violins, which soon are joined by all the instruments which take up many of the themes heard in the first movement.  

The final work of the program was Telemann’s Ouverture a la Pastorelle. This Pastorale featured bell-like notes imitating a carillon, and vigorous passage-work on alto recorder played by Hanneke van Proosdij. All in all, this was a splendid concert of outstanding concertos by leading Baroque composers, beautifully performed by Voices of Music, a world class chamber music ensemble.