A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

If you really want to stump music freaks ask them to name a couple of Italian composers whose names do not end in i. If they are good they might begin with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, mention Giovanni Battista Fontana and then point out that French composer Jean-Baptiste de Lully (originally Giovanni Battista di Lulli) are three. After that it's definitely uphill.

At last night's (almost secret pre-concert concert) of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra's season held at St James Anglican on Cordova (that very same concert will be repeated today at St Augustine's in Kerrisdale and tomorrow at West Vancouver United Church) the interesting program featured 6 Italian baroque composers and one, in this day and age, almost unknown German, Georg Muffat. Fully 50% of the Italian composers had names that did not end in i! There was Alessandro Scarlatti (father of the better known Domenico), then Arcangelo Corelli and Giuseppe Valentini affectionately known as the Little Ragamuffin. But the other three featured composers were the ones that were unexpected for their definitive lack of that final i. Consider Alessandro Stradella (murdered at age 37), Francesco Durante (singly responsible for creating the first viola joke and told very well by the soon to be mother, Glenys Webster and fellow jokester Mieka Kohut) and the very Roman Giovanni Zamboni Romano!

Aside from the odd names of mostly unknown composers (but not lacking in originality and or virtuosity) the concert was full of real and most pleasant surprises all improved by the vision of being able to scrape the filling off some Oreos accompanied by tea in the parish hall during the intermission.

The thematic of the concert seemed to be weighted by murder (Scarlati's piece was his introduction to the oratorio Cain, or The First Murder), or knowledge that the composer Alessandro Stradella had been brutally murdered, buffered in between, by the soaring music of Arcangelo Corelli who may or may have not levitated while playing his violin at church.

For me there were two high points. There was an astounding six-voice fugue in the second movement of Giuseppe Valentini's Concerto in a minor for four violins, Op 7 No. 11 that from my vantage point on the first row seat, three feet from violinist Paul Luchkow (seen here) which even made my otherwise blasé wife Rosemary sit up and notice because it was so beautiful. The other peak happened when guest leader, archlute and baroque guitar player, Luca Harris sat down to play his huge (extremely long) archlute which is sort of like a bass lute. It's bass notes stretched towards the church ceiling and every time he played that G string my whole body resonated (might I have levitated just a bit?) at its sound. It is a sound that rivals that of a bass trombone or a beautifully played Guarneri del Gesù. It is not often that one gets to hear an archlute solo (Sonata in G major from Sonate d'intavolatura di leuto, Op 1) by Giovanni Zamboni Romano.


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