Date: June 28, 2008
About: Alexandra Moore MacCracken - Class of 1967
Washington Early Music Festival
Even before the ever-burning suns of Beethoven and Mozart, Schubert and Brahms, the city of Vienna and elsewhere in Austria were fertile ground for composers. The Ensemble Gaudior offered that reminder with its Thursday evening concert at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, part of the Washington Early Music Festival. The evening illuminated the pleasantries of each baroque work, while also highlighting all the developments needed to bring about the sonic profundities of those latter-day greats.
The ensemble, a locally based period instrument group comprising on this night violinist Alexandra MacCracken, harpsichordist Elena Tsai and Daniel Rippe on the viola da gamba, gave pride of place to the music of Heinrich Biber. Whether in the "Rosary" Sonata No. 9, Sonata Terza in F and, obviously, the Passacaglia in G Minor for solo violin, Biber assigns the most interesting parts to the violin. The rolling arpeggios of the harpsichord or the warm repetitions of the bass viola provided a gentle wash of sounds for the violin's vigor and effusion. MacCracken used her gorgeous Jacob Stainer violin to solid effect, helping bring color and shape to each score.
Tsai did nice work in several pieces by Johann Froberger, though here musical forms like toccata and ricercar came off as much as a limiter as a helpful framework for liberating exploration. There was also an occasional tentativeness in the ensemble work in sonatas of Georg Muffat and Johann Schmelzer.
-- Daniel Ginsberg