It's Baroque, but somehow they fix it
A gimmick can make you rich and famous these days if you know exactly how to serve it up. An example of a gimmick is to play Baroque music in any style you feel inclined.
In a program titled “Handel in the Wind” (Candle in the wind?) a quartet of instrumentalists who call themselves “Red Priest” did something on the same order at Rollins College's Tiedtke Hall, on Jan. 24, and my b.w. found it a very entertaining affair.
Granted, to say that the four instrumentalists, recorder player Piers Adams, violinist David Greenberg, cellist Angela East, and harpsichordist David Wright, play virtuosically, would be a rank understatement.
Of course, it ain't just what they play, it's the way they play it that makes a program of beautiful Baroque music a lot of fun.
These four anachronistic “hipsters” take a Baroque piece (say by Handel)‚ and dress it up so that old Handel is in a new suit of clothes. The program included examples of plagiarism by three Baroque composers, guys who made a habit of such purloining, but included Red Priest's up-to-date contributions to the practice.
Musically speaking, everyone had his hand in someone else’s pocket.
Works heard during the concert were: “The Messiah Suite: Part 1” by Handel; “Gypsy Sonata in A Minor” by Telemann; and “Prelude, Largo, and Passacaglia,” “The Messiah Suite Part 2,” “Aria in D,” and “The Harmonious Blacksmith Variations,” all by Handel. After intermission we heard an astonishing version of the Bach “Toccata” and “Fugue in D Minor” followed by a recorder “Sonata in B Minor” composed by Handel and actually performed as written. Then came “Bach on G” (including Scottish and Irish hornpipes); and finally, “The Messiah Suite Part 3,” which included blues and “Happy Birthday!”
Red Priest played the entire concert from memory, a feat enhanced by the fact that the selections were highly complex and exacting. The four players' perfectly rendered nuances were breathtaking.
Recorder player Piers Adams added an interesting aspect by his use of a plethora of different-sized recorders. The improvisation, dynamic and rhythmic changes, frantic tempi, and just plain musical fun made for a most entertaining afternoon.
How fortunate is this community that the Bach Festival brings such recitals to the music loving public. The fact is: Carnegie Hall is at our doorstep.