Tuesday, October 10, 2017
By Christine Facciolo
If it were possible to gather together composers — both living and dead — and ask them who they thought was the greatest composer of all time, chances are one name would surface more than others: J.S. Bach. And with good reason. Bach is one of the few — maybe the only — composer to succeed in combining masterful craftsmanship with such profound expressivity.
TheMusic School of Delaware used the artistry of J.S. Bach to say thank you to its patrons for their generosity on Wednesday, October 4, as it opened another season of its Music Masters Concert Series with an all-Bach program.
Maestro Simeone Tartaglione led a 15-member chamber orchestra comprised of music school faculty and guest artists.
Tartaglione bookended the program with two works from Bach’s most imaginative and celebrated oeuvre: the Brandenburg Concertos. The concert opened with a formidable rendering of the short but robust third Brandenburg. Bach composed two substantial movements for this work, leaving the players to improvise a transitional movement, for which he provided only two chords.
Tartaglione and his players executed the Allegro movements at an authentically robust tempo. Bach’s contrapuntal mastery was vividly brought out by this ensemble that interacted with each other like the cooperative soloists Bach intended them to be.
Concerto No. 5, however, makes demands on the harpsichord soloist that far exceeds anything else in the repertoire. As Tartaglione pointed out, this work is, for all intents and purposes, the first keyboard concerto.
Bach gives the harpsichord (here in the capable hands of Tracy Richardson) a most unusual role: it starts out playing a basso continuo, proceeds to play solo melodies in dialogue with the flute (Dr. Lynne Cooksey) and violin (Christof Richter) and then gets carried away with virtuosic scales that leave the others in the dust. Richardson delivered with great panache and rhythmic sensibility, showing what top-tier musicianship can bring to a familiar work.
Christof Richter soloed in a polished performance of the Violin Concerto in E Major. The opening is Bach at his sunniest, and Richter and the group exuded pure joy as they eased into the mellow mood this music demands. The expressive Adagio was exquisite as it contrasted a dark intensity with moments of golden light. The finale was cheerful and full of energy.
Dr. Lynne Cooksey was equally impressive in the Suite No. 2 in B Minor. Cooksey played with style and agility, executing the piece’s fast passages with note-perfect ease, playing a lovely duet with the cello in the sixth-movement Polonaise, producing lovely sighing effects in the Menuett and pulling out all the stops in the appropriately fast final-movement Badinerie, earning her a round of enthusiastic applause from the very appreciative audience.