Irish Baroque Orchestra at Newman University Church, Dublin, on 27 September 2015

The Irish Baroque Orchestra opens its 2015-16 season with a concert of “exotic concertos from the 18th century”. As director Monica Huggett explains, this is an opportunity to showcase individual players from within the ensemble, and so it proves. A programme of seven concertos might appear unusual, even daunting, but instead this is an attractive listening tour through a selection of music from the German courts of the early 18th century. It is also, in its way, a backwards tribute to the absent figure of J.S. Bach, as three of the composers programmed (Telemann, Graupner and Fasch) were short-listed ahead of him for the post of director of the Leipzig Thomaskirche.

The wit and colour of Fasch’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe and Heinichen’s Oboe Concerto (with flautist Lisa Beznosiuk and oboist Andreas Helm as soloists) come across with elegance and clarity. The plucked (pizzicato) violins accompanying Helm in the slow movement of the Heinichen creates a witty and unusual contrast. Things get even more idiosyncratic with the Telemann Concerto for Two Violins and Bassoon, as the sole wind instrument (played by Peter Whelan) competes for attention with violinists Huggett and Claire Duff, with sparkling playing from all three. The double-dose of bass in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos makes for a richly gritty and engrossing listen, with Sarah McMahon and Jonathan Byers bringing the piece alive with an exciting feeling for pace and rhythm. Peter Whelan returns to the stage for Graupner’s virtuosic Bassoon Concerto, the dancing passagework of the outer movements brought out all the more by Whelan’s stylish showmanship.

Innovative instruments also make an impact, with the elegant curved forms of the oboes da caccia in Fasch’s Concerto in G, and most notably in the concert’s closing work. This, Graupner’s Triple Concerto in G, features the muted, other-worldly sounds of the flute d’amore and oboe d’amore, matched with the hurdy-gurdy-like folksiness of Huw Daniel’s viola d’amore. Hearing any one of these ‘amore’ instruments is rare enough, but three together creates a curiously haunting effect, and the complex, driving rhythms of the finale make for a brilliant yet delicate dance. An intriguing and enjoyable programme.

Programme:

Johann Friedrich Fasch: Concerto in B minor for Flute and Oboe, FaWV L:h1

Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto in D for Two Violins and Bassoon, TWV 53: D4

Johann David Heinichen: Concerto in G minor for Oboe, Seibel 237

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in G for Two Cellos, RV 531

Fasch: Concerto in G for Two Oboes da Caccia, Two Violas, Two Bassoons and Continuo, FWV L:G11

Christoph Graupner: Concerto in C for Bassoon, GWV 301

Graupner: Triple Concerto in G for Flute d’amore, Oboe d’amore and Viola d’amore, GWV 333

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