Michael Freimuth Wilson
Photo:Vincent Lim

Salish Sea Early Music Festival
Telemann: Paris Quartets

When & Where February 27 at 7:00pm | St. Mary's Kerrisdale, 2490 West. 37th, Vancouver BC

Performers David Greenberg baroque violin Elisabeth Wright harpsichord Susie Napper viola da gambia Jeffrey Cohan baroque flute

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

A small but dedicated audience enjoyed a dazzling performance on a snowy evening, dazzling but never ostentatious. This was top-class music played by musicians of the first water. The four musicians, David Greenberg (baroque violin), Susie Napper (viola da gamba), Elizabeth Wright (harpsichord) and Jeffrey Cohan (baroque flute), have played together for many years and it showed in the close conversation and camaraderie amongst the players. Quick responses and shared purpose brought out the various textures while never losing sight of the whole picture. Virtuosity was a given.

Telemann wrote a set of 6 quartets (Quadri) in preparation for a long-postponed trip to Paris in 1730. There his hosts were the famous Michel Blavet, flute virtuoso, the equally famous Jean-Pierre Guignon, another brilliant virtuoso, of the violin, Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, skilled gambist and tutor of the King's daughter. An unknown - to us - cellist and harpsichordist, Edouard, made up the group. Telemann stayed in Paris for nearly a year, writing another set of 6 quartets for his friends. These are the Nouveaux Quatuors or New Quartets in 6 Suites, and like the original set comprised quartets in both French and Italian styles.

SSEMF chose four of these quartets, economically selecting two from the first set and two from the second, two in the Italian style, and two in the French, two in D major and two in minor keys. They all feature equality amongst flute, violin and viol da gamba with the voices often shifting rapidly, throwing the theme from one to another, sharing the variations. Full of freshness and appeal, variety and invention they are easy to like but fiendish to play.

SSEMF played with an easy elegance. Buoyant allegros and polished andantes framed expressive slower movements, my favourite perhaps the extremely moving Triste from the `Quartet in B minor'. Triste was set off by a very danceable Menuet. Virtuoso passages seized the mind with some awe. And there appeared to be a definition of diminuendo as a quest for the acoustic vanishing point.

The sonorous viol, dashing violin and airy flute were finely accompanied by the poised and responsive harpsichord playing of Elisabeth Wright.

A fantastic performance, well-worth braving the snow for.

© 2024 Elizabeth Paterson