The vocal dimension was represented by mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo.
So many cities larger than Madison would be proud and fortunate to have the good early-music activity we have. We are blessed with not just one permanent ensemble, but two. In almost complementary fashion, Trevor Stephenson's Madison Bach Musicians serve up comparatively large and ambitious fare, while the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble offers programs of intimate chamber-scale material.
Anton Ten Wolde and his Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble colleagues represent, in fact, the longest existing advocacy of period-music performing style in Madison, operating for more than two decades. It functions, too, as a collective, with the participants sharing in the decision-making about program repertoire.
Such democracy was certainly in evidence over the post-Thanksgiving weekend, as -- when most classical music is suspended amid football and fanatic shopping -- the Ensemble presented its latest program at Gates of Heaven on Gorham Street. The program was performed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Two works by Telemann dominated the opening half. The fourth of his second set of quatuors, or quadros, cast in French style, stood against an E-minor trio sonata in Italian form, demonstrating the composer's ease in commanding a variety of cultural characters. With Max Yount at the harpsichord and Ten Wolde on cello, violinist Eleanor Bartsch and flautist Monica Steger added their finely honed contributions to the ensembles.
Bartsch, who displayed lean and neatly pointed playing throughout, had no single solo of her own. But Steger, with Yount as her equal partner, shone in Bach's B-minor Flute Sonata, drawing particularly ripe and subtle coloring from her wooden transverse flute. Ten Wolde had a short and pithy unaccompanied solo by the now-forgotten Giovanni Battista Degli Antonii.
The vocal dimension was represented by mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo. In the first half, she sang in two excerpts from a cantata by Bach. Then, joined by all hands, she brought the second half to a dazzling conclusion with an example of Michel Pignolet de Montéclair's leadership in the form of the French Baroque cantata. Representing the struggles of a jilted lover with her conflicted emotions, the text was translated almost apologetically by Sañudo. She then went on, with full commitment to its place in a really lovely piece of music, to deliver some of the most eloquent and beautiful singing I have yet heard from this seasoned artist.
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble's remaining concerts of the season will be given, at the same locale, on Sunday, February 12 and Saturday, April 21. Make a note of that now.