The Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players returned to Sunset Center in Carmel on Sunday afternoon to charm us with a variety of selections, all the more novel, because the program contained three major works that we were not hearing in their usual versions, but in interesting transcriptions. The beautiful Harpsichord on Sunset Center’s stage was a generous loan from Jerry & Christine Baker.
The program consisted of Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6 No. 1 in D Major, Telemann’s Concerto for 4 Violins in G major, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in C major, and three significant works by Bach -– the Suite for Flute (BWV 1067) transcribed for oboe by Gonzalo Ruiz, the Harpsichord Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052) transcribed for violin by Elizabeth Blumenstock, and the Harpsichord Concerto (BWV 1060) transcribed for oboe and violin by Wilfried Fischer from the concerto for two harpsichords.
When we hear Baroque works for strings, we know we are going to be hearing a lot of repetitious sequences of dominant and tonic (part of the charm of the music from this era), and this is also what we heard a lot of in the three works by Corelli, Telemann and Vivaldi on this program.
However, not only were the three selections by Bach more substantial, but they were also heard in new colors. It was startling to hear Gonzalo Ruiz playing the familiar Suite for Flute on Baroque oboe (his own transcription) and become aware of how beautifully and refreshingly transformed this work can be when heard through the reedy timbres of the oboe. Ruiz, a master of his instrument, navigated his way through the thorny passages and embellished figuration of this suite with consummate ease and mastery, and the delightful concluding section of the suite – a piece every young flutist yearns to play from an early age – was fabulous.
Equally startling was Elizabeth Blumenstock’s transcription of the great Harpsichord Concerto in D minor by Bach. Harpsichord concerti always have a problem in their slow movements because of the difficulty on keyboard instruments of sustaining melodic tones that decay so quickly. Blumenstock treated us to the cantilena melody in the second movement that truly had a sustained cantabile, and it was beautiful. Her solutions to the essentially keyboard figurations in the outer movements were totally satisfying.
It was my regret that I had another appointment and had to leave before the final selection on the afternoon’s program – Bach’s concerto for two Harpsichords in Bach’s version transcribed by oboe and violin. However, judging from what I heard elsewhere in the program, it had to have been a blockbuster.
I learned just before going to press that violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock had a mishap before the concert resulting in a nasty cut on the forefinger of her left hand causing her to drip blood on the fingerboard and G string throughout the concert. Wow! If this is the way she plays when wounded, let’s have back when she’s “fit as a fiddle.”