Les Bostonades: "That Was Fun!"by Andrew Sammut"The Lure of Paris" program, ostensibly centered on France and French-inspired music, was presented by period-instrument ensemble Les Bostonade, founded in 2005 by harpsichordist Akiko Sato, a devotee of French music. The concise, invigorating performance on Friday night at First Church in Boston highlighted composers from several cultures.
Grafting the ritornellos and solos of the Italian concerto onto a French dance suite, Telemann's Suite in A Minor (TWV 55:A3) featured recorder soloist Heloise Degrugillier. Her expressive tone and incisive sense of rhythm enlivened Telemann's novel formal ideas, such as the fleet double-time section of the "Air a l'Italien and the daredevil scalar ascents barging in on an otherwise restrained "Menuet." The Rejouissance highlighted Degrugillier's clean divisions and unshakeable sense of line (amidst Telemann's breath-defying passages), and the Polonaise closed the piece with her wrapping silvery ribbons over the violins, before tossing out spiky, immaculately executed octaves. Aside from a slightly lagging tempo in the final movement, the leader's direction from behind the harpsichord and the eight strings of the ensemble provided solid accompaniment and a smooth balance that never swamped the soloist.
Jean-Marie Leclair promoted the Italian three-movement, fast/slow/fast concerto form in France while incorporating his native country's aesthetic. His Violin Concerto in A Major (op. 7, No. 6) opened with a cocky, strutting Allegro from the orchestra and violinist Sarah Darling's teasing runs. Despite a tendency to occasionally lean into some phrases a bit brusquely, her dynamic nuances and playfully singing upper register illustrated two violinists conversing across the pages of a score.
The decision to place theorbo player Esteban La Rotta stage front alongside the soloist seemed unusual at first, but his glistening plucks next to Darling's double-stops in the central Aria Grazioso made for an invitingly rustic scene, with the orchestra nearly stealing the show during their warm, textured tutti. Relaxed fiddling segued into an upbeat country-dance for the closing Allegro, with Darling skipping along, digging into descending arpeggios and returning to the well-articulated upper register of the first movement. Leclair's promenading concerto owed as much to Italian virtuosity and lyricism as France's distinct blend of pomp and refinement.
While Vivaldi stuck to his home of Italy as well as his own very personal style for most of his life, closing the program with one of his works illustrated the Venetian composer's influence throughout Europe. His "Paris" Concerto for Strings (RV 121) was presented as a gift to a French nobleman, and its typically Vivaldian drive and harmony were echoed in the preceding works. Les Bostonades mostly let the music speak for itself, adding subtle but telling terraced dynamics to the infectiously chugging theme of first movement Allegro. The use of one player per part for the Adagio's sheets of harmony allowed La Rotta's theorbo to chime through, turning what looked like orchestral misbalance into a unique aural effect. Following the tightly played, sprightly-articulated Allegro that closed the program, a small child offered precise critical analysis: "That was fun!"
Rameau's "Entree des Sauvages" (Entrance of the Savages) from his opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes, with its faux-earthy harmonies, bumping and grinding theme and shaking tambourine made for an energetic encore as well as a revealing example of musical stereotyping. The Baroque era can seem like a round robin of German, French, Italian, and English styles, yet Les Bostonades reminded their audience that musicians create music, not countries.
Les Bostonades' Stylistic Comparisons by Elizabeth OkaThere's a tendency for many musicians, myself included, to revere Bach but dismiss Telemann as a composer known more for his prodigious productivity than any real talent. But the program by Les Bostonades last Friday night at the First Church in Boston gently asserted Telemann's significance by placing him squarely in opposition to the Baroque master himself. In their somewhat curiously titled program, "Alpha and Omega, Les Bostonades alternated Bach trio sonatas and Telemann quartets in an effort to highlight the distinctive approaches of each composer. Nor was this exactly mainstream Bach and Telemann; the Bach pieces were arrangements of three of the Organ Sonatas while the Telemann works were not his popular Pari quartets but rather his lesser-known ones with the same TWV number.
All the same, I couldn't help wondering whether "Telemann vs. Bach" was a legitimate musical juxtaposition or a gimmicky comparison. The supposedly contentious nature of the Bach/Telemann pairing was further emphasized when violinist Sarah Darling turned to the audience after the first piece and encouraged active participation, urging us to join the debate and choose a winner. A bit contrived? Perhaps, but the pairings did highlight the stylistic differences between the two composers and asked us to grapple with issues we might otherwise overlook. We tend to think of Bach's music as rigorously demanding, academic, and serious, while Telemann's pieces are charming, accessible, and (dare I say) a little superficial. This program challenged those notions.
The evening began with Telemann's Concerto for Strings in A Major (TWV 43:A4) and featured Sarah Darling and Megumi Stohs Lewis (violins), Emily Rideout (viola), Rebecca Shaw (cello) and Akiko Enoki Sato (harpsichord). While the piece was full of imaginative and whimsical playing from the outset, it was clear that the players really hit their stride in the final Allegro. It was as if the dial had been turned up a notch: the group performed with energy and enthusiasm, not to mention wit (a particularly playful transition in the cello elicited a few chuckles from the audience).
Originally written for organ, Bach's Trio Sonata in D minor (BWV 527) featured a pared-down ensemble of two violins, cello, and harpsichord. The thinner texture highlighted the interplay between violinists Sarah Darling and Megumi Stohs Lewis; in the Andante I particularly enjoyed certain bow-strokes that seemed to emphasize expressiveness over sheer beauty. The players brought out the achingly beautiful suspensions in the Adagio e dolce and delivered a wonderful ending that seemed to simply evaporate into the hall. The Vivace found the upper voices weaving extensive filigree with a light touch as the movement modulated its way back to D minor.
The Concerto for Recorder and Strings (TWV 43:a3) brought Heloise Degrugillier (recorder) on stage for the first time that evening. She played with a beautiful limpid tone and phrased the long lines of the Adagio and the lively Allegro superbly. In the following Adagio the players captured a mood of serenity, supported by sensitive accompaniment in the cello and harpsichord. The Vivace allowed each of the solo instruments to sing in virtuosic cadenza-like displays. While Degrugillier handled very difficult passages with ease and aplomb, Darling stole the show with gutsy, imaginative barriolage at a tempo teetering on the edge of comfort.
I was happy to see Bach's Trio Sonata in C Major (BWV 529) arranged for violin, viola, and cello, offering violist Emily Rideout a chance to come to the fore. While the contrapuntal Allegro was full of energy, Darling and Rideout complemented each other particularly well in the Largo, weaving long lines and melding smoothly into each others sounds. Unfortunately, I felt the final Allegro didn't work as well as it could have because of different approaches to bow strokes. The contrast in approaches (only highlighted by the extensive imitative writing) somewhat detracted from the overall unity of the work.
Next came Telemann's Quartet in G minor (TWV 43:g4) which was a lively, witty romp. The Allegro was flashy and fast-paced, tempered by anAdagio that hinted at greater depth. The final Allegro felt brilliantly tossed-off; Darling's panache and Degrugillier's incisive, articulate playing made the whole thing sparkle.
While the Telemann's Concerto in D major (TWV 43:D4) was the most unfamiliar, I also found it to be the most interesting piece programmed that night. Written early in his career, it reflects both French and Italian stylistic influences. The last Allegro was full of lightness and verve and had several audience members tapping their feet.
We were treated to an encore of a lively Bourree, rollicking and full of abandon.
Early Music America, Fall 2009
Boston Early Music Festival 2009 Review"Some of the most engaging chamber music playing came from the well-matched violins of Sarah Darling and Laura Gulley in a program by Les Bostonades of works by Handel and Monteclair that enacted the death of Lucretia. The generous, voluptuous sound of soprano Teresa Wakim in the rich acoustic of Emmanuel Church's Lindsey Chapel contributed to the poignancy of emotion, well delineated in the continuo playing of Kate Bennett Haynes, cello, Justin Haynes, gamba, and Akiko Enoki Sato, harpsichord."
