Peninsula Summer Music Festival concert series
12 January 2017 at 7:30pm
Music of the High Baroque by German composers J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann
Performed by Genevieve Lacey, Jane Gower and Lars Ulrik Mortensen
For the past two weeks, the Mornington Peninsula has been bustling with internationally-based musical masters performing concerts as part of the annual Peninsula Summer Music Festival. Among them, are Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Jane Gower, artistic director and bassoonist of Concerto Copenhagen respectively. Ulrik Mortensen and Gower have travelled all the way from Denmark to perform a concert with Australian recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey at the Morning Star Estate in Mount Eliza.
On arrival at Morning Star Estate, I was not quite sure what to expect. What is so ‘treasured’ about music of the High Baroque, and what does that term really mean? Is the concert going to be inside or outside in the gardens?
The concert was held in the Ballroom at the Estate, a large and pretty room, ideal for functions and entertaining, but somewhat dry acoustically, especially for a small group of Baroque style instruments. The harpsichord, Baroque bassoon and recorder are relatively quiet instruments that are inherently limited in how loudly they can project their sound. Thankfully, this was offset by the full experience of the broader venue and the skills of the musical performers.
The Estate’s breathtaking sea vistas and large sweeping gardens, which I enjoyed before and after the concert, allowed me to ‘breathe in’ the many joys of summer, creating a unique sensory experience to complement the concert. There was also historic buildings to admire and local wines to try.
This is part of the delight and intention of the Festival. That is, holding concerts at venues that have a broader artistic and sensual appeal than simply the music alone. Furthermore, it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages attending the concert, as we are very fortunate to have such musical masters brought to our doorstep each year, especially the aforementioned Baroque artists.
If you peruse the net, you will find that Baroque is an artistic culture and style that emerged in Europe from the 1600s to the mid 1700s. The Italian word barocco, meaning bizarre or exuberant, as well as the Portugese term barroco, meaning ‘misshapen pearl’, provide us with some understanding. In any case, the style is about opulence, decoration and adornment of highly organised and ordered patterns in music and art. There is an intention of sensual appeal, as opposed to intellectual, flourishing in the period known as ‘High Baroque’.
During this period, it was common for musicians and composers to travel around Europe to hear ‘new’ styles and gather ideas from each other. Though our featured concert composers, J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann were all German, they too flitted about Europe to work amongst foreign musicians, like our modern performers.
The Baroque style crossed over from religious music to secular (non-religious) music, examples of which are performed in the Treasures of the High Baroque concert. It is thought that after the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church, the major patron of the arts, began favouring art that could be understood and felt by all people, regardless of their level of education. Embellished music and ornate imagery and architecture moved people emotionally, allowing them to further explore aspects of their spirituality and self. Embodying these ideals, performers Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen, showed a great deal of virtuosity and passion, but the gentle timbre (sound quality) of their instruments and the undulating continuity of the long, highly rhythmic phrases, gave the music a delightful hypnotic quality. Continual and unexpected key changes were effortlessly woven together by the composers in each piece. These changes, expertly and precisely executed by the musicians, who were clearly enjoying every nuance, made the music unendingly interesting and entertaining in subtle and gentle ways.
Delicate, short articulation was used to create exquisite lightness of individual notes, dissolving into long, transporting phrases. The precision with which the performers synchronised their musical parts exactly together was aided by expressive body language. The musicians were as beautiful to watch as they were to listen to.
Even if Baroque music is completely foreign to you, such musical masters as Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have devoted their entire lives to crafting their musical performance into beauty that moves people and communicates the unspeakable. These are the kinds of musicians that the Festival features annually in the first two weeks of January. Why not come and see for yourself? You might be surprised at how a master musician can inspire you. No doubt you will be delighted at how the broader experience of a Peninsula concert venue, with a beautiful garden, panorama or historic building, will enable you to soak up the feeling of summer and wonder about music and life in new, deeper and more joyful ways.
Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have produced a recording of Telemann Sonatas, Sonatinas and Fantasias on the ABC Classics label in 2016
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Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker