Jeffrey Cohan

Francois Andre Danican PhilidorSalish Sea Early Music Festival
1755: The Art of Modulation

Date and Venue June21, 2015 at 4pm | Ryerson United Church

Jeffrey Cohan baroque flute Linda Melsted violin Stephen Creswell violin and viola Jonathan Oddie harpsichord

Programme: Philidor Simphonie IV in Bf flat major Telemann Sonata no. I in D major Blavet Flute Concerto in A minor CPE Bach Divertimento in G major Cannabich Quartetto III in C major Philidor Sinfonia I in G minor

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

It is probably fortunate that Francois Andre Danican Philidor's primary occupation was not duelling. His capacity for sudden surprise leading to shivers down the spine and stabs to the heart undoubtedly made him the chess master he was, and most certainly a composer worth exploring. The four members of Salish Sea Festival offered a lively and challenging programme of music from the mid-18th century opening with Philidor's Sinfonia IV and immediately conjuring up the shining, quirky music of the baroque. In its three movements, Adagio, Allegro, Aria, we pass through elegant, thoughtful conversation between the instruments, a fast game of give and take to a restful close.

Telemann's Sonata I in D major followed, less diamantine in sparkle, but equally as intellectually gripping and as full of nerve-tingling modulations as the Philidor. The programme was called" The Art of Modulation" with good reason, partly no doubt after the title of publication by Philidor of his Sinfonies and particularly demonstrated by Telemann's characteristic dissonances and suspensions. Stephen Creswell on viola revelled in the double stops and ornaments, Linda Melsted was elegantly precise and involved and the final Allegro rippled quickly past like a teaming brook.

These two pieces highlighted the ensemble musicianship of the players, their pleasure in the music and in playing with each other. The next piece showed off Jeffrey Cohan's technical abilities. Michel Blavet was a French Flute virtuoso himself and his Flute Concerto in A minor demands technical mastery. The opening Allegro is rapid, full of leaps, double tonguings, long phrases and ornaments which Cohan negotiated with stylish brio. The two middle movements, a pair of elegant Gavottes, perhaps provided a rest but continued to demonstrate a widely expressive technique full of nuance and subtlety,before the fast and furious Allegro.

The second half of the programme opened with a Divertimento in G major by Telemann's godson, C.P.E. Bach, a charming piece, lucid and graceful with an easiness which belies its imaginative scope. This was followed by a Quartet in C major, no. III, by Christian Cannabich. Cannabich took over the Mannheim Orchestra from Stamitz, frequented Paris and other musical capitals, and was well known throughout Europe in his lifetime, including by the Mozarts, but is little known today. Indeed this work may not have been performed in the New World for two and a half centuries. A pity for it is clearly is fun to play. A thoughtful Adagio followed by a bright Allegro, though without the flair and flamboyance of French music, was very satisfying to listen to and made a nice introduction to this composer.

Bookending the concert was another Sinfonia by Philidor. A cheerful theme chased around the group in the fugal second movement, followed by a Pastorella with a grinding, edgy drone. The final Gavotte danced to the close of the performance.

Steady as a rock, sitting unobtrusively at the harpsichord behind the other players, Jonathan Oddie provided a thoroughly musical and inventive basso continuo, grounding the harmonies, supporting and beautifying the ideas and themes of the upper voices, and adding colour and depth.

Salish Sea is a stylish and very engaging ensemble. Their playing is impeccable in its ornamenation and articulation and sensitive to the emotional core of the music. but beyond that they play with great verve and obvious delight in the music.

© 2015 Elizabeth Paterson