Marlborough Express 4 May 2009

Baroque spirit recaptured


Hosted by Marlborough Musical Society, Montana Brancott Winery on Friday, 1 May 2009


“Baroque music is a window to a past era populated by people not unlike ourselves.” Those words paraphrase Donald Nicolson’s summary of baroque in the programme headed International Attitude and distributed to the 80 people who turned up to the Marlborough Musical Society concert by Latitude 37 on Friday evening.

New Zealand harpsichordist Nicolson and Australian musicians Jules Fredersdorff [sic], violin, and Laura Vaughan, viola da gamba, make up Latitude 37. Each has a busy, independent musical career, performing, recording and teaching both internationally and in his or her own country. But on Friday evening, the long, complicated musical scripts by 17th century composers were played with apparent ease, suggesting the performers have spent long hours together honing their skills.

Latitude 37 music is promoted as antipodean interpretations of baroque for 21st-century audiences. Musically untrained myself, I cannot compare their versions to how the sonatas and other compositions were intended by the German, French and Italian composers such as Dietrich Buxtelhude, Francois Couperin, Dietrich Becker and George Phillipp Telemann. But Nicolson’s intricate keyboard skills and the complicated string work Fredersdorff and Vaughan seemed to be doing automatically would surely have pleased the old musical scribes. They were brought alive for me by little stories told by Latitude 37 members before each new item was performed, opening indeed that window to a former era.

A halftime interval prompted many audience members to approach the stage for a closer look at Nicolson’s harpsichord. Soon the musicians had returned and were answering questions and explaining the features and tuning challenges of their old-style instruments.

Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau was the final piece on the programme and long applause for the trio prompted an encore. If the spirit of baroque music was, as Nicolson describes in the programme, not only to please the ear, but to express the sentiments, strike the imagination and command the passions, I believe it was recaptured by Latitude 37.

Angela Crompton