The “Monday Main Concert” was a “Libby” evening at the Carmel Bach Festival as Elizabeth Wallfisch, concertmaster and director, conducted members of the Festival Strings in an program of masterpieces by Bach and Mendelssohn.
The first work we heard during the evening’s program was the instrumental transcription of Bach’s motet, Lobet den Herrn, BWV 230. It was pleasingly effective to hear the vocal lines played by strings, and as always the glorious fugue at the end made a powerful impression. There are many fine players in this group and the ensemble was nicely controlled.
The second offering was Bach’s familiar Concerto in E Major for Violin, BWV 1042. Elizabeth Wallfisch, has undoubtedly played this concerto hundreds of times, and thus not unexpectedly she was in top form as she gave an extroverted performance with quick spritely tempos in the outer movements with some restrained, but intense playing in the deeply felt slow movement. There was, however, a downside to her performance, for Wallfisch’s constant and irritating motion during her performance (she dodges and weaves like a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers) caused little spiky accents and dynamic fluctuations that tended to interrupt and fracture the musical line.
Just before intermission we were treated to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048, featuring Elizabeth Wallfisch, Rachel Evans, Alicia Yang, violin; Patrick G. Jordan, Meg Eldridge, Marika Holmqvist, viola; Allen Whear, Margaret Jordan-Gay, Timothy Roberts, cello; and Derek Weller, double bass. The standout moment in this performance was Wallfisch’s very sensitive and moving improvised transition bridging the Adagio and the final Allegro. This was magical.
The concert ended with the great Mendelssohn Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20, composed when he was sixteen. The ensemble here was not as polished as it could be, and thus its effectiveness in the first two movements was somewhat diminished. However, the final two movements, Scherzo & Presto made a much more powerful impression. The audience gave the players a big standing ovations.