3 February 2014


We might say g'day but the French say Salut. I thought it was from Salute, or health, and etymologically it is, but in this incarnation, it's like Italian Ciao, a general greeting , meaning Hello or Goodbye. Handy. We heard Salut! Baroque at the Albert Hall. They are a baroque group playing period instruments and they are from Sydney, so Hello and Goodbye is apt. But we'll see them again; they visit quarterly.

Albert Hall is probably the best venue for this music in Canberra. It seems of another era; it's reverberent and has touches of decoration and deep velvet curtains. Not sure it's the best for acoustics though. I liked that we formed a semicircle around the players, but I didn't always hear so well. It was only confirmed when Hans-Dieter Michatz spoke to introduce the csakan, a very long instrument that sounded all the world to me like a descant recorder. (But then, I am not intimate with the descant recorded to hear the difference). It's an impressive looking thing, about 1.5 metres long, black and pointy at the bottom, flat beak at the top with a recorder-like ramp and window, as I could make out. There was another new instrument for me, the bass violin. Tuned in 5ths with the open high string the same as the violin. Also called a baroque cello or, interestingly, a single bass. And played with a baroque bow, but underhand, smaller, but held like a German bow on a double bass. Otherwise, the harpsichord, strings, bows, gut and the rest were as expected.

There was music, too, that was obscure. Schütz and Krahmer and Quantz were new names to me. The Handel, CPE and JS Bach and Telemann and Buxtehude are known well enough. Some of the music was well known, too. JS Bach's Oboe Concerto in Dmin, Handel's Lascia ch'io pianga and CPE Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in Dmin. The mix of musicians changed constantly, so the sound also varied. I felt they got the hang of the acoustics in the second set, so lines and interplay was more easy to follow. It had been a bit mushy or indeterminate at the start although the bass violin always cut through. This was also a hot day and Albert Hall is not airconditioned. Another aspect of authentic performance (as well as the tuning). Interesting for the voice, gently attacked but firm and loud. And the three recorders (two and the csakan) were unusual. I felt that Salut! Baroque has a steady but aging followers. Sad, this. We live in a busy present without sense of history and a radical individualism is promoted endlessly. Saying hello to a bit of our past is a worthy remedy.

Salut! Baroque are Jane Sheldon (soprano), Sally Melhuish (recorder), Hans-Dieter Michatz (recorder, csakan), Jane Downer (baroque oboe), Anna McMichael (baroque violin), Julia Russoniello (baroque violin), Valmai Coggins (baroque viola), Tim Blomfield (baroque cello), Monika Kornel (harpsichord).

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