Review: Amadeus Consort charms Woodlawn

Members of the Amadeus Consort (left-to-right): Pascal Innocenti, Isabelle Rozendaal and Heather Boehm.
Members of the Amadeus Consort (left-to-right): Pascal Innocenti, Isabelle Rozendaal and Heather Boehm.

Classical Music Critic

Members of the Amadeus Consort visited north Woodlawn Sunday afternoon to give a well-conceived concert of baroque music as part of the Shrine of Christ the King spring concert series under the general title “Hidden Treasures of the Baroque Era.”

Although their grand church at 64th and Woodlawn suffered extensive fire damage in October of last year, Shrine of Christ the King continues operation with the help of their neighbor, First Presbyterian Church of Chicago (6400 S. Kimbark). Worship services are held in First Presbyterian’s gym and the free concerts featuring the Amadeus Consort take place on the ground floor. There was a good-sized crowd Sunday afternoon, in spite of the cool and blustery weather.

The five members of the consort who made their way to the south side on Sunday were Andrew Leitza (oboe), Pascal Innocenti (baroque violin), Isabelle Rozendaal (baroque violin and tenor viola da gamba), Heather Boehm (baroque viola), and Anna Steinhoff (baroque cello).

The highlight of the concert was J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060R. The five musicians created big sound and oboist Andrew Leitza displayed an attractive tone quality and pleasing work in the rapid passages, although occasionally some of his long phrases ended rather abruptly. The strings had shining sound and in the slower sections both Leitza and first violin Innocenti used a simple declarative style to good effect when passing the lead lines back and forth. At one point Leitza seemed to have lost the thread, but after an awkward pause things were back on track. The legato was perfect and the brisk portions of the music had good energy.

The concert opened with Bach’s Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 156. Also featuring all five players, this short work had creamy oboe playing from Leitza and gentle sound from the strings, perfect for the languid music.

It was strings only for Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8. It opened with intriguingly dark sound that gave way to bright playing as the tempo picked up. The counterpoint was pleasing and the ensemble’s playing was well-anchored by Steinhoff’s reliable and engaging work on cello. Innocenti and Rozendaal offered fine playing in the sections that gave prominence to the two violins, with moments of fiery music. This work of contrasts ended on a satisfyingly quiet note.

In brief remarks, Innocenti introduced Telemann’s Sonata in A Major, TWV 40:200 as very probably the first-ever string quartet. The four members of the Amadeus Consort showed careful ensemble work with good interplay among the voices. They had both energy and assurance. The violins traded pretty singing phrases and the contrapuntal texture had clarity.

Steinhoff offered a brief cello solo, taking on the Sarabande from Bach’s first suite for solo cello. She said it was a piece that she had been working on since she was a child of ten and continued to find it full of fascination. She was clearly at ease with the music and played with rich tone, like dark coffee. She had just the right elasticity in phrasing and the entire performance was refined and polished.

Another work for four strings followed: Torelli’s Concerto a Quattro in G minor. The slowly smoldering opening gave way to a building of intensity, and the work had a notable finish.

Next up were two works which featured the husband and wife team of Innocenti and Rozendaal. First, Fantasias by Orlando Gibbons for treble viol (Rozendaal on tenor viola da gamba) and baroque violin (Innocenti). Rosendaal’s six-stringed instrument — although the size of a small violin is played in the manner of a cello — had a delicate sound and the blended well with the violin. Telemann’s Canonic Sonata No. 3 in G Major found both players on baroque violin in a work which gave each musician the exact same music, one player beginning later than the first. This duo performed another Telemann work in this same form last month, and like last month, the result was highly successful. The music particularly had splendid rhythmic unity.

After the concert, members of the audience were invited to the front of the church to speak with the musicians who were eager to discuss the various instruments they had brought with them to the concert. As was the case last month, there were several children in the audience and they were keen to hear about the different instruments. Innocenti, in particular, has a wonderful way of talking to kids about music and he was surrounded by children long after the concert ended.

These concerts are free. The next one is on Sun., Jun. 12 at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago (6400 S. Kimbark) and would make a perfect family outing after Sunday lunch. They are particularly suited for children as the concerts are just under an hour with no intermission. Members of Shrine of Christ the King will be on hand if you want to learn more about the restoration of their historic church.