Arts » Classical Music

Quicksilver plays 17th-century 'modern' music



Continuing an Indianapolis Early Music seminar from Friday night's Musica Pacifica delving into 17th-century repertoire, three of the group's players returned Sunday as part of Quicksilver, the name deriving from the element mercury, theretofore a tool of alchemy. This time the program delved into mostly unknown Italian and German composers who began to explore "pure" music for its own sake, containing no form, not following any pattern non-musical. Hence the evolution of the sonata and its various namesakes. Unlike Friday we had no folk music here. Except for three dance pieces by Tarquinio Merula, these offerings were "artsy" to the nth degree.

Baroque violinists Robert Mealy (from 'Pacifica) and Julie Andrijeski headed up the Quicksilver team, also including cellist and viola da gambist David Morris ('Pacifica); lutenist and theorbo player Charles Weaver ('Pacifica); and harpsichordist Avi Stein.

The program's all-Italian first half proved the most adventuresome in its exploration of styles and structures unbelievably variable for that period. Composers like Giovanni Cima, Dario Castello, Giovanni Fontana and Biagio Marini assaulted us with sonatas containing every manner of expressive nuance: sudden tempo changes, full stops, virtuosic sweeps, languid melodies and daring harmonic jumps for the period. Three dances, including a chaconne by Tarquinio Merula provided a backdrop of more familiar styles.

More interesting but tamed down a bit described the program's German half. Dietrich Buxtehude, the most familiar name, appeared with two pieces--one a prelude for solo harpsichord, anticipating the "toccata" style which Bach would later make famous. Other represented composers were Johann Kerll, Johann Schmelzer and Johannes Vierdanck. Here again we notice that the early Baroque musical language was more extensive than we had thought.

Our performers delivered this material as though it were part and parcel of their own souls. Their timing, their entrances, their pitches (tuned in Meantone temperament), their thorough command of this style made hearing them a treat. For me it was as much a vicarious enjoyment as anything. June 22; Indiana History Center


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