By the last day of some festivals, many are a bit tired, a bit overwhelmed, and hoping to coast to the finish. Not so at Carmel Bach Festival 2019! The next to last entry in the Chamber Concerts section of the Program Guide has quite an interesting list of compositions. Taking the stage at Sunset Center at 11:00 am on Saturday July 27, 2019, members of the Festival Orchestra gathered around a fortepiano. I have heard recordings and seen a fortepiano in a museum, but to hear it played on stage with other instruments was going to be intriguing.
The first piece offered was the Overture to La Calamita de’ cuori by Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian. He lived and worked for many years in London. In her comments, Naomi Guy added to the background found in the printed program notes, and asked us to remember the London connection and listen for the melody in the second movement. OK. Duly noted. And I’m glad she made that request. After this lovely pieced danced to a gracious finish, we had much else on the program to look forward to.
As the musicians settled in for the next piece, Dongsok Shin gave us a few words about the featured instrument: a copy of an historic fortepiano. He also emphasized that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart held J.C. Bach in high esteem — rather unusual for a snarky boy wonder. The Piano Concerto in A Major, K 414, written after Mozart’s stay in London is a prime example of gracious chamber music. The fortepiano gave the solo part a wonderfully delicate tone. The other musicians responded with collaborative playing, no competitiveness, just support of each other. I did pick out that melody from the Bach. In the hands of a master musician, the trills and scales of Mozart are wonderful!
The last two pieces were showcases for more of the Festival Orchestra. For the second Mozart work, the Andante in C Major, K 315, Robin Carlson, principle flute, joined the group on stage. I knew the skill of the musicians would create magic with the composition. I think Ms. Carlson’s dress also blended right in with the graceful ruffles. For the final piece, we heard Symphony No. 6 “Le Matin” by Franz Joseph Haydn. This was led by Emlyn Ngai, who also provided the solo violin part. Sharing the solo spotlight was violist Meg Eldridge. Her execution of the demanding part was a joy to hear. Her single viola balanced the other instruments and faithfully supported when necessary. There were also solo lines for the cello, bass, flute, bassoon, and horn — quite a complicated piece that was played with grace and seemingly effortless musicianship.
This 82ndCarmel Bach Festival has been full of fabulous music that we didn’t think could be related to J.S.Bach. But as the applause has faded, the “to listen” list just keeps getting longer! I now have a new appreciation for what it meant to live and work in the early 18thCentury. I am inspired by the obvious enjoyment the musicians exhibited along with the outstanding musicianship. It has inspired me to live and work in the 21stCentury playing and singing Bach and many, many other composers!