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Review: Texas Camerata pleases with Baroque pieces

Posted 10:58pm on Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012

With a side trip or two, Texas Camerata traveled to Germany in the Baroque period just before Bach and Handel on Sunday evening. The program, in Fort Worth’s Saint Patrick Cathedral, included composers whose names might be slightly familiar to musically literate persons, but none of the real musical giants. Even with some unknowns, it was a thoroughly pleasant evening.

A festive atmosphere was established with the very first sounds: brass fanfares by Johann Jakob Lowe von Eisenach (I said there were unknowns) and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. The sounds emanated from up in the organ loft and they made for a very effective hello.

Ten more pieces or groups of pieces formed the rest of the program. They alternated vocal compositions with countertenor Ryland Angel as the soloist and purely instrumental works.

A fine representative of the former was Philip Heinrich Elrebach’s Trocknet euch ihr heissen Zaehren, whose text seems to be trying to find some positives in an unsettled time, a search that wouldn’t be out of place in the 21st century. As usual, Angel produced lovely sounds, with support from portative organ and strings. Erlebach’s music, despite the somewhat plaintive text, seemed quite benign.

A side trip leaped three-and-a-half centuries from the late 17th century to 2011. A number from Gregory Spears’ Our Lady started rather conventionally but soon encompassed mysterious harmonies and intriguing instrumental sounds. Angel sang a moving performance, whose mood of reverence was heightened because he was singing beneath a large statue of the Virgin Mary, the dominant icon in the church.

Another high point for me was Johann Hermann Schein’s second suite from his Banchetto Musicale (Musical Banquet), a group of dances that were sometimes stately and sometimes bouncy. Lee Lattimore on flute and Kevin Hall on bassoon contributed significantly to the pleasurable mood of this group. Schein’s fifth suite from this musical banquet was another endearing collection.

Perhaps the biggest collection of the evening was Alessandro Poglietti’s Balleti in C Major, which brought together three trumpets, bassoon, organ and strings for a pleasant 10-piece set.

Also on the program was music by Johann Michael Bach, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer and Dietrich Buxtehude in addition to a couple of the usual Anonymuses.

Members of the Texas Camerata, in addition to Lattimore and Hall, are violinists Kristin Van Cleve and Ellen Lovelace, violist Donna Hall, cellist and viola da gambist Karen Hall, bassist George Dimitri, trumpeters Adam Gordon, Leigh Ann Hunsaker and Keith Johnson, and organist Brad Bennight. All play ancient instruments or replicas.

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