Amid a program filled with contemporary song and dance, small ensembles utilized a 45-minute window on Friday afternoon to send patrons of the O’Neill Arts Tent back some 300 years into the Baroque era. Embedded between the Renaissance and Classical eras, Western culture of the 17th and early 18th centuries cultivated legendary composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. What’s more, this Baroque period saw the founding of tonality, the basis for most music we hear today. The BC Baroque, Flute, and Cello Ensembles delivered a refreshing mix of the past and the present.
First up was Boston College Baroque, which performed the first and third movements of Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, Bach’s timeless masterpiece. The ensemble of flutes, strings, and harpsichord achieved a balanced sound. The first movement featured a motive of three descending quarter notes followed by three ascending eighth notes, initially presented by the flutes. This motive was repeated many different times throughout the piece and in many different forms. In signature Baroque fashion, the movement featured many modulations, presenting the motifs in many different forms. The movement also featured lots of fast scales and arpeggios, played in time by the violinists.
The third movement featured a motive similar to that of the first one, with the same patterns of notes. This movement featured flutist Isabelle Pazar, MCAS ’18, and many different chamber sections which took advantage of the different permutations that can be achieved within the ensemble. Like the first movement, the third delivered a spritely sentiment, featuring many fast 16th-note runs and fast arpeggios.
Next up was the Flute Ensemble, which flashed forward to modern day with “Blues Sophisticado.” The Bill Holcomb work featured lots of dominant sevenths and a 12-bar blues format. The ensemble played beautifully and successfully achieved proper balance, which is especially difficult with such an unforgiving instrumentation.
Director Judy Grant, lecturer in the music department, spoke about the process the group went through to overcome the challenge of achieving this balance.
“Sometimes the key is how you assign the parts, and how many you allocate to each part. It’s important to treat the ensemble like an SATB choir,” Grant said. “Sometimes there are four parts, and other times there can be six or seven. It’s very much a vocal concept. If written well, the balance can be achieved.”
Nevertheless, Grant acknowledged that there are many advantages to its sonic qualities.
“There’s a lot of beauty in high voices,” she said. “There’s a nice bell-like quality.”
The Flute Ensemble finished with “Masques” from Anne McGinty, which fit the name of “Masque,” a term that refers to a composition for an entertainment production from the early Baroque era. The piece creates a mystical feeling with descending half steps, performed with strong intonation.
The Cello Ensemble closed the program with two pieces from different periods: Edvard Grieg’s “Anitra’s Dance” and a cello arrangement of the ’70s hit “Disco Inferno.” The Grieg piece, a selection from Peer Gynt, featured Grant on the flute. The movement was driven by alternating sections of pizzicato and arco playing techniques. The pizzicato sections were particularly well played and in time. The short and percussive nature of the pizzicato technique layered beautifully underneath the airy, legato nature of the flute. The soloist played with beautiful phrasing, accentuating the nuance of the contours of the music.
The Baroque era remains, to this day, a jewel of music history. The tonal intricacies are a true wonder, one that should be cherished forever. Furthermore, works such as Peer Gynt are treasures of the Romantic era, an era of great feeling within music. The tonality and emotion of those eras paved the way for the music that is produced today, and the audience left satisfied at a reviving blend of these periods.
Featured Image By Jake Evans / Heights Staff