Latitude 37 – comprising Julia Fredersdorff, violin, viola da gamba player Laura Vaughan and harpsichordist/organist Donald Nicolson – has been building a keen following in baroque circles here and in New Zealand.
On this occasion, however, Vaughan was absent and so the trio was completed by guest artist Simon Rickard playing the curtal, a baroque antecedent of the modern bassoon. In an imaginative (and fair) stroke of programming, 17th century music by eight different composers from the Italian Peninsula – then a series of city states – was organised as if it were written for ten sections of the Catholic Mass. Although not strictly necessary to the enjoyment of this concert, the concept worked well.
The Latitude 37 concert recalled the heady days of Melbourne’s “discovery” of the baroque, a good three centuries later, when performers like La Romanesca and Genevieve Lacey (and many more) introduced audiences to works they had never heard before, and a style of performance that was true to the period when it was composed. Audiences came to have a new fondness for these musicians, partly fostered by a new engagement with them through events like Music in the Round. And there was the simple (but revolutionary) tactic of spoken introductions to the players and the music.
Although there have been many such concerts over the years Latitude 37 brought a fresh, vibrant approach to music that could so easily have solemn, but instead was engrossing. Concerto Ecclesiastica No.15 O Domine by Viadana was a good choice to begin, allowing the lesser-known curtal to lead and demonstrating fine phrasing. It also demonstrated the balance between the three instruments, put to the test in the next piece, O infelix recessus by Monteverdi (arr. Coppini) with its demanding polyphony.
It was interesting that the curtal had more depth than the organ, which, in many of these works, had the role of continuo rather than solo instrument. Ironically, it was the Fantasia basso solo by Salaverde that gave the organ some lovely counterpoint to Rickard’s exploration of the melodic line, sounding quite modern and syncopated. Although Fredersdorff had some tuning problems with her baroque violin (with ‘fat strings of real gut’) she was an integral part of this trio, with her prowess coming to the fore in Angelus ad Pastore by Bovicelli and de Rore. Its complex but flowing melody, echoed by the organ, seemed effortlessly achieved – but that was, of course, an illusion.
All three performers had plenty to occupy them in the final Ite Missa est by Merula, with its interesting rhythms, and developing complexity. A fine showpiece for each instrument and for the synchronicity between players, it made an impressive end to the “Mass”, and guaranteed Latitude 37 a good audience for its future endeavours.
Reviewed by Suzanne Yanko Melbourne Recital Centre 29 July 2013