Cape Consort & Camerata Tinta Barocca – Handel Dixit Dominus, Bach A: Mass #ConcertReview

Cape Consort & Camerata Tinta Barocca – Handel Dixit Dominus, Bach A: Mass #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

The Cape Consort and Camerata Tinta Barocca
St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church 8:00pm Wednesday 22 June 2016

Artistic Directors Erik Dippenaar and Hans Huyssen celebrated the tradition established by CTB founder Quentin Crida of a “Pre-concert talk NOT LECTURE” – an educational yet amusing introduction to the works on the program. Crida often contextualised the music in relation to parallel historical events such as battles or famous pirates, and it is good to see the continuation of his much appreciated preludes. Intellectually pithy enough for the academics in the room, Dippenaar’s talk focussed on Handel’s style and influences, as well as illustrating some of the more zany events in Handel’s life, such as the great composer duelling with fellow maestro Johann Mattheson over an argument in the orchestra pit. Huyssen talking about Bach, struck a similar balance between information and interest, explaining the recycling of themes and how they will appear in the mass, as well as causing us to ponder the close proximity of the two composers who were born just one month and 150km apart, Handel February 1685 in Halle, and Bach March 1685 in Eisenach. In closing, Huyssen drew our attention to the significance of this collaboration between the Cape Consort and Camerata Tinta Barocca: an all-local production that did not rely on imported soloists to draw a crowd. He said: “We are now at a stage where we can perform major baroque pieces with local forces!”
There was enthusiastic applause.

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Cape Consort, Camerata Tinta Barocca, Erik Dippenaar, Hans Huyssen, Matildie Thom Wium, Elsabé Richter, Lente Louw, Antoinette Blyth, Willem Bester, Warren Vernon-Driscoll, Lance Phillip, Donal Slemon, Charles Ainslie, Monika Voysey Andy Wilding, #CamerataTintaBarocca #CapeConsort #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

Erik Dippenaar introducing Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Cape Consort and Camerata Tinta Barocca

Handel – Dixit Dominus
With a few extra bows from the UCT College of Music to swell it’s ranks, “the band” maintained its usual high standard of clean delivery and light youthfulness, playing on period instruments. The continuo section’s heartbeat was as one instrument, undeterred by its size: harpsichord, two celli, theorbo (bass lute), and double-bass. The additions from UCT brought the CTB up to sixteen for the Handel, and balanced perfectly with the Cape Consort who were fourteen, joined by three singers from UCT. A choir and orchestra of thirty in total is about half the size of Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists combined, and while larger productions have powerful choruses, a smaller group creates a more soloist-orientated performance, as Dippenaar pointed out during his talk.

Matildie Thom Wium made it look easy, navigating the tricky arpeggios of Virgam virtutis in a mellow mezzo tone with excellent control of breathing and intonation. The Tecum principium by Elsabé Richter was agile, delicate, and enchantingly ornamented. Beautiful counterpoint in 3rds from the violins! Tutti sections demonstrated the balance advantage of a small orchestra and highlighted soloists. There is always an excitement and fresh enthusiasm about Camerata Tinta Barocca. They make it look fun to change from crotchets to quavers, like a dance that suddenly turns to double time. Their staccato was impeccable.

From deep within the folds of the work, Lente Louw’s De torrente in via emerged like Venus in Botticelli’s painting. Her crescendo was so gradual as to seem magical, and with Antoinette Blyth they created the most soothing healing moment: “On his way, he will drink of the torrent, so to look up in triumph.”

The 3 Tenors were suitably glorious in the Gloria Patri, Willem Bester, Warren Vernon-Driscoll, and Lance Phillip.

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Cape Consort, Camerata Tinta Barocca, Erik Dippenaar, Hans Huyssen, Matildie Thom Wium, Elsabé Richter, Lente Louw, Antoinette Blyth, Willem Bester, Warren Vernon-Driscoll, Lance Phillip, Donal Slemon, Charles Ainslie, Monika Voysey Andy Wilding, #CamerataTintaBarocca #CapeConsort #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

The Cape Consort and Camerata Tinta Barocca about to perform the Bach A-major Mass

Bach – Mass in A major
We arrived after interval to a scene change: the harpsichord had been replaced by two baroque flutes. The newly created wind section (Bridget Rennie Salonen and Nele Holm) included Dippenaar on the chamber organ, and merged into a sweet mellow woody sound.

