Baroque Treasures with Jonathan Crow

Dates and Venues 15 and 16 February 2008 @ 8pm | Chan Centre for the Performing Arts AND 18 February 2008 @ 8pm | Bell Performing Arts Centre, Surrey

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The humorous, almost comic, VSO Concertmaster, Mark Fewer led this "Bach & Beyond" concert which featured Concerto for Two Violins by Johann Sebastian Bach, the Canzonas of Giovanni Gabrieli, and Luigi Boccherini's Sinfonia Op. XII, No. 4 in D minor, La casa Del Diavolo.

The first part of the concert, Canzona Septimi Toni No. 2 and Canzona Primi Toni, played with wind instruments, particularly trumpets and French horns, was conducted by Mark Fewer who, with pride, announced that this was the group that led VSO to the Grammys winning an award in the recent event.

The Canzonas of Gabrieli were played in the public squares and churches of Baroque Venice during elaborate festivals, rituals and ceremonies. The wind instrumentalists in this performance gave a regal presentation of the Canzonas, as this was what was expected, since royalty would be present in these festivities.

The next item in the programme was Boccherini's La Casa Del Diavolo, played mostly with string instruments. In introducing this piece, Fewer referred to the Bugs Bunny cartoons whose music score was taken from Boccherini's compositions.

The tempo of the first movement of the Sinfonia started slow, and ended up in an Allegro. The second movement was more serene, as in a romantic ballad, and towards the finale, the Allegro bursts in a hellish fury.

In the programme notes, Don Anderson mentions that Boccherini borrowed the score note-for-note from Christoph Willibald Gluck's 1761 ballet Don Juan. In those days, plagiarism was a common practice; in fact, it was considered a gesture of respect rather than theft.

After the intermission, Fewer teamed up with former Montreal Symphony Concertmaster Jonathan Crow, playing two of Bach's Concertos for Two Violins, the first in C minor and the second in D minor. Fewer made mention that Crow's violin dated back to 1735 and his was just manufactured in 2004. The Surrey audience enjoyed Fewer's banter.

It was interesting to see these two play together: Crow was lanky with a full set of hair, while Fewer was short and bald. But their violins played heavenly music. In fact, the music composed by Bach was really intended to be divine as he was the Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold.

This was a delightful evening listening to the VSO playing Baroque music. Congratulations for winning the Grammys!

© 2008 Ed Farolan