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The beautiful new Carteret County Library was the venue for this concert of the American Music Festival; their concerts are usually held at the History Place in Morehead City. The ensemble, a modified version of the Vivaldi Project, encompassed Allison Edberg and Annie Loud, violins; Stephanie Vial, cello; William Simms, theorbo and baroque guitar; and Elaine Funaro, harpsichord. The program was a potpourri of small pieces. This reviewer came in late, arriving in time for a lute solo by Alessandro Piccinini (1566-1638). Simms is a master of his instrument, with no false notes, strong phrasing, and clever interpretation. While every note was audible, it must be said about this concert, sooner or later, that the close-carpeted Library is no place for music. Although beautiful, spacious, and cheery, it had all the acoustic appeal of a padded cell. The totally dead sound made every piece sound dead. This problem was detrimental to all the excellent work of the evening.
Elaine Funaro played three Noels on her double-manual harpsichord, attempting to replicate the many stops and multiple colors of the baroque organ. Again the room told against her. Her playing was most musical in the first, the "Noel Étranger" of Louis-Claude Daquin. Now, as anyone who was there knows, Funaro had a bad-hair day on this piece, with a huge number (for her, anyway) of missed notes, wrong stops, and disordered music, in short: a catastrophe; nevertheless, the musicality of her playing was great, with the exaggeration necessary to make the transition from organ to harpsichord be believable. A mess-up like this is unheard of with Funaro; something was clearly wrong. I would love to hear this again soon played with her usual assured perfection. She began to get her control back for Dandrieu's "La Musete" and "Balbastre's "Quand Jesu Naquit A Noel."
The entire group returned for Corelli's "Sonata in G, Op. 3/6. (Not his "Christmas Concerto;" I didn't understand why there were so many references to Christmas music that the ensemble did not play.) There was very precise and forward-thrusting direction by Edberg.
Handel's Sonata in G minor, Op. 2/6 had a plaintive, singing Andante. The continuo's ability to enter precisely was very good. The violins did some really nice playing in the fugal part of the Allegro. There was good balance between the violins and the continuo; the use of theorbo and harpsichord balanced well against the splendid cello playing of Loud. The Arioso was played very poignantly; the final allegro was very fast, but not too fast.
There were a lot of people in the audience who thought that the presence of the theorbo, one of the softest instruments, was permission for them to tell everybody around them, during the music, that they had "never seen one of those before"! There were three couples right around me that were swapping their ignorances about what was going on. And one rudesby read the program notes out loud to himself in spite of multiple disapproving stares and then glares from the audience. (Not my glares, I hasten to add!)
After intermission, the program included Vivaldi's Sonata in E minor, Op 1/2, and Telemann's Sonata for Violoncello in D. The playing continued at the same high level. It was especially clear in the Giga Allegro of Vivaldi that the orchestra was having as good a time as anybody in the hall.
There was a last-minute substitution announced for one of the three Noels sur les instruments of Mark-Antoine Charpentier. "Les bourgeois de Chârtre" was replaced by a noel on Soeur Monique, with "Joseph et bien marié" and "Vous qui désirez sans fin" unchanged. The Soeur Monique had very delicate intonation; "Vous qui" seemed intentionally whiny.
Spoken notes tying this rather recherché music to the times and place of Beaufort indicated that it is known that George Washington actually danced to Purcell's Lillibulero, which included baroque guitar in the scrimmage. Simms stuck to the guitar for Vivaldi's Folia XII (from Suonate a Camera a tre, Opera Prima), in which he went totally wild, to everyone's delight. The whole ensemble was inspired, on fire, in this piece, to the delight of the audience.