Melbourne trio produce a polished pearl of a performance offset by an architectural gem.

Hobart Town Hall

April 1, 2014

Returning to Hobart after their sold-out debut last year, Baroque trio Latitude 37 delivered a rich and stunning recital as part of Tasmania’s annual Hobart Baroque festival (the only event in Australia entirely dedicated to the glorious music of the Baroque period).

Taking their name from the latitudinal position that links Melbourne, Australia, with New Zealand, the three members of Latitude 37 are graduates of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Hobart’s magnificent Town Hall, with its glittering chandeliers, pastel walls and exquisite ceiling decoration, was the perfect setting to transport the full house of expectant listeners back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

The concert was launched with a dazzling performance of Dieterich Buxtehude’s Trio Sonata in D Minor, Op 1 No 6, the swirling melodies sweeping an enthralled audience into what promised to be a spectacular evening. Their communication and love of music was immediately apparent, with musicians Julia Fredersdorff (violin), Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba) and Donald Nicolson (harpsichord and organ) working together to produce a mellifluous tone that resonated throughout Hobart’s architectural gem. Vaughan tackled the fast passages with ease, the technically challenging flurry of notes played easily and gracefully. Throughout the evening, the bronze organ pipes and ceiling were lit in an array of colours by theatrical lighting, enhancing the mood of each piece.  

In Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Sonata in G Major, BWV1021 the organ was illuminated in a sumptuous red, which complemented the smooth legato of Fredersdorff’s playing. The musicians phrased their performance with body movements and eye contact to produce a tight and technically astounding performance. The trio took the time to savour the harmonic resolutions of each phrase, with the audience left in no doubt of the trio’s exceptional international standing.

Nicolson’s intricate harpsichord passages rippled effortlessly in Scarlatti’s Trio Sonata in D Major. Each instrumental part was whole within itself, but like different brushstrokes in a painting, they merged together to create a sublime finished product. The lilting violin phrases were partnered with the mellow tones of the viola da gamba, that intrinsic blend of melody and harmony that so characterizes the Baroque period.

Arcangelo Corelli’s Sonata XII from Opus 5 ‘La Folia’ was a testament to the vitality and enthusiasm of the Melbourne-based ensemble, with the opening theme slow and reflective, before segueing into a light and spirited waltz. The resonant bass tones of the viola da gamba contrasted beautifully with the high, pure passages of the violin. The frequent tempo changes were superbly managed, with the harmony and melody being interchanged between the three instruments. 

Cor partir la Bella Clori from Handel’s cantata Ah Che Pur Troppo e Vero was originally written as an operatic aria, however Latitude 37 gave it a new spin by moving the vocal line to the equally emotive and versatile viola da gamba. Vaughan produced a stunning rendition of the emotionally demanding melody, accompanied skillfully by Nicolson on the contrastingly vibrant harpsichord. The deep honeyed tone of the viola da gamba could be felt in one’s chest! This was followed by the uplifting and cheerful Sonata Terza in A Major by Erlebach, with its graceful dances and leaping passages bringing to mind a Baroque ballroom. A lady in the row behind me murmured, “Beautiful, beautiful”, as the last notes died away; a view shared by the audience, judging by their enthusiastic applause and cheers.

A notable feature throughout the concert was the exceptional control demonstrated by the trio, who lost not a single note to the reverberant venue in the fast passages. The original definition of the word “baroque” is a “misshapen pearl” – Latitude 37 however produced a perfectly polished pearl of an evening.