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Harpsichordist/impresario Henry Lebedinsky is the artistic director at both the monthly Charlotte Chamber Music series at First Presbyterian Church and the Music at St. Alban’s series in Davidson. A Sunday afternoon visit to the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, where BachFest V launched the seventh season of the Davidson series, demonstrated why Lebedinsky’s leadership is so prized – for his programming, his prowess at the keyboard, and his knack for assembling local and distant talent.
While all the players performed on authentic period instruments, the program wasn’t all Bach or even all-baroque, as Lebedinsky stretched the BachFest definition laterally to enclose a delightful detour into a double concerto for flute and recorder by J.S. Bach’s most beloved contemporary, Georg Philipp Telemann. Before that finale enfolded all seven of the instrumentalists in the warm St. Alban’s acoustic, we leaped forward beyond the baroque with a trio sonata by J.S. Bach’s most significant son, Carl Philipp Emanuel.
All of the music prior to intermission was from the time-tested BWV catalog, beginning with a rousing chamber-sized performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. The body and blend of the strings quickly established the squarish high-domed venue as a sonic gem, and Kim Pineda quickly lived up to his impressive credentials on the baroque flute in the exuberant opening Allegro, with Lebedinsky acquitting himself handsomely in the long harpsichord solo on an instrument that was fruity in its treble but a smidge underpowered in its bass. Founder and music director of Baroque Northwest, Pineda clearly wasn’t brought across the continent to shrink into the background. The sweetness of his tone intertwined tenderly with first violinist David Wilson in the middle Affetuoso, and that same sweetness carried over into the familiar closing Allegro, where the warmth of the hall added an orchestral aura to the accompanying quintet.
Another string of Bach hits followed in Johann Sebastian’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, with Pineda clearly in the forefront. In the fluty filigree of the Rondeau, Pineda made a commanding argument that circular breathing must have existed at least as far back as the Baroque Era. Other highlights of the nine-part treasure trove were the luscious Bourrée and the final two sections, a perfectly paced Minuet and the closing Badinerie, one of Bach’s most frolicsome melodies.
Wilson moved his music stand back to the front after intermission for the C.P.E. Bach Trio, and second violinist Aaron Westman had some very sweet responses in the high treble to the main melodic argument below in the opening Allegretto. Lebedinsky, the fourth musician playing a soft continuo, alerted the audience in his spoken intro to the non-baroque elements we would find in the piece, and these were most evident in the last two movements. The andante exhibited the most pauses and shifts in mood, but it was the closing Allegro that most convincingly put the younger Bach forward as the missing link between the baroque idiom and the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart, with cellist Barbara Baker Krumdieck getting her one brief opportunity to emerge from the background. Alas, Joey O’Donnell, playing baroque viola in his fifth consecutive BachFest, never did.
The double concerto was as fascinating and instructive as Lebedinsky promised in his concise intro, showcasing the different qualities of Pineda’s flute and Richard Krumdieck’s recorder but also blending them beautifully. Krumdieck more frequently had the lead in the slow odd-numbered movements, most memorably in the second of the two Largos, where the forlorn recorder descanted over pizzicato strings and Pineda’s wooing flute. Wilson insinuated himself on the baroque violin in the Allegro to help us catch our breaths between the flights of the wind players, but the closing Presto was more unique, sporting a definite Scottish twang from the strings under the final sprint of the main soloists.
Except for an accidental pizzicato during the Trio, the concert was flawless. Additional programs in the six-concert series include visits from the David Glukh Klezmer Ensemble and The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – clearly an eclectic mix. The spread that St. Alban’s hospitably lays out in its entry hall after the concerts is one more compelling reason to sample them.
Note: For a Letter to the Editor concerning this review, click here.