Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 41
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors

Advertise in Town Topics

Weather Forecast


Richardson Chamber Players Open Season by Paying Homage to Baroque Vienna

Nancy Plum

Musical ensembles at Princeton University are sometimes like cells — they subdivide, take on new characteristics, and then recombine to form new musical forms. The Richardson Chamber Players, co-directed by Michael Pratt and Nathan Randall, is presenting itself this season as three musical identities: Baroque, Classical, and Romantic. The ensemble presented its first concert of the season on Sunday Afternoon as the Richardson Baroque Players, focusing the program on shorter works of the 17th century. This performance, subtitled “Vienna: Baroque” and held in Richardson Auditorium, featured Baroque violinist Nancy Wilson, cornettist Michael Collver, Vivian Barton Dozer playing Baroque cello and viola da gamba, and harpsichordist Wendy Young. The four artists playing five instruments found a surprisingly great deal of variety in the music of eight early Baroque composers.

Several of these composers were relatively unknown so that their birth and/or death dates were uncertain, and in some cases all that was known is when they served in a given Viennese court (one of the criteria for being included in this concert). Marco Antonio Ferro, who we know died in 1662, represented the trend in Vienna to hire Italian court musicians and composers, creating the musical style which extended into the more commonly known period of Bach and his contemporaries. Ferro’s Canzona featured all four players and introduced the audience to the cornetto, a valveless precursor to the trumpet. Michael Collver has derived a career from this now defunct instrument, and demonstrated throughout Sunday’s performance the high level of playing that could be achieved on the instrument. One would have had a hard time telling the difference between this instrument and a modern trumpet, given the clean and clear sound of Mr. Collver’s playing. In particular, the second section of this Canzona included a great number of repeated notes which were very crisp. Ms. Dozer provided very steady and solid accompaniment on the cello and Ms. Wilson and Ms. Young provided subtle background on the violin and harpsichord.

The Richardson Chamber Players next concert on Sunday February 22, 2009 at 3 p.m. will explore the music of Vienna during the Classical period, including music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. For information call (609) 258-5000.

The harpsichord is often known as an accompanying instrument in this period of music and it was nice to hear it played solo by Ms. Young in a Suite by Johann Jacob Froberger, one of the more well-known composers on the program. The second movement “Gigue” demonstrated a style which clearly paved the way to Bach, and Ms. Young brought out well the dance character of each movement.

In the first half of the concert, Ms. Dozer switched back and forth between the cello and the viola da gamba, and played each instrument equally cleanly, with an especially sweet tone from the cello. A number of musical effects were evident in Dario Castello’s Sonata Sesta, and both cornetto and gamba were precise. Ms. Wilson played consistently with just a hint of vibrato throughout the afternoon; the lack of vibrato from these instruments did not create too dry a sound.

Sonata Quarta by Giovanni Battista Buonamente offered Mr. Collver the opportunity to play longer lines on the cornetto, with stylistic tapered phrases that brought the instrument even closer to the modern trumpet. Mr. Collver was also able to make the instrument sound muted at times. His phrasing was well matched by Ms. Wilson when they played simultaneously, and the two upper instruments went together well. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s Sonata III required the most virtuosic playing from the violin, and the three instrumentalists required for this work (without the cornetto) moved through the multiple sections well. The four players of this ensemble communicated well with each other, and light-hearted movements and musical figures moved right along.

Although on paper this concert seemed like an afternoon of short works by obscure composers, to members of the audience it clearly was a very pleasant way to spend part of the day. Some audience members seemed to relax and enjoy the music while studying; others listened intently and discussed the various attributes of the instruments between pieces and at intermission. If the aim of the Richardson Chamber Players with this concert was to pique curiosity about the gamba and cornetto in particular, the afternoon was a complete success.

Return to Top | Go to All in a Day's Work

Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton — McCaffrey’s, Cox’s, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszer’s (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell — Village Express; Rocky Hill — Wawa (Route 518); Pennington — Pennington Market.
Copyright© Town Topics®, Inc. 2011.