Bach: Music to Challenge the Intellect and Touch the Heart. Carolina Baroque directed by Dale Higbee. CB-112. 54:37. Recorded in concert April 28, 2002. $15, including postage and handling, available from Dale Higbee, 412 South Ellis Street, Salisbury, N.C. 28144-4820 or online at http://www.carolinabaroque.org/
With the passing of the Triangle's early music group Ensemble Courant into the mists of musical myth, my curiosity has been piqued by reviews by CVNC colleagues of concerts and locally-produced recordings of Carolina Baroque, based in Salisbury, N.C. The group is directed by recorder player Dale Higbee. Violinist John Pruett will be more familiar to Triangle audiences as a violist while firm-voiced soprano Teresa Radomski has been heard as a soloist locally.
This is a well-produced live recording of a concert given in the sanctuary of St. John's Lutheran Church in April 2002. Only a very few coughs and applause reveal the presence of an audience. The modest number of instruments appear greatly reduced from Bach's original scores as described in articles by Nicholas Anderson in Oxford Composer Companion: J. S. Bach . Cantata No. 21, " Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis " (" I was sore afflicted ") is regarded as one of the finest examples of Lutheran cantatas, "striking both for its vivid imagery and for its sections of impassioned dialog." Carolina Baroque gives a good minimalist performance it is shorn of 3 trumpets, timpani, oboe, bassoon, and a larger string section. In addition to being "Bach-lite," only Part I of the cantata is given. Cantata No. 182, " Himmelskönig, sei willkommen " (" King of heaven, be thou welcome "), is given complete. The two cantatas are separated by Daniel Hannemann's able performance of "Ricercar a 6," the six-part fugue from The Musical Offering . The church sanctuary seems to have contributed to some clouding of the texture. Soprano Radomski is the most pleasing vocalist; her voice is firmly supported and even throughout its range. Tenor Richard Heard, bass-baritone John Williams, and alto Lee Morgan are more than adequate. White Sound Studio is to be praised for the wonderful sound of Hannemann's harpsichord, beautifully integrated within the ensemble; ninety per cent of the time, in other recordings, this subtle instrument is miked too closely by sound engineers. The sound of the Baroque violins, played by John Pruett and Doris Powers, the Baroque violas, played by Powers and Mary Frances Boyce, and the viola da gamba, played by Holly Mauer, is true to life and well balanced. Higbee's recorder is well captured.
This a good souvenir of a well planned Bach concert and a promising sampler of the current state of early music in western North Carolina. It is too bad the whole of Cantata No. 21 wasn't given, and as suggested the use of larger forces would have been most welcome.