THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 27, 2011 --- A radiant Birgit Rieck dazzled the audience at last Saturday’s Consortium Aurora Borealis Concert. The programme was titled “Sweet Pleasures of the German Baroque” and the word “Sweet” is a play on the old name for the recorder “flauto dolce”.
Most of us have had some exposure to the recorder, at least if you went to school where music programs existed. Usually there would be a class full of students blowing away on plastic recorders. It takes nerve to be a grade school music teacher!
The recorder was the flute of choice for most baroque composers. While quality wood recorders are more expensive than the plastic variety it is an instrument that can withstand a fair amount of abuse and still perform remarkably well. This quality alone makes them useful to this day as a tutoring instrument for children. In Telemann’s time the recorder could be played in tune much more easily than the early transverse flute. The Baroque recorder was limited in that its drops in the lower range, and while the upper range it is bright and brilliant there is not much room for dynamic expression. Composers such as Bach often used two recorders playing in thirds to get a balance in his compositions for recorders and strings.
For pieces on the concert where two recorders were required Robert Van Wyck would set aside his baroque transverse flute and join the ensemble playing the second recorder part. What I enjoyed about this performance was the balance between the instruments in the ensemble. I like to think that if there is a harpsichord in the music it would be nice to hear it beyond the third row of seats. Throughout the concert I could hear the harpsichord. Normally when this instrument is used with violins the more powerful modern violins blow the harpsichord away even when played with baroque bows.
Other players deserve mention as well. Anthony Bacon did a solid job playing the cello part of the basso continuo in all pieces where he was playing with the harpsichord. His real talent begins to show in the excerpts from one of the Bach solo cello suites. Cello players spend a lifetime playing and perfecting these pieces, there was a time that it could be said you have mastered the cello when you can play all 6 cello suites. If Bach had known of the demands of modern composition he would have written another cello suite!
Recorders were often used in liturgical cantatas as part of the instrumental ensemble. The evening’s performance included a full cantata by Georg Philip Telemann. I was admirably sung by Susan Korstanje, soprano. An excerpt from Bach’s Magnificat for two recorders, continuo and soprano was also included.
In a stroke of brilliant programming Elizabeth Ganiatsos has included all the different aspects of the use of the recorder at a time when the instrument was at its zenith. It was used with voice, it was paired with its rival the baroque transverse flute, we heard the instrument paired with another recorder and there was even a sonata for recorder, violin and basso continuo.
This was a better audience than Consortium has seen in awhile and many will be happy to know Dr. Rieck will be playing once more with Consortium. In the February 25th all Vivaldi concert she will play the concerto for soprano recorder and strings.
Saturday December 3rd will feature another Consortium Concert. As usual all consortium concerts begin at 8:00 p.m. but this season the Board has instituted pre-concert talks and they begin at 7:30 in the Sanctuary of St. Paul’s United Church. The pre-concert talk will be given by TBSO maestro Arthur Post and the concert is titled “A Spanish Flavour” Passion and Romance.
The concert is a bit of a departure for the Consortium, but there are a large number of people who study and play the guitar in Thunder Bay. Joseph Roy will accompany mezzo-soprano Kim Erickson. Kim has a warm sensual voice and it will be a perfect match for the music of 19th and 20th century Spain. There will be a variety of musical styles from the fandango, flamenco, and folk music.
For more information visit the consortium website at
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com