Gwendolyn Toth and Dongsok Shin graced Aberfoyle Baroque’s season-opening concert on September 19, 2015, with a riveting performance of German Baroque works for two harpsichords (see Steven Honigberg’s review by clicking below). After the program, the audience (led by an architect guest) crowded around the harpsichords for an impromptu lesson in the instruments’ plucking mechanism.
Champagne and caviar helped celebrate the musical achievements of the evening’s composers and performers, and then the group moved to dinner, where they were served a German feast to honor Bach, who famously loved good food. On the menu were German-style Gazpacho; Chicken in Riesling Wine with Spaetzle and Green Peas; Roasted Parsnip Salad with Hazelnuts, Blue Cheese and Wheat Beer Vinaigrette. Don Winkler, of International Wine Review, introduced the audience to several fine American Riesling wines produced in the German style. Dinner was followed by coffee and desserts that included Pears Poached in Cognac; German Chocolate Cake; and Black Forest Cake with Whipped Cream and Sour Cherries. Guests lingered until late, enjoying the end of the beautiful autumn evening with each other and with the musicians.
On a still, 80-degree September evening, Aberfoyle Baroque presented the elegant Gwendolyn Toth and Dongsok Shin in a duo harpsichord performance. Mr. Shin, dressed in a blue shirt sporting a brightly patterned tie and Ms. Toth wearing a brocaded green jacket chose Bach’s Concerto in C Major to begin. Rolling chords and a cascade of notes amply filled the room. A signature fugue, marked by the performers’ technical precision, concluded the substantial work. Johann Ludwig Krebs, a student of Bach who at one point needed to compose in order to feed his family, crafted quite a few worthwhile works in his life that were published hundreds of years after his death. His Concerto in A minor (composed circa 1750) concluded the first half of the program. The work begins with a stunning theme in unison and at times during this performance sounded Beethovenesque in its pronounced dynamic contrasts. In the three-movement work, the artists spotlighted the expressive dissonant harmonies. A transcription of a concerto in B-flat Major from two keyboards to two harpsichords by Carl Heinrich Graun followed. The players arranged the first movement, Allegro, so that Graun’s melodies effortlessly bounded back and forth between the instruments, but they left the second movement, Vivace, in its original form. The contrast was revealing. Arguably the evening’s most interesting work concluded the program; this was the Duetto in F Major by Johann Sebastian’s Bach most brilliant son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. From the opening notes, Ms. Toth and Mr. Shin immersed the audience in a world of color; the Duetto is composed in a style reminiscent of but a bit more daring than that of the beloved father. The nostalgic Andante, almost Romantic in feel, drew audible murmurs of appreciation at its conclusion. The final Presto was a virtuosic carnival of notes, driving to the finish in a deft and rousing rendition by the artists. A surprise treat was the encore: an two-harpsichord arrangement of the toe-tapping “Fandango” movement from the Guitar Quintet by Boccherini.
—Review by Steven Honigberg
A Note about Our Soirées
Aberfoyle Baroque’s Soirées are experiences that begin with music. We put the best Baroque musicians before small groups of music-lovers seated close enough to hear and see every nuance of the performance. At the close of each program, the audience is invited up to look closely at the fascinating and rare instruments and to talk with the artists. Through the evening, we treat our guests to fine wines and gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and then host them at a seated dinner related to the theme of the evening’s concert. There they are joined at table by the artists and directors. Our audiences are made up of dedicated amateur musicians and music lovers who are by day lawyers, civil servants, economists, doctors, architects, writers, et cetera, as well as people from the professional music world, including performers, conductors, scholars, and concert organizers. They come from our own neighborhood in Northwest Washington DC and from as far away as California, New York and North Carolina. All who attend, no matter their knowledge of music or of the Baroque period, share a magical evening described by one attendee as “time travel.” We hope you will join us soon for one of our events and enjoy the unique experience of an evening at Aberfoyle Baroque.
Audience reviews of Aberfoyle Baroque are in:
“I am still floating on the music in my head.”
“One of the most civilized evenings it has been my pleasure to attend! Everything was absolutely top notch…”
“…truly wonderful - the performance moved me”
“An unforgettable experience with two first-class instruments, two first-class harpsichordists, and four first-class chefs.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”
“Altogether, an unforgettable evening.”