As part of a busy weekend, the Folger Consort presented its first concerts of the fall season, Groves of Antiquity, which combined instrumental works and secular cantatas, in French and Italian styles of the 18th century, to evoke the Arcadian ideal. Heard early on Saturday evening, the program was innovative and well performed, which almost goes without saying for the Folger Consort, and conveniently took place on the set of the Forest of Arden for the Folger Library's upcoming production of As You Like It. The best pieces on the program were the Italian cantatas at the end, Vivaldi's All'ombra di sospetto and Pergolesi's Orfeo, sung by soprano Rosa Lamoreaux, who in a brilliant turquoise and purple gown could have been Titania in another Shakespearean version of the Arcadian wood. Her mercurial voice was exactly right for the airy and Italianate pieces, like the melismatic Avezzo non è il core by Vivaldi, if tended toward fluttering instability on longer notes at time.
Stephen Brookes, Folger Consort (Washington Post, October 8)
The Vivaldi cantata was also pleasing because of its obbligato part for Baroque flauto traverso, played with hazy beauty by Colin St. Martin (heard a few days earlier with Opera Lafayette). He was also featured to pleasurable effect in an A minor quartet, with violin, viol, and harpsichord, by Telemann, a work demonstrating yet again that digging around in that underappreciated composer's extensive works list usually yields worthy results. The third movement (Légèrement, a delicate sort of Sicilienne) and fifth movement (Vite, with a vibrant interplay of short rhythmic motifs) were particularly beautiful. The other instrumental selections were also most welcome additions to my listening experience, especially the three movements taken from Antoine Forqueray's Cinquième Suite. The versatile and accomplished keyboard player Webb Wiggins, who now teaches at Oberlin, gave a spectacular performance of an 18th-century keyboard arrangement, possibly made by the harpsichordist wife of Forqueray's son Jean-Baptiste, of this piece originally conceived for solo viola da gamba.
Webb Wiggins, harpsichordist
A very beautiful trio sonata in D major by Jean-Marie Leclair featured the best playing by guest violinist Linda Quan. Her playing tended to overwhelm the more delicate flute in Le berger fidèle, a pretty but not particularly memorable cantata by Rameau that opened the program. A final note for concert planners: beware of last-minute changes to concert programs. In spite of providing the revised order of performance as a program insert, the changes provoked an unprecedented outburst from one patron, who stood up after intermission and berated the Folger Consort for not announcing the order from the stage. The insert had apparently fallen out of his program.
The Folger Consort's next program, a much anticipated and fully staged performance of the Second Shepherds' Play, a medieval mystery play attributed to the Wakefield Master, will run from December 12 to 30. It will certainly be in the running for best Christmas concert event (for the informed listener) this December. Secure your tickets now.