The February one was A Trumpet Romance, with Peter Crouch on the trumpet playing pieces chosen for St. Valentine's, including some romantic compositions of his own (one of these written for his wife, he said), accompanied on the piano by Nick Rodgerson. To start with, the two men played an arrangement of the traditional Irish song, Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, and a series of similarly sentimental numbers followed, including some "Spanish music of love": Crouch's arrangement of the Adagio from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen. The trumpeter took a break by turning pages for his accompanist, who played a famous "Consolation" by Franz Liszt, solo; this was followed by the arrangement for trumpet and piano of a Saint-Saens aria. They finished with a rendition of Johnny Mercer's Skylark, which Mr. Crouch confessed was his "favourite type of music."
Today's concert was more serious, with the crucifix at the front of the church (i.e. behind the performers) draped in sheer purple for Lent. Southminster has an attractive interior with multicoloured stained glass windows and an embroidered wall-hanging that states: BIDDEN OR UNBIDDEN, GOD IS PRESENT.
The music was by J.S. Bach, the harpsichord played by the Artistic Director of the DOMS concerts, Roland Graham, with Christian Vachon on the violin. They performed three of Bach's first group of six Violin and Harpsichord sonatas: Numbers 1, 3 and 4. Numbers 2, 5 and 6 will be presented at a matching concert later in the year, on June 6th, by the same performers. It is wonderful music of the 1720s, the two instruments in an equal partnership which, so the violinist told today's audience, was an original idea in those days. The six-pack of sonatas was according to the conventions of the Baroque period, though.
Each sonata took about 15 minutes to play. We heard the two minor sonatas first (No. 1 in B minor and No. 4 in C minor) and they finished with the major one (No. 3 in E major). Their concentration on the notes was palpably intense. The C minor sonata was particularly impressive, the violin part in the opening Largo movement resembling the obligato part for Erbarme dich, mein Gott --- the famous aria in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with its meditative, spiritual qualities.
The Allegro movements were taken at a lively pace; the fugal second movement must have been particularly challenging for the harpsichordist. The other slow movement (Adagio) in this sonata was also lovely, with the violin line at a lower pitch than the harpsichordist's right hand, which played an elaborate melody in counterpoint. This minor key movement ended with a major resolution, as is often the case with Bach.
Similarly startling, in Sonata No. 3, the Adagio movement, in a contrasting minor key, seemed to end on an incomplete cadence. The final movement of this sonata bounced along in 9/8 time like a Gigue.
After the concert was over I caught the violinist's attention and told him that I had enjoyed every note of this concert.