By Sana Haque
BU News Service
Newbury Street enjoyed a trot down memory lane this Saturday afternoon as the Musicians of the Old Post Road revived long-forgotten gems from musical countries along the Baltic Sea, including Russia, Denmark and Sweden. The popular chamber music ensemble specializes in instrumental period works from the Classical, Baroque and early Romantic periods. This season, titled “Musical Migrants,” was no different.
Held at the Emmanuel Church, the concert drew from works produced in eighteenth-century London, a period of great immersion in Italian opera and patronage of rising musical talent. This included using compositions by immigrants such as John C. Pepusch, George F. Handel, Francesco Geminiani and Giovanni Bononcini, who all arrived in London in search of better lives and greater opportunities. The program was a nod to their indelible contributions to British musical culture and a powerful tribute to the ongoing global migration crisis.
The show opened with a rendition of Berlin-born Pepusch’s “Menalcas once the gayest Swain,” written for the Duke of Chandos James Brydges and published in 1720. The song artfully captured both the sensation of flying and the inevitable fall to love. It was followed by Geminiani’s “Sonata in C Major for cello and continuo, op. 5, no. 3,” and with its measured style, shifting lengths and lack of repetition, commanded immediate attention from its watchful audience. The subsequent English songs by renowned poet and composer George Frideric Handel included “Love’s but the Frailty of the Mind,” “Transporting Joy” and “Flattering Tongue” before a brief intermission granted a suitable segue between the livelier compositions of prior and the more pensive works that followed.
Handel’s “Trio Sonata in B Minor,” in both form and convention, paid homage to his involvement in Italian opera. Bononcini’s “Lamento d’Olimpia” delved into the tragedy of Olimpia, who bewailed her abandonment by her lover Bireno. The concluding piece was Handel’s “Il fulgido seren,” or the “serene splendor,” which touched upon a woman’s torn attentions between her captor and beloved that seeks to rescue her. Although brief, it dispelled the earlier, somber mood with a more hopeful and vibrant note.
Teresa Wakim occupied the audience’s attention with her poignant soprano; however, her pitch was perfectly complemented by Suzzane Stumpf’s traverso, Daniel Ryan’s cello, Michael Bahmann’s unusual harpsichord and violin performances by Sarah Darling and Asako Takeuchi.
The reception that followed allowed the audience to intermingle with the chamber members over bowls of fruit, crackers and cheese. Stalls were set up with paraphernalia to encourage donations and purchases in support of Musicians of the Old Post Road.
For Fajr Dar, a 26-year-old tax lawyer, the performance was “riveting,” to say the least.
“From the start, I felt as though I’d been transported to another place; to another era. Performing in this historic church only added to the atmosphere of timelessness. And despite the focused theme and style, I believe anyone would have enjoyed it. It was wonderful.”