The Carmel Bach Festival’s official Opening Night is Saturday, July 14, at Sunset Center. However, on Monday, July 9 we had the privilege of hearing a pre-festival chamber concert at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church featuring two of the festival’s most distinguished musicians, organist Andrew Arthur and trumpeter Robert Farley — it was a revelation. Trumpeter, Robert Farley, played a baroque instrument and exhibited amazing technical mastery and stunningly gorgeous high notes. An organist friend of mine said of organist Andrew Arthur’s playing that he used all of the instrument’s possible sounds. What a succinct observation. Arthur is meticulously accurate in his playing and really knows how to use restraint, if needed, as the best way to bring out contrasting subtlety in an instrument. At St. Dunstan’s we were hearing the Church’s gorgeous two-year-old Dobson pipe organ, which sounds especially lovely in baroque compositions.
The program began with the Abblasen Fanfare for solo natural trumpet by Gottfried Reiche. Mr. Farley played in C and D, using the slider to give it a baroque D Tuning. Next came a solo organ work by J.S. Bach, the Prelude and fugue in C major, BWV 545. This was our introduction on this occasion to Arthur’s masterful style of performing. There is a natural ease about his playing, as phrases and motives evolve naturally and beautifully at every step.
Next the two artists played Suite for Organ and Trumpet by VivianI. This is in an early Baroque style, and was composed between 1637-1693. It had some interesting variety in that it began with an Andante movement, followed by an allegro movement in the toccata and then closed with an adagio — ending quietly and with gorgeous sonority.
The Chorale Suite for Organ by Bernardo Pasquini featured five chorales, all based on Vater unser im Himmelreich. Next we were treated to an satisfying series of Chorale Preludes by Bach, Scheidemann, Buxtehude, Bohm and with one more Bach Chorale Prelude, BWV 90, concluding the set. What a gorgeous exploration of the registrations available to this instrument — truly wonderful baroque sounds.
Next the audience was treated to the the Suite for Organ and Trumpet by Fantini (1638-1693)” and a series of shorter works by Frescobaldi. Prior to the baroque the trumpet had been primarily used for military and ceremonial fanfares. Fantini’s Suite explored the instrument’s ability to produce beautiful solo-lines. Fantini was the “most excellent trumpeter in all of Italy, ” and during a visit to Rome in 1634 he developed these suites with Frescobaldi and played a concert with him. They are most satisfying pieces.
Andrew Arthur also added a piece by Nicolaus Bruins, which turned out to be a great surprise, for It was also extraordinarily witty. The concert ended with the Corelli Sonata in D Major for Strings and trumpet. Andrew Arthur arranged this piece by Corelli, and it brought a stunning conclusion to the concert with full organ and trumpet taking us “over the top.” It has amazing melody and was a full throated ending to this concert, one of the first in the 81st season of the Carmel Bach Festival 2018.