Quick Hits: New look on Pittsburgh's classical music scene

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
January 9, 2015
Eilzabeth Bloom

In a month typically saturated with holiday-themed concerts, Chatham Baroque offered an alternative: “Fête Parisienne,” a French-inspired program performed the weekend before Christmas. I caught the second of the ensemble’s three performances, at Synod Hall in Oakland; the others took place at St. James Parish in Sewickley and Campbell Memorial Chapel at Chatham University.

For much of the concert, the historically informed performance trio – Andrew Fouts, baroque violin; Patricia Halverson, viola de gamba; and Scott Pauley, theorbo – was joined by harpsichordist Adam Pearl and baroque flutist Stephen Schultz. They sounded less like guests than core members of the group, particularly in fiery renditions of two of Telemann’s Paris Quartets (Premiere Suite in E Minor and Quartet No. 1 in D major), one each from the composer’s sets published in 1730 and 1738. Those pieces bookended the concert, and served as its musical center; the Chaconne from the final quartet was the group’s encore.

What I most enjoyed in this concert was the alternation between ensemble pieces and others that had a more soloistic character. Take Georg Muffat’s Sonata per violino e basso. It’s a gem of a piece: The one-two punch of the opening melody and its eventual restatement is comforting yet poignant. Mr. Fouts’ interpretation exposed and enhanced the piece’s intrinsic beauty, with a melting tone and thoughtful rubato. Check out this version by Ingrid Matthews (who performed at Synod Hall last February, with harpsichordist Byron Schenkman, on the Renaissance and Baroque series):https://youtu.be/Pvdi06DnJHE

Robert de Visee’s Suite in A minor was a welcome showcase for theorbo, especially since Mr. Pauley could be difficult to hear in other pieces. And another treat, not listed on the program, was the Allemande - L'Exquise from Couperin’s 27th Ordre. Here, Mr. Pearl’s crisp, bright phrasing seemed to build toward a musical whole, like tightly woven sentences of a paragraph. A sample by Blandine Verlet: https://youtu.be/t_nnotvjTgk

Indeed, without the typical Christmas music, the only reminder that we were in the throes of the winter season was a clanking radiator that erased some of the hall’s sonic advantages – and the feeling, upon leaving the concert, of having attended a warm holiday gathering.

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750. Twitter: @BloomPG.