A Fine Evening at St. Helen's Anglican with La ModestineSaturday, October 29, 2016
|Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre by François de Troy|
Which of these is not a rose from my garden?
Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre
The first three are roses (and I cheated as Jacqueline du Pré of course was a renowned cellist who had a rose named after her.
Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre is and was not a rose. She was that rare person, a French female baroque composer (1665-1729)
Listening to her Sonata No 2 in D major last night at a performance of the super-group La Modestine (and look here for the program) at St. Helen’s Anglican (not far from my Kitsilano home) was something like spotting a Russian car in the 70s anywhere. I would stop and marvel at its alieness and even looked at the metal surfaces as if they had come from afar in a meteorite.
Listening to her Sonata was specifically not only a revelation but also because of Michael Jarvis’s playing on the harpsichord.
The harpsichord is an instrument about which I have conflicting thoughts. When I listen to it with a mid-sized or large baroque orchestra I cannot hear it except in moments (the same for the lute). For me the harpsichord is like parsley in a soup. You know of its presence even though you might not discern its taste.
But in a La Modestine as a trio (the also play as a quartet with a second violinist Linda Melsted who cannot come from Seattle all the time) the harpsichord shines as an instrument. And it shone last night for two reasons. One was Michael Jarvis’s light but elegant touch and the other was knowing that Elisabeth-Claude was indeed a harpsichord player probably as elegant as Jarvis) who had played, as a teenager, for Louis the 14th.
For the average Vancouver concert-goer the composers featured last night would have been virtually unknown except perhaps for Dietrich Buxtehude. The others, Jean-Fery Rebel, P.H. Erlebach, Jacques Duphly and Marin Marais would be question marks. But then the EMV (Early Music Vancouver) the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and several other groups including La Modestine are exploring the composers of the 17th century for our benefit.
This is what makes early music composers in Vancouver seem like avant-garde new composers. This would be particularly true if you have never heard any of them. Particularly striking is watching Marc Destrubé play. He cannot hide his emotions and he would certainly lose his shirt in strip poker.
But what is surprising in the 21st century that except for the Erlebach Sonata all available on YouTube! I will put the links below.
The concert ended with three pieces. The first was a harpsichord solo (with wonderful use of the keyboard in the lower register) Jacques Duphly’s La Forqueray (which means “the proud one in the feminine gender!”. I am warming up to that solo harpsichord these days.
The second piece was Buxtehude’s Sonata in A minor Bux 272 which featured a second movement Adagio that was so lovely that I was in tears. Perhaps it was all about a cold rainy and depressing Friday evening, perhaps not.
I was lifted from my doldrums by Marin Marais Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont de Paris. This sonnerie was a virtuso piece for Mackie's viola da gamba. The Sonnerie was like a march song in which I felt like a French soldier ready to meet my maker by shooting the English in battle. To me the piece sounded suspiciously like a Chaconne. Marc Destrubé said it was not and Natalie Mackie told me, “I disagree,” but then I know that Natalié Mackie’s email contains the word chaconne!
I went home with my spirits up and looking forward to the next concert at St. Helen’s which will feature on November 26 pianist Sean Chen who is going to include in the program the complete Moonlight Sonata and some Chopin. Both Beethoven and Chopin will bring me memories of my mother who often played the Moonlight even when like Bethoven she became deaf and cried while playing telling me, “I can remember how this sounded.”
There was a large contingent of visiting Iranians who had never seen a harspichord or listened to a baroque concert. I had a nice time explaining to some of them (as best I could) that Natalie Mackie's viola de gamba was related to the guitar and not to the cello or bass. Many flocked around Michael Jarvis and they oohed and aahed at his string instrument (so it is Jarvis told me) and listened to his explanations.
For info on Müze West concerts at St Helen's Anglcan look here.
Jean-Fery Rebel Sonate Premiere
Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre Sonata No 2 in D Major
Jacques Duphly La Forqueray
Marin Marais Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont de Paris