If baroque music is your taste, you would have had your fill at Friday’s (Nov. 11) Cincinnati Symphony concert at the Taft Theater (the CSO’s “home away from home” while Music Hall is being renovated).
Making it even more attractive was the program, which comprised four baroque favorites by Handel and Bach.
Led by guest conductor/baroque specialist Ton Koopman in his CSO debut, they included the Suite No. 1 in F Major from Handel’s “Water Music,” Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major and Bach’s Suite No. 3 in G Major.
Handel’s “Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks” were composed for outdoor, royally commissioned events drawing thousands of people. They were right at home in the 2,259-seat Taft, which was almost filled to capacity.
The music was performed in authentic baroque style by small ensembles with rapid tempos and vibrato-less strings. It made for a clean, pure sound in the Taft’s welcoming acoustics.
The “Water Music,” so-called because it was premiered in barges on the River Thames as part of a royal celebration, came across as smooth and well-balanced, with shapely dynamics by the horns, dance-like strings in the Minuet, beautiful solos by concertmaster Kathryn Woolley and oboist Dwight Parry and a slow, drawn out ending, colored by the harp.
Trumpets, horns and drums sounded the triumphal beginning of the Royal Fireworks Music. Strings and winds alternated, with pinpoint high notes by the trumpets in the Bouree and a triumphant trumpet and drum ending. [The audience, being unsure of where the six-movement Suite ended, caused Koopman to turn and good-naturally signal the applause.)
Koopman led Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto from the harpsichord in a stylish performance marked by infectious contrasts (and a wonderful improvisation by Koopman between movements). Bach’s Suite No. 3 reflected energy and beauty, with rapid and precise fugal textures. The well-known Air, also known as the Air for the G String, was a gentle beauty, with a lovely, tapered ending.