Peter Hanson, Concertmaster and Director of the Festival Orchestra, was the genial emcee at the charming Monday evening main concert in Sunset Center titled “Bach and Sons: A Musical Legacy.” This is not to imply that Mr. Hanson merely introduced and commented on each work performed, for he also led the ensemble and performed as soloist in Bach’s Concerto for Violin in E Major, BWV 1042. However, his introduction to each work was a welcome addition to the more lengthy program notes in the Festival Program.
For those of us whose spare time is not totally consumed with the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, this concert expanded our knowledge by introducing us to works by Bach’s sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, plus a cousin of whom I was totally ignorant, Johann Bernhard Bach.
The last mentioned, Johann Bernhard Bach, was represented on the program with an Overture in G Minor, that was as charming as it was genuinely moving. It contained one special movement, Fantasie, that surprised us with its intense drawn out suspensions and harmonic sequences. Mr. Hanson also had an extended solo that was impressive.
The Symphony in D, by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was a surprisingly effective and exciting work full of unexpected twists and turns, and a lovely section with two Baroque flutes. Although I am not as great a fan of period instruments as many associated with the Festival, I have to say that hearing the sweet dulcet tones of the Baroque flutes, so beautifully and expressively played, was one of the highlights of the evening and convinced me that period instruments can be delightful.
The Symphony in D Minor by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was another charming and surprising work and contained a final movement, Allegro assai, that was so full of bravura and energy I wondered why we hadn’t ever heard it before.
The remainder of the concert was devoted to two very well known staples of the Baroque repertoire, the Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052, and the Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042. Andrew Arthur was on hand to lead us through the D Minor keyboard concerto, and his performance was, as usual, on a very high level of technical and musical mastery. However, the harpsichord performed on by Mr. Arthur during the performance was so weak for those of us in the rear of Sunset Center, that if you closed your eyes and listened, it sounded as though Mr. Arthur was playing offstage behind the curtains. Unfortunately, this is where period instruments, especially related to keyboard works, are not always satisfying. If this same performance had been heard in All Saints Church (which has some of the best acoustics on the Monterey Peninsula) or at the Church in the Forest, it would have been much more effective. But, in the cavernous Sunset Center for audiences over 700 people, the sound of the harpsichord as a solo instrument can be somewhat disappointing.
Mr. Hansen strong and authoritative playing was totally satisfying in the lovely E Major Concerto. No matter how many times you have heard this concerto, its charms never fail to win an audience, and it received a fine performance on this occasion. Especially effective was the lovely slow movement in which the ornamentation and embellishment were a delight for the ear. The faster outer movements were beautiful styled and exciting.
After the final applause, Mr. Hanson spoke to the audience and revealed that at a recent performance of Othello in London, the players surprised the audience with a little dance. He surprised us with an encore consisting of some retro music from a past TV show called, “The Addams Family.” It was a lot of fun — nostalgia with occasional hand clapping from the audience.
Speaking of the audience, it was sad to see so many empty seats on this occasion. The balcony was almost empty, and everywhere around us on the main floor there were clusters of vacant seats. “Bach and Sons” was a lovely program and deserved a larger audience.