Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 30, 2019

REVIEW: Aston Magna Music Festival: Pachelbel/Vivaldi/Bach/Villa Lobos

Aston Magna Music Festival, St. James Place, Great Barrington, MA
July 27, 2019
By Karoun Charkoudian

This beautiful July evening at Aston Magna showcased virtuosic soloists against a varying chamber baroque orchestra. The orchestra included a mix of period instruments that changed throughout the program -- violins, viola, bass, harpsichord, flute, and cello. Though it’s not common to hear Baroque music performed with unique period instruments, this has been Aston Magna’s specialty for decades. Saint James Place with its vaulted ceiling and cushioned pews provided an ideal intimate setting for this concert.

The evening opened with Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue in D Major. Though the Canon is so commonly heard, this performance was nothing like the average chamber group playing for a wedding. This piece was played by a beautiful combination of harpsichord, two violins, a viola, and a cello. The performance was passionate and lyrical.

Next, Aldo Abreu delighted the audience as the soloist in a Vivaldi concerto, on a sopranino recorder (small and high-pitched). He stood at the center of the six-person chamber orchestra, faced the audience squarely, and made eye contact while playing. Nothing like a third-grade recorder class, Abreu is a virtuoso, fingers flying, tonguing pristine, and in the Larghetto he brought out impressive tone and depth for such a small instrument. For an encore he played an even smaller recorder, reminiscent of a tin whistle; tonguing and fingering was fast and furious, and to perfection.

Another highlight of the evening was hearing the baroque flute, a rare instrument, in both the Bach Cantata and Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras. Christopher Kreuger’s playing added a contrasting sound, deep rich and woody, to the group made up of mostly string instruments. 
Kristen Watson, soprano

In the final piece, Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras, the Cantilena movement began and ended with the soprano soloist singing without words. The violins played pizzicato, and the solo was handed between the vocalist, the violinist, and the cellist. At the conclusion of the Cantilena, the vocalist sang with her mouth closed, humming, but with greater depth. The sound was so ethereal -- it was hard to differentiate between the string instrument, and the voice -- disorienting and mystical. The audience sat in relaxed reverie throughout the performance.