Fort Worth — The Texas Camerata’s first concert of their 25th anniversary season had moments of sublime beauty interspersed with moments that notably lacked polish. The venue was Fort Worth’s First Presbyterian Church, which with its cathedral ceilings has much more forgiving acoustics for Baroque players than does the new Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Art Museum, where the group sometimes performs.
The larger works on the program were both by Handel: his Salve Regina and “O quialis de coelo sonus.” Texas Camerata filled out the program with works by J.S. Bach and lesser-known composers Boyce, Froberger and de Nebra.
While soprano Ava Pine was undoubtedly the star of Sunday’s show, the other musicians each displayed a sophisticated execution of Baroque performance practice. All three string players, violinists Kristin Van Cleve and Ellen Lovelace and cellist Karen Hall, used vibrato as an occasional ornament. Too often, Baroque string players make the mistake of abolishing vibrato altogether, and the result is a sound that is dry and lifeless. Nuanced use of vibrato, as demonstrated by these three players, is not only authentic, but also adds dimension to the sound.
However, the three string players struggled with pitch enough that it seemed advisable for them to tune their instruments more frequently than they did, and ensemble was often an issue in sections with faster tempi, such as the Allegro of Handel’s Salve Regina. The strings had trouble picking up the tempo from the keyboard, and for a few measures soprano Pine selected a different tempo still.
Keyboardist Damin Spritzer shaped masterful phrases both on First Presbyterian’s beautiful double manual harpsichord and on a small positive organ. Spritzer performed two short works for organ solo, Froberger’s Toccata in G Minor and the Aria from J.S. Bach’s Pastorale in F Major. Both featured a compelling attention to line. Spritzer’s work as a continuo player on the remaining pieces on the program was almost always steady, providing an often much-needed foundation for the other musicians.