Review

MEDITERRANEAN BAROQUE  | 12 March 2017 | CANBERRA

“Mediterranean Baroque” by The Sydney Consort.       Wesley Music Centre. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

If George and Ira Gershwin were alive in the Baroque period, they’d have been writing about the fascinating rhythms of Mediterranean Baroque Music.

Some music is defined by the origins of its region, the baroque music programmed for this concert highlighted this. We heard lively, rhythmical and playful works from 15 different composers. Some of the instruments played were almost as old as the music itself; from around the 1770s.

The four players from the Sydney Consort were Hans-Dieter Michatz, recorder; Stan W. Kornel, baroque violin; Verna Lee, harp and Monika Kornel, harpsichord. But, this ensemble can consist of up to 15 performers. On the day, they created a wonderfully refined sound.

A lively, bright work titled “Canarios”, by Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710), began the concert. A few works into the recital we heard the challenging “Fandango” for solo harpsichord by Domenico Scarlatti. Its rhythmical contrasts were handled with aplomb by Monika Kornel.

Hearing this sort of music live can transport the listener to another time and place. It was easy to imagine the courts, the halls and the private homes that housed this ornamental style of music.

The performers had a range of instruments on hand. Six types of recorders, two harps, a violin and a harpsichord. Blended together, or used in pairs such as a recorder and a harp, they can mirror one another, or create subtle timbres setting each other apart, which produces a unique aural expression.

Several pieces followed by known composers, such as Pergolesi, then we were given an unprogrammed delight. A work to remember the 25th anniversary of the death of the composer,

bandoneon player and tango master, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). His composition “Café 1930” with its luscious, romantic and deeply seductive sounds changed the mood of the concert.

Piazzolla’s trademark tempo and dynamic shifts (even in just one bar) were on full display. As it was played by Monika and Stan W. Kornel, your heart slipped as the violin sensuously slid into its next note. An obvious favourite work of the pair as Stan kissed Monika’s hand at the end.

Baroque music of the time, was being composed in other places outside its traditional home of Europe. The Turkish composer, Tanburi Mustafa Cavus (1700-1770) known for his “art music”, hit us with his dynamic rhythms and changing colour towards the end of the concert. The audience felt the difference in this piece and responded with hearty applause.

STABAT MATER  | 3 APRIL 2015 | BALMAIN

by Alan Holley

JUST THE RIGHT MIX OF DEVOTION AND ENJOY FOR GOOD FRIDAY

Couperin imbues the music with a lightness of touch   By far the most intriguing work in the Sydney Consort Good Friday program was the short Francois Couperin motet style Troisième Leçon à deux voix for 2 sopranos and continuo. Even though the text and the subject matter are gloomy Couperin imbues the music with a lightness of touch. 

Perfectly matched musicians   St Augustine’s is a perfect place for sopranos to let float a liquid line of bell-like notes. The acoustic makes the faster music a little blurry but it is ever so sweet. Sopranos Belinda Montgomery and Anna Fraser were beautifully matched by the impeccable harpsichordist Monika Kornel and the sensitive playing of cellist Teije Hylkema. 

Stan Kornel is one of the most interesting musicians in Sydney  The main work by duration was a rarity, a Stabat Mater by the obscure Girolamo Abos (1715 – 1760). There were many composers in the baroque period just as there were many painters and the church gave them gainful occupation. And even though it was an act of serious research by the Sydney Consort to present this work I doubt there will be much call to hear further of his output. There is nothing wrong with the music of Abos. Simply, there are so many better works by the masters of the period. Indeed, when it started I thought I was listening to a strange re-write of Pergolesi’s famous Stabat Mater so similar were many of the gestures and attitudes in the music. The sopranos were joined by alto Hannah Fraser and there was much fine singing from the trio of voices. The ensemble was admirably led by that stalwart of the Sydney baroque movement Stan Kornel, simply one of the most interesting musicians in Sydney. 

The right mix of devotion and enjoyment  On a wet Good Friday night more than a 100 people attended this concert and they showed their collective appreciation and enthusiasm for the music and the performers. Just the right mix of devotion and of enjoyment.

IRISH BAROQUE | 20 February 2015 |

The Sydney Consort’s ‘Irish Baroque’ interspersed Irish folk songs with concertos and sonatas

By Daniel Kaan

Lived up to high expectations I knew nothing about Irish baroque music but my expectations of this concert were high. I was at The Sydney Consort’s beautiful “Stabat Mater” concert in the same church last year. They specialise in music of the 17th and 18th centuries, played on period instruments with appropriate style, ornamentation, temperament and pitch. Part of their mission is to revive forgotten music and composers. They hit the spot here as I had never heard of any of the featured composers O’Carolan, Roseingrave, Viner and Thumonth. The core members of the ensemble, Monika Kornel (harpsichord) and Stan Kornel (violin) were augmented by Nadia Piave (voice), Hans–Dieter Michatz (descant, treble and tenor recorders) and Verna Lee (harp).

