Camerata Kilkenny at the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle on 19 September 2015

The Chapel Royal’s bicentenary celebrations continue with a performance by Camerata Kilkenny. Rather than the full ensemble heard so brilliantly at last month’s Kilkenny Festival, instead this is an intimate, chamber affair, with just four instrumental players (Maya Homburger, Claire Duff (violins), Sarah McMahon (cello) and Malcolm Proud (organ and harpsichord)) and soprano Maria Keohane.

Malcolm Proud opens the concert with two short Renaissance dances from the Dublin Virginal Manuscript, by ‘Master Taylor’, elegantly played on the chamber organ. They establish a rarefied mood, appropriate despite the obvious distance in time and style from the rest of the programme.

The most arresting parts of the evening are the instrumental works. Cellist Sarah McMahon (accompanied by Proud) plays the Sonata in C for cello and continuo by Geminiani with evident relish. She projects the singing line of the slow ‘Affetuoso’ like an operatic lament, before nimbly racing through the playful finale. Claire Duff (with continuo players McMahon and Proud) treats us to a fascinating performance of Corelli’s Violin Sonata in G minor, as embellished with ornaments by Geniniani’s pupil (and master of music at Dublin Castle) Matthew Dubourg. Presented in this way, it is the only work on the programme to meet the promise of the concert’s slightly misleading title (‘Music from 18th Century Dublin’). Duff is as impressive as ever, brilliantly attending to the virtuoso style of the piece with authority and expressive, warm-toned playing. Between these two works, Malcolm Proud performs Handel’s Suite in E (a.k.a. ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’) with nonchalant grace, reliably engaging and thoughtful.

The performances of the two vocal works raise interesting questions. Keohane sings both the Salve Regina and the cantata Armida Abbandonata beautifully, showing rapid agility and excellent tonal control. Her interpretations, however, leave something to be desired. The sensitive word-painting of the Salve Regina is less apparent than it should be, and she sings the first aria of Armida Abbandonata (“Ah, crudele” [Ah, cruel one], clearly a ‘rage’ aria) without any trace of anger. The drama of her performance seems more attuned to musical rather than textual cues, which is frustrating, a lost opportunity. She nevertheless serves as an effective foil for the three string players, with excellent playing from McMahon in the Salve Regina and fine teamwork from Homburger and Duff.

Programme:

Master Taylor: Pavan and Galliard (from the Dublin Virginal Manuscript)

George Frideric Handel: Salve Regina (for soprano, strings and continuo), HWV 241

Francesco Geminiani: Sonata in C major for cello and continuo, Op. 5/3

Handel: Harpsichord Suite in E major, HWV 430

Arcangelo Corelli: Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 5/5 (with ornaments by Matthew Dubourg)

Handel: Armida Abbandonata (cantata for soprano, two violins and continuo), HWV 105

 

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