Boston Baroque’s “New Year’s Gala Concert” lightened up in its program of five concertos with principal violinist Christina Day Martinson figuring in all but one of them. While Vivaldi, Telemann, and Bach scores provided ample fodder for the virtuosic and dramatic, BB ventured otherwise.
Music Director Martin Pearlman’s “festive” outing Monday evening at Sanders remained, for the most part, a toned-down engagement, the tempos, instrumental shading, and, most noticeably, rhythmic play, taking generally well moderated cues.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in B Minor for four violins found Martinson, Jesse Irons, Sarah Darling, and Asako Takeuchi taking turns at soloing and at other times engaging in duets. Catching the many variables by way of both ear and eye at times fostered better understanding of BB’s way with the Baroque Monday evening.
Vivaldi’s string swirls straightened out and danceable down beats softened in the outer Allegro movements. For the melodic-harmonic language of the Largo-Larghetto sections, BB unified the two rather than taking them as complementary, balancing sections.
In this, as in past years, Perlman’s narratives before pieces receive a double plus for brevity and pleasantries, yet a double minus for his reoccurring umms (an expression of hesitation or deliberation appearing, we learn, well before the Baroque composers were on the scene).
A still lighter touch followed with Telemann’s Concerto in G Major for Four Violins without Bass, “meaning without anything,” Pearlman wryly added. The four aforementioned soloists each placed one foot in the Baroque era and the other in a newer forthcoming style.
We received a sparkler, the quartet trilling together in unison effect, and a puzzler, the extremely low audibility of certain passages. However, their quietness of the chordal Adagio made for a meditational organ chiming with much of their Telemann offering, casting a delicate spell of intimacy that led well to Bach’s Violin Concerto in E Major with Christina Day Martinson and Martin Pearlman’s Boston Baroque in a warming, friendly rendering. As with the concertos to come, balancing BB’s larger orchestra and solo instruments zigzagged. More presence of the harpsichord would have been welcome. More distance between soloist Martinson and orchestra might have provided needed contrast.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for sopranino recorder followed intermission. Aldo Abreu, recorder, came on stage, hair a tad windblown and general deportment all somehow faintly suggestive of Charlie Chaplin. Pearlman instructed us, “The sopranino sounds an octave higher than the alto recorder.” Then, pointing to Abreu’s miniature recorder, Music Director Pearlman, as in prior years, referred to it simply as a “stick.”
Abreu’s sopranino dazzle departed radiantly from the surrounding by strings, but the even-keeled concert plan of BB, though, generally prevailed. Together, Abreu and BB too often avoided the hair-raising speeds and dangerous curves taken by their counterparts. Still, to most, Abreu’s semi-Chaplinesque posturing played off well against his estimable “stick” technique.
Martinson returned once again as solo violinist, this time, with Abreu and Priscilla Herreid on recorders in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major. Mild disappointment continued as conformity continued to win the day. The concerto’s bubbly recorder parts went a bit flat and the concerto’s pyrotechnical-prone violin passages never took flight.
“Peace-loving” might have been more apt than “festive” in describing this year’s Boston Baroque’s Gala.
We note that Boston Baroque’s free concert Sunday afternoon at the Strand Theater in Dorchester drew a mob of revelers of all ages. BB’s program repeats New Year’s Day at 3 pm.