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An early music ensemble, Amphion's Echo, gave a concert at A. J. Fletcher Recital Hall in Greenville, NC, on this January evening.
First came "Der Heyland hat gesiegt," by Johann Krieger, a church-cantata-like piece, for soprano voice, two trumpets, and continuo, in this case organ and double bass (described on the program as a violone). In the words of Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew Jack Violone; that's no violone," although it was excellently played throughout the concert, by double bassist Christopher J. Buddo. The soprano was Jon Ward Shaw, perfect in every way. The Klopf chamber organ was played by John O'Brien, with his usual masterful insouciance. The natural trumpets, with holes, were played by Jonathan Naylor and Thomas Huener. Naylor seemed to be a very sure and accurate player.
These pieces followed: "Laudate pueri," (a 2) by Anonymous, "Praeludium," by Krieger with an organ solo by O'Brien, and then another church-cantata-like piece "Gott hat Jesum erhöhet," by Christian Ludwig Boxberg.
The "Bicinium LXX" was from Bicinium Variorum instrumentorum (1675) by Johann Christoph Pezel.
O'Brien provided further alteration in the program by playing a solo Fantasia, again by Krieger.
The program ended with a further church-cantata-like piece, Liebhold's aria "Zu Ostern Man Singet mit Freuden."
Over the course of the evening, we heard some interesting music and were given occasional glimpses into the possible brilliance of historically-informed trumpet playing. There were a few very dry musicological remarks by Huener.
There is a historical account of the local Indians being shown the first organ in Old Salem. They demanded that the case be opened and the children who were inside singing be allowed to get out. O'Brien briefly removed the front of the organ case so that the audience could see that there were no children, but in reality over two hundred wooden pipes inside.
Eight or so years ago I reviewed a very similar performance by Shaw, O'Brien, and Huener. (You can read what I had to say here.) I attended this time in hope that things would be better. I wrote at that time, among other things, "In my experience there is a glib perfection in Broadway-type pit bands. Anyone who has ever been present at the controlled insanity of a live Prairie Home Companion performance has seen the inimitable Rich Dworsky, seemingly in a world of his own and the clock ticking down. Then he flashes a big smile and in the most relaxed way enters perfectly and plays like a young god. Such is the keyboard mastery of O'Brien; he seemed totally relaxed, sounded perfectly in control, and brought such freshness to his playing that if one didn't know better one would be sure he had never seen the music before. Shaw brought the same assurance and confidence to her art, combining great singing with lovely gestures and a warm smile."
Further, "Huener's overall performance was disappointing for suggesting... that this is an acceptable performance standard, a suggestion doubly disappointing beside O'Brien and Shaw. The Baroque trumpet is a perfectly playable and reasonable instrument; performances like this give authentic performance practice an undeservedly bad name." I heard nothing different in the recent concert.
Huener has served his university well, judging by his honors. He may be a whizz bang player on modern brass instruments, but he should stay away from the natural trumpet.