Fort Worth — The Texas Camerata’s program Saturday afternoon at the Kimbell Art Museum’s Renzo Piano Pavilion was significantly abbreviated due to the illness and resulting absence of Baroque trumpeter Adam Gordon. Two planned works were omitted, so the group made the wise decision to perform the remaining works without an intermission.
The auditorium in the Piano Pavilion is a beautiful venue for small ensembles. It is mostly concrete and glass, including a glass wall behind the players that would create a beautiful effect on rainy days (but would the rain be noisy?). Therefore, even the large and attractive acoustic panels on the sides of the auditorium can’t keep the sound from being a bit unforgiving.
For the most part, though, the core members of Texas Camerata handled the challenges of the revised program and the unfamiliar hall with aplomb. Problems arose primarily in the first part of the program, with Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto in G Minor (RV 104). Recordist Paul Leenhouts, director of Early Music Studies at the University of North Texas, was soloist. Leenhouts and the other musicians struggled with basics such as pitch in this concerto. But it got better.
Telemann’s Quartet in G Major was the only piece on the program in which Karen Hall played viola da gamba—on other pieces, she played Baroque cello. Her gamba playing was quite fine, as was the playing of the rest of the group. This piece was exciting, dynamic, and musical.
Leenhouts returned to the group to play a Concerto in E Minor by Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco, an Italian contemporary of Bach and Telemann. The ensemble seemed to find its groove here; the playing was far better than on the Vivaldi. The string players particularly seemed to have fun with the composer’s Prestissimo marking in the fourth movement, playing truly as fast as possible, in marked contrast with the Adagio sections that begin and end the movement.
A Recorder Concerto in C Major by Telemann was next up. This piece was truly a joy to listen to. There were still pitch problems, which the new hall does nothing to hide, but musically it demonstrated the myriad ways in which authentic Baroque performance practice can be fun and timely, not merely a relic of a past century.
In the program’s final selection, a Chaconne from Lully’s opera Roland, Leenhouts demonstrated the sounds of the sopranino recorder, which is the recorder equivalent of the modern piccolo. This was not only interesting, but also a lovely musical effect. One quirk of the hall, though, seems to be that string playing can sound tentative rather than plaintive when the musicians let the ends of phrases die. This was an unfortunate issue in the Lully.
It’s always challenging when the absence of a key performer forces last-minute program changes. The Texas Camerata handled the change with grace in a mostly successful new program within a beautiful new hall.