Music written during the American Revolution was not itself particularly revolutionary. But with the retreat of the Baroque style and the emergence of simple, idealized harmonies clothing the non-offensive elegance of single melodic lines, the music Europeans brought with them to late Colonial and Revolutionary America was at least evolutionary - in helping define the so-called Classical era.
Canadian-based Zephyrus (Courtney Westcott, Ingrid Mathews, Claire Garabedian and Byron Schenkman) performed last Friday as part of the Early Music Festival.
Last Friday"s Early Music Festival concert (performed at the Indianapolis Art Center) saw the fifth appearance of Zephyrus, a four-piece ensemble featuring flutist Courtney Westcott, violinist Ingrid Matthews, cellist Claire Garabedian and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman. With their program title, London and the New World, Zephyrus centered on late 18th century works by Americans and Brits, the latter often with New World connections.
The Zephyrus players began with the Sonata in C minor for flute, violin and continuo by Carl Friedrich Abel, a German, who, along with his partner Johann Christian Bach (the great Johann Sebastian"s youngest son), spent much of his creative life in London. The three movements hearkened back to a touch of the Baroque, with Matthews displaying either a light vibrato or none at all, her pitch right on target throughout. Schenkman followed with a harpsichord medley put together by American Francis Hopkinson - one which included a Scarlatti sonata, the program"s musical high point by this one-of-a-kind Italian keyboard master. Then followed a suite arranged for Zephyrus by Schenkman from The Volunteers, a lost musical theater work by Scotsman Alexander Reinagle, who migrated to Philadelphia where most of his dramatic music was destroyed in a fire. Using the lute stop, Schenkman was most affecting with "Rough as the Waves on Which We Sail."
The program"s second half began with a somewhat vapid trio for flute, violin and cello by native Pennsylvanian John Antes, who lived his adult life and did his composing overseas. This was followed by a sonata for violin and continuo by Corelli, as found in the library of Thomas Jefferson. J.C. Bach bookended the program with his partner Abel in a sonata for flute, violin and continuo, in which the violin often covered the flute.
Last Sunday saw another Festival Music Society favorite, the New York-based Concert Royal, returning from last season, this time on short notice to replace an Israeli ensemble that couldn"t, for reasons one might surmise, make the trip. And, like last summer, this program featured French chamber music of the late Baroque, and an astonishing soprano. Melissa Fogarty, also on short notice, prepared and sang two challenging and rewarding cantatas, one by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729), the other by Michel Pignolet de MontÈclair (1667-1737). Along with Jean Marie Leclair"s DeuxiËme RÈcrÈation de Musique, they were that evening"s high points.
For both these excellent, stylishly performing groups, the Art Center auditorium filled all 224 of its seats. The FMS is now batting 1,000 in the first four of its six concerts (the final two being July 26 and 28) thanks to Jim Wilgus, the FMS" marketing manager extraordinaire.