Harmonious Blacksmith open 63rd season brilliantly

The Harmonious Blacksmith returned Sunday afternoon to Emma Willard’s Kiggins Hall to open the 63rd

The Harmonious Blacksmith returned Sunday afternoon to Emma Willard’s Kiggins Hall to open the 63rd season of the Friends of Chamber Music series. The concert was an especially euphonious creation.

The group was founded in 2006 to explore the improvisatory nature of Renaissance and Baroque music. The players’ skill and facility with the often ornately devised ornamentations was not only brilliant but they played everything with a natural kind of sensibility. Their grasp of the periods’ styles made it seem like they were really court musicians of some 16th century prince who had somehow dropped in for a visit.

Recorder player Justin Godoy, violinist Johanna Novom, theorbo/baroque guitarist William Simms, baroque cellist Emily Walhout, harpsichordist/baroque guitarist Joseph Gascho, and soprano Jolle Greenleaf were the perfect ensemble. Greenleaf never had to push to project; balances were a wonderful blend. For this concert, Blacksmith focused on music one might have heard in the Venetian concert hall or streets of the era. Everything had a carnival kind of feel to it and the songs were almost all about love. That joyful quality permeated the players’ approach with Godoy often adding puckish asides.

They began with Tarquinio Merula’s “Sentirete una Canzonetta.” Greenleaf impressed immediately with her pure, clear, agile voice. She sang the lively strophic song in excellent Italian. Although no one used much vibrato, the instrumentalists managed to end their phrases gracefully. This was followed by a short instrumental improvisation that was also prettily done.

Claudio Monteverdi’s “Ohime Ch’io Cado” had much more complexity of harmony, vocal range, interweaving lines and had Greenleaf projecting a bigger voice. Bass lines were interesting, pacing was strong and Greenleaf provided suitable dramatics.

Walhout showed off her ornamenting skills in Giovanni Bassano’s sad “Ancor che col partire” with Gascho providing chordal support. All the instrumentalists got into the act for Dario Castello’s Sonata Decima, which was brilliant, varied, lighthearted and almost free-form.

Barbara Strozzi’s “L’Astratto” was charming with Greenleaf doing much melismatic ornamentation. Monteverdi wrote another complex instrumental, which Blacksmith bounced through with an easy mastery, as they did in Andre Campra’s Suite from “La Carnaval de Venise.”

Greenleaf sang Monteverdi’s “Voglia di Vita,” which was especially charming with the plucked cello and syncopated guitar. The instrumentalists were greatly stylish in Giovanni Fontana’s Sonata Settima. Gascho wrote a harpsichord solo to commemorate the famous keyboard contest Handel and Scarlatti had, which had ended in a tie. After playing a theme, he wrote each variation in the style of each composer. It was clever, well-played and educational.

The final two pieces with everyone were Merula’s “Folle e ben che si crede,” which sounded current with its modern-sounding harmony and pretty melody, and Monteverdi’s “Chiome d’Oro,” which was lively and intricate.

Categories: Entertainment

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