Camerata Academica of the Antipodes: Corelli, Vivaldi, Telemann and Wieniawski’s Legende Back

This was my first time at a performance by the ensemble Camerata Academica of the Antipodes. The concert presented the audience with an auditory feast of musical works for string instruments and voice from the Baroque era to the present. Through a series of works, from well-known pieces to less familiar ones, the concert demonstrated each instrument’s unique sound and the cooperation between instruments was superb from a magnificent ensemble.

Although the Camerata utilise original scores and adopt a historically inspired approach, they didn’t perform the musical pieces literally according to the music score; they instead presented their own interpretations to audience acclaim, while showing respect for the original scores. This is perhaps a reflection of the Camerata’s recognition of, and deepest tribute to, these legendary composers and the performing tradition of their times.

The concert started with an especially touching arrangement of Mr Beveridge’s Maggot first published in Henry Playford’s Dancing Master in 1695. The ensemble director, Dr Imogen Coward, then performed Handel’s aria ‘V’adoro pupille’ from Giuilo Cesare HWV 17 and ‘Ne men con l’ombre’ from Serse HWV40. Dr Coward’s skilful soprano was on full display in the intense, profound and dramatic singing.

Straight after the vocal solo performance, the Camerata performed the Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.7 by Corelli and the ‘Grave e Staccato’ movement from the less well known Concerto Armonico No.1 by Unico Wassenaer. Featured soloists for the two Concerti, Jemma Thrussell (cello), Christopher Porteous, Laura Chung and Taliésin Coward (violins) were all drawn from within the Camerata’s ensemble. Although young, their instrumental skills were sophisticated. Indeed, many of the ensemble members displayed their multiple instrumental skills changing instruments throughout the programme, which added another layer of interest and visual impact.

By popular request the ensemble reprised Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus Motet, K.618, which was one of the magnificent works of sacred music sung by the SATB chamber vocal ensemble; small but tasteful. The concert moved from the Baroque and Classical eras to the present with Leon Coward, composer-pianist, premiering his Melody for Piano & Strings and also his piano solo Lament. Leon Coward’s works were full of new invention; Lament in particular showed people how innovative he was, the work leading us into a world full of colour. Rich harmonies and rhythm reminiscent of cinematic music were achieved with just solo piano and strings, complemented by his use of textural contrast between the instruments to shape and drive the sense of movement and colour.

The concert then took on a more Romantic flavour with Taliésin Coward performing his arrangement for solo violin and string ensemble of Wienawski’s work Legende for Violin Op.17. The performance reflected Taliésin’s personality, which was humorous and graceful and completely integrated with the ensemble, giving listeners a new understanding of Wieniawski’s original work.

The final piece presented at the afternoon concert was the Concerto in A minor RV 356 from L’Estro Armonico by Vivaldi, with Christopher Porteous as the soloist for the first and third movements, and Taliésin Coward the soloist for the middle movement. Each movement was beautifully performed and the piece made for a delightful ending. The smiles between all the ensemble members, and between solo violinist Christopher Porteous and the ensemble’s director, Dr Imogen Coward, reinforced for the audience how connected all the ensemble members were in their playing. The expert performance and love of music from these musicians is inspirational, and enabled everyone in the hall to understand and share in the music. The Camerata is definitely something to be savoured by Sydney’s music lovers.

The Camerata of the Antipodes performed at St Alban’s Church, Epping, Sydney on 15th May 2016.