This afternoon in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), the Baroque Ensemble, led by Co-Director Corey Jamason at the harpsichord, presented an engaging diversity of “period” selections. The entire program was framed by concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, beginning with the RV 161 concerto for strings in A minor and concluding with the B minor concerto for four violins, RV 580, the tenth concerto in the Opus 3 publication known as L'estro armonico (the harmonic inspiration).
Within this framework there were two instrumental selections before the intermission, followed by two vocal selections. The vocalists were soprano Jayne Diliberto singing an aria from the opera Callirhoé composed by André Cardinal Destouches, followed by countertenor Kyle Tingzon singing the opening aria of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 170 cantata Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust (delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul). The instrumental offerings were a suite, drawing upon a variety of sources by Henry Purcell, and the fourth (in the key of D major) of the twelve concerto grossi published by Arcangelo Corelli as his Opus 6.
Taken as a whole, the ensemble tended to be a bit on the scrappy side, particularly where intonation was concerned. Nevertheless, it is still early in the academic year; and it is reasonable to assume that the students are still coming up to speed. Whatever their shortcomings may have been, the students still exhibited a keen interest in the diversity of their repertoire; and it is reasonable to expect the refinement will begin to emerge with greater experience. For this particular program they could benefit from not only Jamason’s expertise as both keyboardist and educator but also a visit from Marc Schachman, best known as the oboist of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Jennifer Meller performing her choreographic interpretation of Destouches’ music for his opera Callirhoé (screen shot from the video of the SFCM concert being discussed)
My only real peeve was with faculty member Jennifer Meller, who provided and performed solo choreography in conjunction with Diliberto’s aria performance. Working from four pages of dance notation, Meller performed a solo adaptation of “La Muszette a deux,” created in 1713 by Louis-Guillaume Pécour, both ballet master and dancer at the Paris Opera. Meller provided the following background for the program book:
The dance occurs in a pastoral Arcadian setting customary for a musette, and the dancer plays a follower of Pan. Playful and earthy with a touch of mischief, she uses her enchanted lyre to beckon all to forget their troubles and pursue the pleasures of uncomplicated love.
While Pan may have been the primary influence behind the choreography, I suspect that dancing barefoot was not socially acceptable in the early eighteenth century, particularly if the audience consisted of nobility, if not royalty! Thus, while the choreography may have been a plausibly faithful reconstruction, the execution was a bit too contemporary for my historical tastes.