Salish Sea Early Music Festival
JEST Baroque Trio

Date and Venue Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at 7.30 pm 2019 | Knox United Church, 5600 Balaclava St., Vancouver

Artistic Director Jeffrey Cohan Featured performers Jeffrey Cohan, baroque flute; Suzie Napper, viola da gamba; Elizabeth Wright, harpsichord

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Salish Sea Early Music Festival and JEST, with special encouragement from Suzie Napper, have taken inspiration from the French “Concert Spirituel” to present a short and most enjoyable evening of short pieces and excerpts.

The “Concert Spirituel” is generally held to be the first public concert series in existence. Begun in Paris in the early 18th century and running until after the Revolution, the concerts were intended to provide entertainment while the theatre, opera and other attractions were closed for Lent - hence the name. Only some of the early programming included sacred works along with virtuoso pieces, short instrumental compositions and movements from larger works.

The Trio chose music by composers who wrote particularly well for JEST’s instruments, baroque flute (Jeffrey Cohan), harpsichord (Elizabeth Wright) and viola da gamba (Suzie Napper). The first part alternated pieces by Couperin written for concerts at court and movements from Boismortier’s Sonata II, op 37, written for the general musical public. Equally sophisticated and stylish, they were elegantly played in a single set. Couperin’s "La Forqueray", a harpsichord solo, was set like a glowingly intense gem between the more serene ensemble pieces. Elizabeth Wright’s control, precision and above all expressiveness were enthralling.

The highlight of the second section was C.F. Abel’s rich and gorgeous Allegro from Sonata in D for solo viol which Suzie Napper explored with reaching eloquence. Three of Rameau’s brief character sketches surrounded the Abel. The lively conversational interaction amongst the three in" La Laborde", and" L’Agacante", the philosophical discussion in "La Boucon", suited JEST well. They were wholly delightful, brilliant and surprising. The set finished with a lilting Chaconne of considerable depth by the violist Jacque Morel, thoughtfully and movingly played.

The final section was meditative, and full of feeling.  As with the rest of the program, virtuosity and technique vanished behind the force of the music.  The dark beauty of Suzie Napper’s viol in Ste-Colombe’s Prelude in d minor, the wistfulness of Jeffrey Cohan’s flute in Couperin’s Le Rossignol en amour, the drama and movement of the Elizabeth Wright’s harpsichord in Couperin’s La Regente ou La Minerve will stay in the mind.  And the sympathy obvious amongst the players was a real pleasure.

They finished with a pair of engaging Musettes in which the trio imitated bagpies, even closing with a wheezing sigh.

© 2019 Elizabeth Paterson