Freshwater Trio
Two members of Borealis String Quartet


Concerto Köln Chamber Orchestra
Saturday, 7 August 2010 at 8:00pm • Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Performers Violin I: Markus Hoffmann, Frauke Pöhl, Hedwig van der Linde; Violin II: Sylvie Kraus, Antje Engel, Horst-Peter Steffen; Viola: Gabrielle Kancachian, Sara Hubrich; Cello: Werner Matzke; Bass: Jean-Michel Forest; Flute: Cordula Breuer; Martin Sandhoff; Oboe: Benoît Laurent, Lidewei de Sterck; Bassoon: Lorenzo Alpert; Harpsichord: Fritz Siebert

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson


There are occasionally concerts in which the opening bars of the first piece can tell you that you will be spending the entire evening in the hands of masters and on Saturday evening at the Chan, Concerto Koln were those masters. They play on period instruments and without a conductor, relying on concert master Marcus Hoffman for direction when necessary.

The program was built around two of Bach’s Orchestral Suites and also featured a work by Rameau. The opening piece was by Antoine Dauvergne. Well-known in Paris in his day though now obscure, he had studied with Rameau. From time to time he was a rival of Gluck in the matter of paid positions. His Quatrième concert de simphonie, really a suite of pieces in dance tempi typical of the time, made a perfect introduction. Intonation, articulation, phrasing, ornamentation were put to the task of letting the music bloom and grow from the slow Ouverture to the final Chaconne. An intimate atmosphere was quickly achieved, despite the size of the Chan Centre. The dialogue which weaves between the instruments was lively, fresh and clear. The rather soft dynamics of the group made the audience listen to these musical conversations with care and prepared the ear for their approach to Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 2 in B minor.

Musicologists and music historians may quibble over whether a particular instrument is to add colour or is to be contrasting and soloistic, but a performing group must choose and be done. Concerto Köln chose colour, a choice which subdued the voice of the traverso flute, played by Cordula Breuer, and produced a gentle, sweet, sound. Brightness was indeed absent, but fluidity and vibrancy were very much present and the unity and singularity of purpose which informs the group was underlined.

A return to French music came after the intermission with Rameau’s Petite Suite de Platée, a set of dances from his opera Platée. This was lively and fun, made even more cheerful by some versatile tambourine playing by Martin Sandhoff.

Bach’s lovely Orchestral Suite No 1 in C major closed the program and this time the wind instruments, two oboes (Benoit Laurent and Lidewei de Sterck) and a bassoon (Lorenzo Alpert), were front and centre physically and musically from the majestic Ouverture to the final spirited Passepied.

The ensemble work was consistently precise, under-pinned by the splendid continuo work of harpsichordist Fritz Siebert, cellist Werner Matzke and bassist Jean-Michel Forest. The overall effect of the evening was one of warm rapport with playing that was by turn lively, lyrical, energetic, skittish even on occasion, and engaging.

A thoroughly appreciative audience was rewarded with two encores, both by Bach, an excerpt from Cantata BWV 45 and secondly a sublime account of the Air on a G string.

© 2010 Elizabeth Paterson