The Corona del Mar Baroque Festival is 7 this year--relatively mature as such things go, yet still a relaxed, chipper sort of affair. Sunday evening the festival began with an organ concert at St. Michael and All Angels Church.
Stanford-based Robert Bates, a specialist in French Baroque music, exhumed a short, minor work for organ and orchestra by Charpentier for the festival. Judging from his spoken introduction, the effort was solely for the sake of novelty. Labeled an Offerte but sounding more like an overture, the music proved pleasantly but forgettably ceremonial.
If that represented new old music, Handel's Concerto in F, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," was definitely old-old. Bates worked hard to individualize the piece, although backing the cuckoo calls in the second movement with an anemic Zymbelstern was not the best way to go about that.
Another Handel Concerto, Opus 4, No. 3, and the instrumental movements from Bach's Cantata No. 35, "Geist und Seele wird verwirret," completed the ensemble portion of the program. Bates played cleanly and crisply, and festival director Burton Karson saw to it that his ad hoc band faithfully echoed Bates' ornamentation.