Huyssen directed from his cello – an art in itself, considering that his bow hand was busy most of the time. It was rewarding to hear the nuances that he pointed out in his pre-concert talk about the mass, for example choosing to play the Kyrie eleison in the French baroque style because the inégalité or uneven lilt to the semiquavers evokes a kind of plea, whereas the regimented German baroque style would sound more dogmatic or demanding. Wonderfully sweet bass from Donal Slemon.

There were so many highlights – the Gloria in excelsis Deo featuring Willem Bester was a show stealer; Domine Deus showcased the authoritative rich excellently controlled lower register of Charles Ainslie and the CTB’s stunning ensemble playing (Annien Shaw violin, Uwe Grosse theorbo, Dippenaar organ and Huyssen cello) – an absolute jewel; Antoinette Blyth’s Qui tollis floated angelically over enchanting flutes, and, just as Huyssen promised in his talk, the violins played the continuo part, so as to create a sound that was “feet out of the mud, just floating with the angels, no bass”. Monika Voysey’s mature mezzo was the perfect velvety Quoniam tu solus sanctus.

The final chorus filled St Andrews with a flood of serotonin that developed in swirling eddies continuously transforming and fractalizing, following what could only be a divine blueprint. As Dippenaar commented afterwards, Bach is on a whole different level! We can only imagine his experiences that inspired such music as this, and we enjoyed doing so on this near freezing mid winter evening, braving the longest night but one, to hear the music of the spheres – the sound of the Cosmos.

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Camerata Tinta Barocca & Cape Consort: Handel’s Messiah #ConcertReview

Camerata Tinta Barocca & Cape Consort: Handel’s Messiah #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Camerata Tinta Barocca in collaboration with the Cape Consort, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Wednesday 9 December 2015

After 6 months as CTB Artistic Director, harpsichordist Erik Dippenaar continues to provide interesting and entertaining pre-concert talks, and always finds a way to relate the issues of the mid 18th century to modern times. He dedicated the evening’s performance to recent outbreaks of stupidity, violent insanity, and suffering in the world.

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The Cape Consort: Antoinette Blyth, Elsabé Richter, Lente Louw, Vera Vukovic, Alexandra Hamilton, Monika Voysey, Nick de Jager, Willem Bester, Warren Vernon-Driscoll, Reinhardt Liebenberg, Patrick Cordery, Charles Ainslie

Camerata Tinta Barocca & Cape Consort about to play Handel’s Messiah

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At full tutti, the combined forces of CTB and the Cape Consort were a heavenly and perfect balance of sound. Given that the material lends itself to the sound of perfection, that is merely its potential, and does not guarantee the performance. It is amazing to hear this work interpreted with such innocence and clarity, and performed with conviction and immaculate synchronism. CTB lived up to their reputation, maintaining their high standards of timing and excellent dynamic and technical control on period instruments. It is the singers who shine brightest in Handel’s Messiah, and the Cape Consort were well matched to the instrumentalists. We enjoyed a rich balance of voices and orchestra, through mesmerizing cascades of fugal tendrils, and crisp dotted rhythms. “For unto us a child is born” was such an exquisite delivery, so graceful and full of light – each phrase like a bite-size lemon-meringue caramel drop, melting in the mouth. The “Hallelujah” was simply spectacular.

