Salish Sea Early Music Festival
Early 19th-century Serenades

Dates and Venue February 20, 2019, 7:30pm | Knox United Church, 5600 Balaclava St., Vancouver

Artistic Director Jeffrey Cohan Featured performers Jeffrey Cohan (8-keyed flute), Stephen Creswell (viola), Oleg Timofeyev (guitar)

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Salish Sea Early Music Festival is pushing the definition of “early music” to include the 19th century, although on this evening the music came from the beginning of the century. Four composers were presented who are not frequently performed. A quick web search reveals that they must all be well known to particular instrumentalists, as some of their works are still in print. Anton Bernhard Furstenau and Gaspard Kummer were both well-known performers in their time and wrote extensively for the flute; Leonardo de Call was a guitar virtuoso and popular composer of chamber music, much of it for guitar, for the general public. Joseph Kuffner began as a court composer, composing a number of symphonies and has an extensive list of chamber music, again, particularly music for guitar.

The first Serenade was a charming and typical sample of the form, several movements, flowing melodies, cheerful nature, and spirited dialogue amongst the musicians. Composer Leonardo de Call had a career as a teacher. If his lessons were anything like this Serenade they must have been good fun. The give and take between the flute and viola, with a constant harmonious companionship offered by the guitar, was like a long conversation between old friends, sometimes excitedly exchanging ideas, then relaxed and easy, taking graceful turns or marching firmly on.

The next piece, "Troisieme Serenade, Opus 10 "by Anton Bernhard Furstenau set off with a flirtatious Allegro, the theme exchanged between flute and viola and interspersed with sparkling cadenzas from the flute. The following Vivace called for more virtuosic playing from flute and viola contrasting with a darker trio and a luscious laid-back Romance. The last movement Andante con Variatione soon belied its elegant theme calling for furious virtuoso playing from all three players, with the guitar displaying rippling passagework.

A duo for flute and guitar followed the Intermission, Gaspard Kummer’s "Variations sur le theme La Sentinelle, Opus 5", a gentle set, lilting, sometimes soulful and a little sad. Released from bass line duty, the guitar shone, Timofeyev partnering Cohan’s flute with warm concord

Creswell rejoined the group for the final Serenade by Joseph Kuffner which roamed through a serene Allegro touched with anxiety, delicate melancholy, solid four-square sections, a hint of folksong..

Jeffrey Cohan and Oleg Timofeyev both played on original instruments. The 8-keyed flute was made around 1820 by Rudall of hard Jamaica cocus wood, known for producing a bright, brilliant sound. In the hands - and flying fingers - of Jeffrey Cohan it was also rounded and complex. Timofeyev’s 7-stringed Russian guitar was also an original of similar date, expertly restored and played with impressive agility. Creswell’s viola, a modern copy of a historical model, was rich and resonant and blended in exceptionally well with the older instruments.

In fact, this particular combination of instruments as a trio was extremely satisfying. The flexible form of the Serenade and the nimbleness of the instruments, the fresh and lively dialogue of the score plus the dazzling virtuoso passages contributed to an intimate, accomplished result.

© 2019 Elizabeth Paterson