Last night’s concert at Koerner Hall featuring Karina Gauvin and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra was originally put together for a Russian themed event and featured music that either was written by Russian composers of the late 18th century or might have been heard in St. Petersburg in that era though the final set was changed out for excerpts from Gluck’s Armide though one would not have gathered that from the programme notes!
I’d guess that few people in the audience were particularly familiar with the likes of Bortniansky or Berezovsky and even if I had at least heard the names Hasse and Paisiello I’d hardly claim to be familiar with their music. So, up until the final Gluck set it felt a bit artificial. There was a definite feel of a genre running out of ideas. The music was quite pretty and workmanlike but lacking much spark. Even Gluck’s Armide, by no means my favourite opera, seemed like a huge advance.
And this was a bit of a shame because the performances were really good. Gauvin is hard to beat in this sort of rep. She has a very beautiful, pure voice and ornaments elegantly. She can be quite dramatic too. My only beef would be that I find her Italian quite hard to follow. The 24 piece ensemble (strings, clarinets, bassoon, flutes and horns with Alex Weinmann directing, at times from the keyboard, was a very capable period ensemble. They managed well around pieces they weren’t fully equipped for (no trumpets, trombones or timpani). They accompanied sympathetically and had an interesting sort of sound. It seems softer, perhaps more covered, than, say, Tafelmusik who sound brighter to me. It’s a bit unfamiliar but attractive. They are also clearly good solo musicians too. Concertmaster Chloe Meyers played a very skilled version of a violin sonata by Berezovsky (with Weinmann) and the assorted winds came together for a Divertimento by Paisiello.
Ultimately then I was a bit underwhelmed. Not by the playing, which was very good, but by the material itself; quite a lot of which didn’t register much of an impression.
The photos are not from last night. They are promos from the RCM.