The Season Finale of Ensemble Monterey was a wonderful collection of regal music. The title for this concert is taken from the last piece offered: Handel’s Coronation Anthem. Included in the program material was a graphic featuring “The Fab Five.” This refers to 5 composers who wrote mostly in the 18thCentury with one work from the 17thCentury. I attended the Saturday evening concert on April 27, 2019 at the First Presbyterian Church in Monterey, CA. The day was a lovely Spring day, so the room grew warm as the evening progressed. Still, I thank the church for opening their doors and sharing the good acoustics of their space.
As is the custom of Ensemble Monterey, Conductor and Artistic Director Dr. John Anderson offered his insights prior to the concert as a short talk with question/answer session. This opportunity to learn about the music and performers is so vital. Dr. Anderson has a gift for conveying information that engages those literate in music while being accessible to those just beginning their musical journey. It makes concerts more enjoyable when the audience is as attentive and engaged as they were Saturday. These talks along with the excellent printed program are gems we should encourage and take advantage of regularly.
The first half of the concert gave us three examples of chamber music: A Concerto Grossoby Vivaldi, a selection from Tafelmusik by Telemann, and a short Cantata by J. S. Bach. True to the tradition of chamber music, each work gave members of the ensembles a chance to shine. The order of the pieces was changed to prevent unnecessary moving of the harpsichord. The Telemann set our ears nicely for the rest of the program. In the Vivaldi, the concertmaster ably led the middle movement. The bassoon and cello took turns providing continuo parts as the solos alternated between oboe and violin. I regret I was not familiar with the individual performers enough to identify their names in the program. Perhaps I missed that in the remarks before the concert. To finish off the first half, the Bach Cantata was neither too long, nor too short. The vocalists ably demonstrated their hard earned skills.
The second half of the concert continued with more work by Cantiamo! Cabrillo. Ms. Anderson took up the baton to open with Beatus virby Claudio Monteverdi. This example of fine choral writing was performed with the highest attention to detail. One can always tell when the musicians truly understand the music. For the final work, we were treated to a composition by Handel for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. Even though there is much upholstery and carpeting in the building, we could plainly hear the 20 instrumentalists and 27 vocalists.
I find it a pleasure to hear compositions that stretch my experience as a listener. So often, this means only new composers or obscure pieces that can be less than pleasurable to listen to. From the response of those in the audience, the next season introduced by Dr. Anderson will continue this tradition. Since Ensemble Monterey will be working with Cantiamo! Cabrillo, the performers will change from year to year, I’m sure. I look forward to the pleasure of meeting new composers and new compositions as Maestri Andersons continue to enrich our community with music.