Seattle Baroque Orchestra, from Bach Concertos to Purcell Hornpipes
The partnership between the Early Music Guild and Seattle Baroque Orchestra seems to be benefiting both. Nowadays there are several flourishing offshoots under their auspices, among them Early Music Discovery programs for the very young, Baroque Opera, First Tuesday Concert series, and Friday Concert Series in Kirkland, while this season’s International series is a rich one. Next up in this last, is Musica Ficta from Valencia, Spain, on October 13.
Seattle Baroque Orchestra kicked off the season Saturday night with a performance at Town Hall of Bach and Purcell, the concert bracketed by the two surviving Bach concertos for one solo violin, in E Major, BWV 1042, and A Minor, BWV 1041. Founding concertmaster and music director of SBO, Ingrid Matthews was the soloist in this, her 19th and last season with the group before leaving to go on to other things.
Matthews needs no musical introduction to Seattle’s early music enthusiasts. She has consistently performed with rare artistry and stellar Baroque technique as she did Saturday, at the same time directing the little orchestra of twelve other players with body language.
While these two concertos are familiar to many, the incidental music Purcell wrote for plays is mostly less so. The group of airs and dances for The Gordian Knot Unty’d are delightful, particularly towards the end, when the audience heard a familiar tune, “Rockabye, baby,” in increasingly sophisticated and developed guise. The Hornpipe from The Married Beau or The Curious Impertinent was one of two quintessentially English hornpipes (a sailor’s dance) in the program, though this one was slow enough to have the imaginative wondering how long the sailor was going to stay in the air on each jump.
Joint orchestra founder with Matthews and co-director, harpsichordist Byron Schenkman gave us a brief Bach Prelude in D Minor, BWV 940, following it immediately with three dances in a Purcell Suite also in D Minor. He, like Matthews, is a consummate musician we are fortunate to have based in Seattle. As always with his playing, musical details and structure became apparent.
Three Purcell fantasias completed the program.
Sitting as I was at the far right facing the stage in Town Hall, I was dismayed at first to hear the upper strings, and Matthews as well, sounding thin in quiet playing. It wasn’t until closer to the end that I figured out that it was the hall’s acoustics around my seat which were not supporting the music with resonance, so that a very soft line, instead of remaining floating in the air, stopped dead. Town Hall’s acoustics have always had some uneven areas. Perhaps sometime soon they will have the money to improve the last few spots.
Another, more immediate gripe: three women’s toilets (and one for disabled women) are just not enough when all or most of the hall’s 832 seats are filled. The line at intermission stretched two-thirds down the hallway, and by the time the last people made it through, people were in their seats for the concert’s second half. Somehow, this has to be redressed. It’s about time.