Violins for Festival farewells

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Published: 13th January, 2018

Well before 11am, the picturesque Church of St John the Evangelist in Flinders was already in need of extra chairs. An intimate venue, it can accommodate only 100 people, so everyone is close to the action. As the audience filed in quietly, the light filtered through the attractive stained-glass windows and my thoughts turned to the vicar who would I’m sure have been glad to see the church at capacity for the morning service.

In fact, what we were to hear was as near to a spiritual experience as a concert could be. Johann Sebastian Bach was a deeply religious man, and the substantial pair of works on the program were composed in 1720, for solo violin without bass accompaniment.

Lucinda Moon, solo violin recital. 11am Sunday

Sonata II in A minor BWV 1003, a Sonata da Chiesa in four movements, possessed all the elements of a good service of worship. The Grave introductory movement could easily have been a confession of sins, the Fuga a period of questioning, the Andante an introspective search for an answer, and the closing Allegro a demonstration of firm resolve and sense of purpose.

Several musicologists including William Klenz and Joseph Kerman have alluded to the architectural structure of a dome in describing the fugue as a form. The overarching unity, and the complexities within the space underneath are hallmarks of both, and the Fuga movement in this sonata is no exception. But consider the particular demands of the solo violin, and the way the alternate voices need to be highlighted melodically on one string, while the other strings are used to provide counterpoint and imply harmonic changes.

while the other strings are used to provide counterpoint and imply harmonic changes. Lucinda Moon’s intelligent phrasing, consummate technique and musicality allowed the internal structure of this movement, and indeed of the whole sonata to make sense.

Partita II in D minor BWV 1004 is a Sonata da Camera, a suite of five dance movements Allemanda, Corrente, Sarabanda, Giga and Ciaccona. Individual movements from this collection are often performed, but to hear the whole partita was a special treat. Again Bach’s mastery of structure – macro and micro – was brought to life by Moon’s outstanding ability to shape the music. In each of the movements, a different character or mood is explored, and the baroque doctrine of “Affektenlehre” would say that through this experience, the listener is cleansed and refreshed. Moon’s performance of the final movement, in which Bach’s masterful inventions are created over a repeating bass pattern, was a highlight in this exceptionally fine and satisfying concert. Her performance was all the more remarkable given the close proximity to the previous evening’s Gala Concert in which she played a substantial role, and I was certainly not alone in drawing a comparison with religious experience.

 

Julia Fredersdorff (Violin) and Aline Zylberajch (Harpsichord) Sunday 4pm

 Outgoing Festival Director Julia Fredersdorff teamed up with French harpsichordist Aline Zylberajch for this concert, again in the intimate Church of St John the Evangelist. Three Sonatas from a set of six were programmed, all composed shortly before J.S. Bach left court employment in Cöthen to take up the position as Cantor at St Thomas in Leipzig. They all take the form of a trio sonata, with the harpsichord taking the two lower parts, and as Fredersdorff explained, in Bach’s time, there was an aesthetic understanding of rhetoric and its signature gestures. Similarly keys also had their own meanings, something that is perhaps easier to grasp when you remember that each key had individual properties before the introduction of equal temperament.

Fredersdorff and Zylberajch performed the Sonata in C minor BWV 1017 first. In the key of loss and lost love, this sonata of four movements opened with the Largo, strongly reminiscent of the aria “Erbame dich” from the St Matthew Passion. Its second movement, an Allegro fugue, followed by an Adagio lullaby and finally a jubilant Allegro, reminded me in structure and emotional content of the unaccompanied Sonata da Chiesa which Lucinda Moon had played earlier in the day.

This was followed by Sonata in B minor BWV 1014, in the ominous but beautiful key of “awaiting your fate”. Its Andante third movement in D Major permitted some soothing in amongst the angst, highlighting Fredersdorff’s beautiful tone quality, particularly on the lower strings.

Sonata in G Major BWV 1019, is in fact the last of the six sonatas, and in the key of “rustic delight”. The sonata exists in several versions, but on this occasion we heard the first version, with five movements, the central one being for solo harpsichord. It was an extensive solo, and a lovely opportunity to hear Zylberajch alone, with long strings of suspensions, and a powerful descending chromatic scale providing the basis for the end of the movement. The final rustic Allegro gave us a satisfying happy ending.

A short Couperin prelude as the encore revisited the elegance of the French baroque style which had been such a strong focus the previous evening, and it was a fitting conclusion to this concert, and to the role Fredersdorff has played in the 11 years of the Festival.

Although I attended only five of the nineteen concerts at this 2018 Peninsula Summer Music Festival, I was constantly aware of that wonderful feeling of being part of a festival. I certainly felt the strength of feeling among its dedicated followers, and I encourage you to look out for the 2019 Festival, under the direction of Ben Opie. Summer on the Mornington Peninsula offers much in the way of excellent food and wine, exhilarating coastal scenery and walks, and excellent music!