Ensemble Chaconne debuted Friday night at Schenectady County Community College’s Taylor Auditorium to open the college’s chamber music series.
Baroque flutist Peter Bloom, viola da gambist Carol Lewis, and Baroque lutenist/English guitarist Olav Chris Henriksen are a dedicated group. Their entire repertoire is from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, which one might think would have a limited diversity of styles. But having been together since 1985, the trio has polished research skills and has found works many in Friday’s crowd had never heard of.
And the instruments they play only added to the interest: a boxwood and ivory flute, an English guitar called a cittern, a reproduction of an Baroque lute and a reproduction of a viola da gamba.The flute produced a muffled kind of sound. The cittern had a wiry sound like a balalaika. The lute was also soft, although the gamba could have blown them all away with its volume potential. Lewis fortunately kept within bounds.
The trio focused on music heard in 18th century London. Except for two composers — Thomas Linley (1732-95) and Anne Ford (1737-1824) — all were written by foreigners. They began with Handel’s Sonata in A minor. Tempos were brisk, Bloom used no vibrato, per the period. All ornamented their parts skillfully. Bloom did some good clean double tonguing in the faster second movement, but fast notes in his lower range were generally muddied.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major was charming, with the lute doubling many of the flute’s lines.This filled out the sound with the gamba as the anchor. Lewis had her solo turn in two pieces by master gambist Carl Abel. Known for his improvisations, Lewis played one of the few he wrote down. Harmonies were surprisingly modern, with many double and triple stops. The second piece was faster, with many virtuosic passages in a perky and complex style. Lewis excelled throughout.
Henriksen brought out his cittern for several of the next trios, all of them written by musicians who had been painted by Thomas Gainsborough. Linley’s “When Sable Night” was pretty, while Ignatius Sancho’s “Sweetest Bard” was like a sea chanty and very robust. The high flute part was often echoed by the gamba in a catchy way.
Henriksen played Ford’s solo cittern Presto well and then with the trio did Johann Cristian Bach’s pretty “Che ciascun per te sospiri.” Straube’s Fantasie for cittern was like a cadenza and free form. Felice de Biardini’s Trio V in C Major was lively.
The concert closed with Johann Fischer’s Sonata IX in D minor, which had virtuosic flute passages that Bloom knocked off.