By Denise Taylor Boston Globe/May 25, 2006Her hair has grown back, her health has returned, and her tumor is no more. But the aftereffects of Akiko Enoki Sato's battle with breast cancer remain with her in unexpected ways. For one, her husband, Toshi , who shaved his head in solidarity, is still bald. ``He kept it because he likes it that way," she laughed. Then, there's the matter of the golfing. ``I never, ever thought I would like golf, but I need the exercise now, and I really like it," she said. But most important, her music has changed. She now plays with more gusto than ever before. ``I feel and appreciate everything more than before. It changed my playing very much. I play with so much more energy now," said Sato, who performs a free concert at The Morse Institute Library in her hometown of Natick this Sunday. On the program is music from the court of King Louis XIV, which Sato will play on a reproduction French double harpsichord, accompanied by Justin Haynes of Belmont on viola da gamba. ``The flair of French baroque music is just so fantastic. So I want people to hear it," said Sato, who, with a group of five other musicians, passionately promotes early music through a local and international concert series called Les Bostonades. The concert is, however, no triumphant return to performing for Sato. She played straight through nearly two years of cancer treatment that included chemotherapy, radiation, and, ultimately, a double mastectomy. ``My surgeon organized my surgeries around my schedule. I did one side, played a concert, and then did the other side," said Sato. ``Having the responsibility of having to play made it easier to keep going. . . . You need energy to create music, and I believe this helped me maintain my energy level and kept me from sinking into a depression as so many cancer patients do." Not that it was easy. Beside the usual fatigue, the chemo caused her to lose sensation in her fingertips, a big problem for a harpsichordist. But Sato, who began studying piano at age 3 at her home in Japan, remained at the keys. ``I just had to really increase my focus while I was playing." That newfound intensity remains, as well as a fervor that she said comes from facing death. Sato is playing more concerts, and accompanying more student performances at Longy School of Music and Boston University, where she works. And for the Natick show, she chose what she calls ``one of the most technically difficult pieces from the French baroque period." ``I just wanted the challenge," she said. ``I want to make use of all of my time. I want to do as much as I can." That difficult piece is two suites by Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745). ``Everybody knows Bach from that time, but not Forqueray. But he was a prodigy just like Mozart. He could play everything from a very young age, and Louis XIV discovered him when he was 5 and made him a court musician," said Sato. ``Later, he composed some very tough pieces," continued Sato. ``Everybody wants to try them, but not everyone can play them. We have been rehearsing for two months." As at all Les Bostonades concerts, the music can be heard on the instruments it was actually written for. ``People don't get to hear these instruments much. But if I played this piece on a piano, it's a completely different sound," said Sato. Sato and Haynes perform from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at The Morse Institute Library, 14 East Central St., Natick. Free. Instrument show-and-tell follows the performance. Call 508-647-6520. For more info, visit www.bostonades.org.
Metrowest Daily News By Jennifer Lord/ Daily News Staff Thursday, May 25, 2006Akiko Enoki Sato is fascinated by Baroque music. It is a relationship that has colored her music career, leading her to the harpsichord as her instrument of choice. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, it was the music that helped her through the difficult chemotherapy treatments. Sato, a Natick resident, will perform a free concert Sunday with the group Les Bostonades at the Morse Institute Library. The concert offers a rare opportunity to hear Baroque music as originally written on historically accurate instruments. "Everyone has heard Bach on the piano," Sato said. "But we didn't have piano back then -- everybody was playing the harpsichord. Everyone learns to play Bach on piano, growing up, but he didn't have a piano. The music was actually written for the harpsichord, but very few people have heard it as it was meant to be played." The concert will feature pieces from the Baroque period -- roughly 1600 to 1800 -- with a focus on the work of Antoine Forqueray, a child prodigy in the court of Louis XIV. Sato will play her replica French double harpsichord accompanied by Justin Hayes on his period viola da gamba, a bowed stringed instrument similar to the cello. The performers will also give a short talk about their instruments and allow the audience to get a close look. Sato plans to demonstrate her harpsichord's inner workings -- unlike a piano, which has hammers that strike the strings, the harpsichord has a mechanism inside that plucks the strings for a completely different sound. "When I hear someone play Baroque music on the piano, it doesn't fit for me," Sato said. "It's not the same for me to hear Baroque music on the modern instrument. It's a completely different articulation and phrasing." Music has been part of Sato's life since her childhood in Japan. She started piano lessons at the age of 3. Her mother was a pianist and her aunt, Fukuko Kobayashi, is a famous Japanese composer. Sato earned master's degrees in organ performance and sacred music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Southern Methodist University. She received advanced training in harpsichord and fingered bass at McGill University's Early Music Program and now works with the music departments at Boston University and the Longy School of Music in Boston. "Boston is at the very center of Early Music -- there are so many schools," Sato said. Sato had been living in Natick for about a year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A professor at the Longy School of Music, a breast cancer survivor, took her under her wing and Sato also found solace in her music. "Sometimes I didn't even want to go outside, because I was so tired," Sato recalled. "But making the music -- I was so excited. When I'm playing the music, just for that short time, I forget the treatment and just focus on making music." Her doctors at MetroWest Medical Center in Natick were also supportive and even adjusted her treatment schedule to fit around her music after realizing its positive effects on her. "If I was alone, sitting in the house, I was feeling despair," Sato said. "But being able to go out and make the music -- I even played a concert during the chemotherapy. I don't know how I could do it, but the music made me feel better." Akiko Enoki Sato will perform on Sunday, May 28 at 2 p.m. with Les Bostonades at the Morse Institute Library, 14 East Central St., Natick. Admission is free.