Valencia Baryton Project – Concert Review

Valencia Baryton Project

It was an immense pleasure to listen to Alex Thiessen open the NOCCA’S March 20th concert with the presentation of 4 songs including Bizet’s Habanera, beautifully accompanied by Neta Petkau on the NOCCA Steinway Grand. Thiessen sang with confidence, expressiveness and ease. She is a multi-talented musician whose joy of singing shone through brilliantly.

The Valencia Baryton Project made up of Matthew Baker (baryton), Amy Domingues (cello), and Brett Walfish (viola), graced the main stage with a magnificent presentation consisting mainly of Franz Joseph Haydn’s chamber compositions written for the baryton. Haydn wrote over 170 compositions for this instrument and of these, 126 were trios for the baryton, cello and viola.

The baryton, a unique instrument dating back to the 17th century, resembles a combination of the bass viol, a fretted guitar and a bowed cello with sympathetic strings hidden behind the neck. These strings produce harmonic overtones when the instrument is bowed but can also be plucked to provide an array of tonal qualities. Matthew Baker, one of 15 known professional players in the world, introduced us to the magical qualities of this little known instrument. The interplay between the trio entertained the audience throughout the evening with gorgeous harmonies woven beautifully together with delicate precision. Concertgoers were attentive because the delicate sounds produced were both subtle and almost understated.

It’s interesting that for an instrument that was well known in the 17th century, several modern composers are intrigued and have produced compositions for it. While the Haydn pieces were intimate, fragile and delightful, the contemporary works opened new musical perspectives to the musicians and audience. The River, for example, by Canadian composer, Steve Zink, created unmistakable imagery of a river gently meandering through the countryside, allowing the musicians to flow in their musical presentation.

Review by Gerry Sholomenko and Shannon Marsh.

Nocca’s next concert will feature meagan&amy (piano and violin) on Wednesday April 19, 2023. Tickets can be purchased at ticket or phone (250) 549-7469.