Leopold Mozart is famously quoted: “Performers there are who tremble consistently on each note as if they had the palsy.” (source) Much like Beethoven’s tempo markings, tremolo (vibrato) is a sensitive issue, especially with Baroque music, but our soloists last Thursday achieved an ideal balance between the nude charm of the undressed voice, and the sophisticated “natural quivering” (L. Mozart) of sustained notes. Soprano Antoinette Blyth demonstrated wonderful baroque timbre, simple and accurate, with tasteful use of tremolo. Elsabé Richter has a stunning voice and compelling audience eye-contact. Her delivery was beguilingly fresh, as if singing for the first time, and yet magical, with a feeling that she knows exactly what she is doing. This temperament was perfectly suited to “I know that my redeemer” – a deceptively innocent little song, demanding an advanced level of accomplishment and experience on the part of the performer. Lente Louw is always a treat! We did “Rejoice greatly” indeed, the aria is highly technical and written for an accomplished singer. Her alto duet with Elsabé Richter “He shall feed his flock” had the audience hanging on every note, so hazy and dreamy in a lulling lazy 6/8, like two angles dancing. Not to go on and on, “But thou didst not leave” was absolutely breathtaking.

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The Cape Consort: Antoinette Blyth, Elsabé Richter, Lente Louw, Vera Vukovic, Alexandra Hamilton, Monika Voysey, Nick de Jager, Willem Bester, Warren Vernon-Driscoll, Reinhardt Liebenberg, Patrick Cordery, Charles Ainslie,

Camerata Tinta Barocca with Cape Consort soloists backrow from left: 1 Antoinette Blyth, 2 Elsabé Richter, 3 Lente Louw, 6 Monika Voysey, 7 Nick de Jager, 8 Willem Bester, 9 Warren Vernon-Driscoll, 12 Charles Ainslie

Alto Nick de Jager may well have stolen the show with amazing arpeggios in his falsetto register and seamless crossover into his modal voice. There is a natural authenticity about the male alto in Baroque music, being the closest available version of the castrato. The sound is also reminiscent of period wind instruments such as baroque flute – a breathy simpleness that can be disarmingly technical, and adds striking colour to acapella sections. Monika Voysey paradoxed her full soft deep mezzo roundness with accuracy and crystalline diction. Her delivery was compassionate and warm.

Tenor Warren Vernon-Driscoll offered a velvet version of the challenging “Every valley” with excellent intonation. Willem Bester was an artfully concealed jewel, emerging in Part 2 with brilliant technique, tasteful use of vibrato, and beautiful tone.

Charles Ainslie is the other candidate for show-stealer. His powerful bass and good audience contact ankered the dramatic deep end of the work, with a spine chilling “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth”, supported by eery atmospheric harpsichord, uneasy double bass, and edgy violins. In many ways the mainstay of the work, he was able to draw together the ethos of relating issues of the mid 18th century (and even biblical times) to modern issues. “Why do the nations” is still as topical now as it was in Handel’s time, and just as topical in biblical times. “Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing?”

I felt that beneath this performance of Handel’s Messiah was a clear interpretation that folded the last two thousand years into the present, with a Baroque flavour. The singers and instrumentalists of the Cape Consort and Camerata Tinta Barocca conveyed a strong message to rise above stupidity and violence, and find a way to live with each-other harmoniously.

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8 Photos on Pinterest:

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Music from the Court of Frederick the Great, Camerata Tinta Barocca #ConcertReview

Music from the Court of Frederick the Great, Camerata Tinta Barocca #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Camerata Tinta Barocca with Peter Martens, Wednesday 16 September 2015, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cape Town

King of what is now part of Germany and used to be called Prussia, Frederick II “The Great” was also an enthusiastic flute player and composed one hundred sonatas for this instrument, as well as four symphonies. Last week’s Camerata Tinta Barocca concert featured works by three of Frederick’s court musicians, and one work by himself, although, as Artistic Director and Harpsichord player Erik Dippenaar pointed out, it is likely that the king had quite a lot of help from his composition teacher Johann Quantz.

Frederick the Great, Sonata in C major – Bridget Rennie Salonen, Baroque flute
I could not help but imagine that, on its début, this work must have received a somewhat overzealous applause, in a “clap or die” kind of way – the way one heartily applauds the work of a mildly musical, slightly war-mad monarch, who is watching! Although musically less interesting than real composers, the king’s work was beautifully performed on a breathy Baroque flute by Bridget Rennie Salonen, a pleasure for the ears.

