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Impresario John O'Brien brought out the big band for the last two concerts of the Music House Summer Early Music Festival. This next to last concert included Jon Shaw and Carolyn Myers, sopranos; Jaques Snyman-Wieciech, countertenor; Leah Peroutka, violin; Joey O'Donnell, viola; Christopher Nunnally, cello; and Beverly Biggs and John O'Brien, keyboards and violin. All are stars in their own right. Some are our own home-grown real thing; others are local by adoption. Nunnally and Peroutka were born in the Greenville briar patch; Shaw, Myers, and O'Brien are long-time residents.
Mostly Bach began, of course, with Bach, S.1017, the Sonata in E minor for violin and harpsichord with Peroutka and O'Brien. Peroutka's playing, impeccable throughout, showed a masterful, sparing use of vibrato, particularly in the Adagio. In the final Allegro, played at a brisk but not devilish tempo, O'Brien clearly was having a jolly time. He is usually so relaxed as to appear almost detached, but his enjoyment was obvious, in contrast to Peroutka, who, as her beautiful playing wreathed the room in joy, maintained a stolid mien worthy of an old time mountain fiddler.
Two arias from cantatas were next, reversed from the listed order: S.78, "Wir eilen mit Schwachen," and S.4 (misprinted as 84 in the program), "Den Tod niemand Zwingen kunnt." Both were for two sopranos. "Wir eilen" was fully accompanied by Peroutka and O'Brien, violins, O'Donnell and Nunnally, and Biggs, organ. "Den Tod" was performed simply for two sopranos and continuo; the possible doublings by cornetto and trumpet were omitted.
Finally before intermission was the beautifully executed "Erbarme dich" from the St. Matthew Passion, S.244, again with the two sopranos, two violins, viola, cello, and organ. I got the feeling that this was familiar ground, at least stylistically, to all the performers.
Shaw and Myers have appeared together frequently at the Music House. Their compatible timbres and mature technique make them always a delight to the ear. The continuo playing from unrealized figured bass by both Biggs and O'Brien, as demanding as it was, is second nature to these pros.
Following intermission Myers sang "O heil'ges Geist" from the cantata of the same name, S.165. She was accompanied by Peroutka and O'Brien, O'Donnell, Nunnally, and Briggs, organ. This was again a smooth and professional rendition.
For his only appearance in this concert, Snyman took the stage to sing movement 1 from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, with two violins, viola, cello, and harpsichord. Snyman has the physique of a Titan and the voice of an angel. His voice is distinctive for a slight quaver; on top of this quaver he can impose or suppress a lovely vibrato at will. His voice, though not thunderingly powerful, is completely adequate.
The evening closed with the "Trio Sonata for Violin, Viola, and Continuo, WVA:XV:16 by Carl Gottlieb Graun." According to Wikipedia, there were two brothers Graun, Carl Heinrich and Johann Gottlieb. Johann was the violin teacher of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. I believe that this is the connection intended, if not the composer. From further Internet research, I believe the work performed was indeed by Johann Gottlieb Graun. Gottlieb was a generation younger than J. S. Bach, and this shows in the more classical nature of the music. The work is indeed a trio sonata, but the viola has a more prominent than usual role, a role that O'Donnell fulfilled to the utmost. He is a vigorous and enthusiastic player.
This was an excellent evening of music, with an all-star cast.