Bach, of course, anchored the program, with his Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067, and his Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. For the second half, music director Christophe Chagnard chose one of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ tributes to the composer, the “Bachianas Brasileiras No 5” in an arrangement for string orchestra by J. Krance; and lastly, a work by one of Bach’s contemporaries and friends, Telemann’s “Don Quixote” Suite.
The chamber orchestra performed standing in Baroque style for the first two works, led conductorless by concertmaster and violin soloist James Garlick, with flutist Darrin Thaves soloist in both works, and Joseph Adam as harpsichordist throughout and as one of the three soloists in the Brandenburg.
While the beginning of the Bach suite sounded cautious, the small group of strings with harpsichord and flute rapidly found its feet, and began to play confidently with the second movement, a lively rondeau with spectacular flute solo. From then on the whole was a delight. One could forget that these were not Baroque instruments as stylistic detail was observed, including ornamentation from Thaves and Garlick. The strings played with minimal vibrato, articulation was clear, tempi were suitably brisk and the music moved with grace and elegance.
The familiar Brandenburg No 5, with its florid solo roles for violin, flute and especially harpsichord, sounded briefly at times as though it had had one too few rehearsals with Adam, but again, things recovered fast and the overall effect was not spoiled. In general, the ensemble work of the orchestra was first class at all times, both in these two works and after intermission.
Garlick, who was a semifinalist in the 2007 Stradivarius International Violin Competition, has been playing quite prominently this season around Seattle, both on Baroque violin and a modern one as in this performance. He is a talent to keep an eye on, very musical, thoughtful and sensitive in his approach and with a fine technique. Thaves soared through the Bach, encompassing it all with apparent ease and considerable musicianship. It’s good to have him as principal flute in the Sinfonietta. Adam, organist at St James Cathedral, was the veteran performer in this program, as polished as usual.
The Villa-Lobos, originally written for soprano and (at least) eight cellos, translated quite well to a string orchestra with harpsichord. It’s a wonderful work, and it’s rare to have a chance to hear it in the original, so this was a treat. Chagnard managed to make it sound almost like the eight cellos, both bowed and plucked, while the violins, sometimes all, sometimes one, kept the soprano melody flowing serenely.
Telemann’s theatrical piece, as different from Bach as one can imagine at that date, made a good contrast to finish up. It was easy to imagine lovesick sighs and galloping mule in Telemann’s graphic writing.
Next year is the Sinfonietta’s 20th season. Given the struggles that orchestras and particularly chamber orchestras have had in the past decade, this is a notable achievement.
It has announced the 2010-2011 season: Eroica, 10/1-3, Barber with cellist Joshua Roman, and Beethoven; Gypsy Nights, 11/12-14, Dvorak, Shostakovich with panist Mark Salman, and Mahler; also the premiere of “Opre Roma!” by Chagnard with three solo guitars: himself, Neil Andersson and Ron Peters (Chagnard started out as a jazz guitarist); Mozartiana; 2/11-13, Firsova premiere with clarinetist Laura DeLuca, Mozart, also with DeLuca, Rossini and more Mozart; Rites of Spring 3/11-13, with Trio Diaghilev (two pianos and percussion), Ravel, Bernstein and Stravinsky; and Pictures at an Exhibition 4/15-17, Debussy, Gershwin with pianist Joel Fan, and Mussorgsky. For subscriptions, 888-356-6040 or http://www.nwsinfonietta.org.