Bach and Mozart make splendid Rembrandt holiday fare

Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

By Dennis Polkow

Johann Sebastian Bach

With music of the season being so paramount amongst programmers this time of year, it takes an imaginative group to call a December program “Holiday Treats” that has not one single piece of holiday music on it.

Such was the case Sunday afternoon at Northwestern University’s Alice Millar Chapel where the Rembrandt Chamber Players spotlighted warhorses by Bach and Mozart.

Bach’s Concerto for Oboe d’Amore is a reconstruction based on the Harpsichord Concerto in A (BWV 1055) that has been demonstrated to be a transcription of what was originally an Oboe d’Amore Concerto.

Robert Morgan was the soloist with a one piece-per-part complement of five string players with harpsichord that kept textures lean but tempos were bewilderingly slow.

Mozart’s most famous serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik, also performed one piece-per-part, fared far better, with the ensemble led by first violinist Teresa Fream.The Allegro was busting with Mozartean charm and spontaneity, the Romanze epitomized energized restraint followed by a danceable Menuetto and a delicate yet playful rondo that overall made for the best performance of the program.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 followed with an augmented string section with Robert Hanford as first violinist and Stephen Alltop conducting from the harpsichord facing out from the ensemble encircling him. Alltop played a cadenza for the missing Adagio movement connecting the outer movements.

In contrast to the Oboe d’Amore Concerto, the tempos here were brisk, indeed, almost breakneck in the third movement Allegro. Although sometimes section balances were not ideal — low strings dominated and were sometimes scattered in their subject entrances — the spirit was spot on.

In a nice gesture of solidarity to the Minnesota Orchestra, which went on strike over two months ago and remains locked out with no end in sight, second trumpeter Robert Dorer was the soloist for Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 along with violinist Hanford and oboist Morgan.

Again led by Alltop from the harpsichord, the piece served as a festive and fitting finale to the proceedings even if oboe and violin lines were sometimes overwhelmed by the strings.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Bach and Mozart make splendid Rembrandt holiday fare”

  1. Posted Dec 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm by Alan Meyers

    Thanks for the enthusiastic review. For your information, however, the Oboe D’Amore concerto is supposed to be performed more slowly than the two Brandenburgs, and Morgan’s performance at this slower pace was all the more remarkable. Also, while it may appear than Stephen Alltop was conducting from his spot in the middle of the ensemble, he was not. He was simply looking from side to side to see if he was in sync with the other players and to appreciate their work. Rembrandt never has a conductor.

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