A Happy Ending to Bach’s Sorrow Reply

Review by Judy CaldwellreviewerJudith

Hammer Baroque presented an afternoon Bach Violin Extravaganza—including all six of the solo Partitas and Sonatas—to an ever growing audience at The Rock on Locke. Julia Wedman, who introduced the six solo violin pieces, said that Bach had just found out that his wife had died in 1720, when he composed the music. The songs were his way of working out his sadness. Sonata No 1 in G minor, played by Elyssa LefurgeySmith, begins with a lonely, longing adagio, followed by a tortured fugue—twisting and turning as it tries to evade grief.

The musicians of the HAMMER BAROQUE ensemble

The musicians of the HAMMER BAROQUE ensemble

Then comes a dolorous Siciliano and a lively, but still dark, presto. The whole piece sounds like pain in a minor key. Partita No 1 in B minor is more introspective and plaintive—still sad but very beautiful. Patricia Ahern played it masterfully, and received a spontaneous ovation, after the long Courante movement, and more clapping at the very fast, Tempo di Borea finale.
Sonata No.2 in A minor, played by Julia Wedman, completed the first half of the concert. It was solemn and sad, with a very long intricate fugue—but one got the sense of rising out of gloom in the final Allegro. After intermission, Christina Zacharias played Partita No 2 in D minor.
D minor always seems like the most devastating of keys and yet Bach made it sound more hopeful, with a lively almost lilting Corrente, a lovely longing Sarabanda, an energetic Giga and an intricate, repetitive Ciaccona. The grief definitely seems to be lifting.
      Valerie Gordon gave the audience the first piece in a major key, Sonata No 3 in C major. The Adagio was still mournful— the fugue long and intricate—and the Largo was shorter but not particularly tuneful. The Allegro finally sounded lively and more cheerful. This was probably the least appealing of the pieces. Finally Michelle Odorico played the Partita No 3 in E Major. Here at last, was familiar vintage Bach. The Prelude and Gavotte are very well known and often played, and the whole piece is happy. The grief is gone and even Odorico was smiling while playing this very challenging music. The concert ended on a happy note. The next Hammer Baroque concert will take place on March 19th, 2016 at 4pm at The Rock on Locke.


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