• Tanya Tomkins
  • July 12, 2013

Adventures in Baroque Cello: From Bach to Barriere

I am playing the last concert tonight with Monica Huggett and a scaled down version of the Portland Baroque Orchestra. We are finishing an Oregon tour for the Oregon Bach Festival tonight in Eugene, and then I drive back to theMonicaHuggett Bay Area to get ready for next weekend’s recital for the ABS Summer Academy.

Usually, a concert of Continuo playing is relatively relaxing. Although physically taxing from the “continual” playing, you are mostly¬†in the supportive role of witness and co-conspirator of the violinists performing their pyrotechnics.¬† This concert with Monica, on the other hand, was as challenging for the bass-line as for the soloists, because it was all Bach, and Bach would not settle for a bass-line you can relax into. He demands full-on attention at all times. For this reason, the transition from these concerts to next weekend’s recital won’t be as big a leap as it might have been. Also, I have been thoroughly inspired by Monica’s complete lack of inhibition while performing. She always sounds spontaneous and excited by the music. In Baroque music, as opposed to later music, there is still a lot of room for freedom. The farther we get from the notes on the page as they stand literally, the more the music comes alive. It is during that period, and even through to Classical music that performers were all composers, or at least great improvisors.

The recital program for ABS next Saturday includes JS Bachtumblr_mjcpmbRFo91qa028to1_400, CPE Bach and Vivaldi. I will be starting with a Sonata by the lesser-known Jean-Baptiste Barriere. I LOVE this composer! He was a French virtuoso cellist who had a post at Versailles for ten years. He died at the age of 40 in 1747. The interesting thing about Barriere, is that he started as a gambist and then switched to the cello. At that time, the cello as a solo instrument had already caught on in Italy (as you will hear in the earlier Vivaldi Sonata), but the French were very attached to the florid and more elite style of the gamba. Barriere showed in these Sonatas that the cello could be as expressive and poignant as the gamba, while at the same time showing off the player’s virtuosity in a more “Italian” style. There are many of these Sonatas and they are wonderful to play because they are written by a cellist, and though they sound very impressive, they are not too awkward under the hand. I am looking forward to rehearsing these this weekend with Elisabeth Reed and Corey Jamason, my Continuo team. Time to let my friends take over the supportive role now.

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