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Bridget Rennie Salonen, (Baroque flute) Peter Martens (Baroque cello) Erik Dippenaar Harpsichord

Bridget Rennie Salonen, (Baroque flute) Peter Martens (Baroque cello) Erik Dippenaar Harpsichord

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Peter Martens (Baroque cello) CPE Bach Cello concerto in A minor

Peter Martens (Baroque cello) CPE Bach Cello concerto in A minor

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CPE Bach, Cello concerto in A minor- Peter Martens, Baroque cello
Soaring above the squall of the composer’s agitated opening movement, Martens’ flawless semiquaver triplets reminded me why this instrument is so beloved of composers. And what a gorgeous tenor sound from this Baroque cello! A swarm of Paganiniesque unlikelihoods burst into the room, as Martens delivered phenomenal technique with staccato runs and arpeggios, like cut crystal, and wonderful dynamic surprises. I particularly enjoyed the passionate interpretation of the cadenza, a clear forerunner of later works by Dvorak and Elgar. The andante was a cool shimmering mirage, a refreshing mental detox, a massage for the emotions.

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Johann Joachim Quantz, Sonata in B minor – Bridget Rennie Salonen, Baroque flute
Last Wednesday’s concert was Solonen’s first performance of her newly acquired Baroque flute, and I was delighted that they both made a second appearance! The blend of soft rounded sounds and deep rich woody mezzo register was expertly navigated by nimble fingers, and gave a Yin to the harder harpsichord’s Yang. I could hear very much more of this!

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Erik Dippenaar introduces the CPE Bach Variations on the Forlie d'Espagna

Erik Dippenaar introduces the CPE Bach Variations on the Forlie d’Espagna

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CPE Bach, Variations on the Forlie d’Espagna – Erik Dippenaar, harpsichord
In keeping with the engaging style of Camerata Tinta Barocca’s concerts, Dippenaar warned us before playing that the Forlie is a noisy Portuguese dance of madness and empty-headedness, where men put on dresses and parade through the streets, carrying each other on their shoulders. The 8 bar chord progression (in a minor key: 1, 5, 1, 7#, 3, 7#, 1, 5.) is immediately recognisable by its Renaissance feel, and can be identified throughout Baroque and Classical music, with variations by JS Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Scarlatti, Salieri, Beethoven, Liszt, and perhaps most famously in Handel’s Sarabande in D minor. And what a madness it turned out to be! In certainly one of the most dramatic and perfectly suited pieces for harpsichord, this set of variations showcase the instrument at it most impressive. The unified dynamic is often criticised, but I am a defender of the harpsichord, I find the sound quite magical, and I love the way it accentuates the accuracy of the performer’s runs (in Dippenaar’s case – flights) across the keys. To compensate for the dynamics, Dippenaar has become a master of timing, expanding and compressing the phrases and bars, so that the tempo is unchanged, but one has the feeling of acceleration into intensity, and deceleration into cadences.

More about the Forlie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folia

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Franz Benda, Symphony nr 5 in A major
Ah! This orchestra! What a sound! What a feeling to be floated up from the sucking mud of mediocrity, to wiggle ones toes in the cleansing current, and in moments to be set down on firm, solid washed rock, drying off in the warm sun! There is something alchemical about Baroque music in its combination and balancing of simplicity and complexity, like salt and sulphur, to the point where a relatively unknown composer (or monarch!) can apply the principles and formulae, creativity, and improvisation, and achieve the completion of such a thing as a symphony. And there is an overwhelming sense of life and vitality which Tinta Barocca performances achieve surely and squarely. There is a freshness to every performance that I have heard. Truly, Cape Town is very fortunate to have such an orchestra as this, a fluid, undulating line-up of dedicated and specially skilled musicians.

More pictures here:

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Camerata Tinta Barocca returns on
Wednesday 11 November for Haydn’s London Symphony
and
Wednesday 9 December for Handels’ Messiah with the Cape Consort
www.ctbmusic.co.za