The 17-member English Concert, directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock, made an appearance at Ambassador Auditorium on Wednesday, much to the delight of the Southland's growing band of period-performance aficionados.
The program included energetic, polished interpretations of less familiar, but hardly inferior, components of two standard concerto grosso collections: from Corelli's Opus 6, the strikingly dramatic Second Concerto, in F, and from Handel's Opus 6, the stately No. 9, also in F. The evening's sole chestnut was the brief "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" from Handel's "Solomon," an encore piece misplaced at the start of the program.
These antiquarians find little use for the sewing-machine rhythms, blunt dynamics, hyper-aggressive attacks and precipitate cutoffs favored by the Baroque dogmatists. Rather, the British ensemble projects a vital, pragmatic performing style, reveling in the less insistent sound of vibrato-less gut strings, but not at the expense of legato or dynamic subtlety.
Pinnock himself was the dynamic, sure-fingered protagonist in J.S. Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059, a viable, attractive double concerto, as it turns out, for keyboard and oboe cobbled together by Gustav Leonhardt from Bach fragments. In the Bach work, in a Vivaldi Two-Oboe Concerto (with Paul Goodwin) and in the sublime slow movement of Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat, Opus 3, No. 2, oboist David Reichenberg drew a startling amount of volume and richly colored tone from his supposedly primitive instrument.
A capacity audience rewarded the English Concert for the evening's pleasures with the rapt silence (during the music) and audible approval (afterward) usually accorded much flashier performers--and repertory.