Well programmed The concert was well programmed, interspersing Irish folk songs with the more serious “concertos” and “sonatas”. Grand titles, but these were on the whole quite small scale works. The full instrumental ensemble played the opening pieces by Turlough O’Carolan with lively engagement. The descant recorder, while beautifully played, unfortunately lost clarity in the reverberant acoustic of the church. The other recorder pieces employed the treble and tenor which were better suited. Kornel played with sustained and even tone The Sonata in A minor by William Viner was in the style of his Italian teacher Arcangelo Corelli. My favourite was the slow movement which Kornel played with sustained and even tone, again well suited to the acoustic.

Need to hear more of Monika playing solo Monika’s French Double Harpsichord continuo expertly filled out the textures. We were however treated to a solo in the slow movement of the final work “A Celebrated Concerto for the Harpsichord” by Thomas Roseingrave. I would like to hear more of this magnificent instrument and Monika’s playing in a solo capacity.

Ecstatic voice was filled with yearning It was satisfying to hear folksongs sung by a voice with even tone throughout the vocal range. I especially enjoyed “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”. The delicately ornamented melodic line in the ecstatic voice was filled with yearning. A wistful harp supported beautifully.

A thoroughly enjoyable concert. I will be attending their concerts whenever possible in future.

‘The Mannheim School’, Friday 14 November, Balmain

by Liliane Clarke

‘Come and experience the sound of the emerging clarinet in the Mannheim School’ says the promotional blurb, and so we did in a delightful evening concert by Sydney Consort in Balmain’s St Augustine’s Catholic Church. Despite a last minute change from cello to recorder, and a resulting rejig in repertoire, the evening was a special journey through the period, each piece showcasing aspects of the school itself.

Two Stamitz men Not surprisingly then, the first two pieces were by the two generations of Stamitz men – founder Johann and Karl, Johann’s son, which began the concert. A magical Quartetto in F Major filled the resonant church, with specialist early music recorder player Hans–Dieter Michatz’s playful and crisp playing leading the melodic homophonic texture of the piece, a characteristic of the school. Lawrence Dobell, principal clarinet with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, beautifully performed the clarinet lines to show the early development of the instrument itself. 

Period performance Johann Stamitz’s Sonate in D Major featured Sydney Consort Artistic Directors harpsichordist Monika Kornel and violinist Stan Kornel on their period instruments, as their rich and adept lines told a musical story of synchronicity and perfect phrasing. Franz Danzi’s Sonate Concertante in B flat Major for clarinet and harpsichord showed again Dobell’s gorgeous feel and virtuosity. After Toeschi’s Trio in A Major and Ignaz Holzbauer’s Sinfonia a Tre, it was time for ‘the sound of greatness” as Stan Kornel announced Mozart’s Sonate in G Major KV27, one of his ‘childhood violin sonatas for keyboard and violin’. Written when he was only nine years old, and performed and published in The Hague in 1766 when he was only ten, the longer violin phrases immediately stood out with Monika’s stirring playing on her cherished French Double Harpsichord.

A perfect musical dialogue Holzbauer’s Quartet in C Minor brought the four players together again, with a perfect musical dialogue between recorder and clarinet finishing the evening. The Sydney Consort certainly live up to their reputation of ‘an energetic ensemble devoted to early music with high energy performers’ – their passion and sheer joy of bringing early music to life is incredibly rewarding.

Catch Sydney Consort for an Irish Baroque celebration on 20 February in 2015 in Balmain.

Strings–Sackbuts–Serpent

By Roger Donbavand

Link to article

A fascinating title for a really fascinating CD. One which grows on you with repeated hearings. The music on the disc is of the Baroque period, ie sixteenth and seventeenth centuries so what might be described as ‘early music’. But this is not the showy music of the Baroque, but more intimate music designed to be listened to in more intimate surroundings and absorbed and contemplated on. So have a glass or red (or white) put this disc on, light some candles and drift away to this earlier period.

Two things fascinated me:

The instruments used – OK, some are the familiar, ie the violin and possibly the viola d’amore but also we have a sackbut, a serpent and a cembalo – are we at Taronga Zoo – no these were all instruments used in that period and they have fascinating sounds. If you listen to track five there is a piece called ‘Ave Generosa’ for solo serpent. This instrument, so the great CD booklet states, was invented to keep a guy’s choir in tune in 1590 and ‘given that the holes are drilled to fit the size of the player’s hands and not for any acoustic reason, it is a sad reflection of the quality of the choir indeed!’. Some of the sounds that The Sydney Consort make are great – there are some wonderful gurgling ones in a piece by Johann Joseph Fux (an unfortunate name if ever there was).

Indeed the other fascinating things about this CD are the amazing composers on it – some of whom where amazing people like Hildegard von Bingen who we are told was consulted by popes, kings and bishops. She apparently used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about the medical uses of plants, animals, trees and…stones! There are lots more insights like this in the booklet. The photos of the instruments and when they were made and of The Sydney Consort also add to what is a lovely CD.

Oh, and I do like the acoustics of St Augustine’s Church in Balmain where the CD was recorded. So buy for these winter evenings with a glass of red (or white)!