Review: Chamber Music Society

Dec. 18, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church

Elegance rubbed shoulders with rusticity in “King and Shepherds,” the finale of the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia’s Winter Baroque mini-series.

The program – Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 (better known as the “Christmas Concerto”); J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 1039; Johann Friedrich Fasch’s Sonata à 4 in D minor and the Overture-Suite in E minor and Conclusion from Book 1 of Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Tafelmusik” (“Banquet Music”) – contrasted baroque formalities, from Bach’s contrapuntal writing to Fasch’s Italiante fiddle filagree, with the more earthy styles of the pastorale that concludes Corelli’s concerto and the folk dances of Telemann’s suite.

All but the Fasch sonata featured two traverso (transverse) flutes, played by Brandon Patrick George and Mary Boodell. This wooden instrument projects more softly and produces a wider range of tone colors than the modern flute, although at some cost in clarity of articulation.

The instrument’s attributes and shortcomings were audible in these performances. Elaborate exchanges between the two instruments sounded rather muddy at medium tempos – in the introduction of the Bach sonata, for example – but became clearer in faster sections. The flutes’ coloristic possibilities shone in the Corelli pastorale and even more so in trio sections of dance movements in the Telemann.

George and Boodell provided a kind of soft center when playing with a string ensemble led by two violinists of assertive brilliance: Johnny Gandlesman, a member of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the multicultural Silk Road Ensemble, as well as a soloist of rising renown; and Christina Day Martinson, concertmaster of Boston Baroque and associate concertmaster of that city’s venerable Handel and Haydn Society.

They, along with violist Celia Hatton, cellist James Wilson (artistic director of the Chamber Music Society) and double-bassist Jessica Powell Eig, played with high-baroque style, to brilliant effect in the Fasch, but also with a gratifyingly earthy undertone, which came through potently in the Telemann.

The continuo (rhythm) section – Wilson, harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt and arch-lutenist Adam Cockerham – added both texture and sonic bulk. Wilson’s bass elaborations in several of the Telemann dance movements were a welcome bonus.