Pro Musica Rara's season-opener features Scottish songs arranged by Beethoven
Folk songs from Scotland, arranged by Beethoven, had a prominent spot in the concert. These items provide a fascinating glimpse into a little known side of Beethoven, who arranged a great number of songs from Scotland, Wales and Ireland (on commission) in between penning some of his most famous and important works.
It may be tempting to dismiss these songs as inconsequential, but that would be a mistake. The composer took the job of arranger seriously, honoring the folk melodies fully and fashioning vivid accompaniment for piano, violin and cello.
The quality and character of Beethoven's Scottish Songs emerged engagingly in the Pro Musica performance at Towson University's Center for the Arts.
British-born tenor Rufus Muller brought considerable elegance of phrase to the material, his voice growing warmer and sweeter as the afternoon progressed.
His account of "Sunset" and "Faithfu' Johny" proved especially eloquent, and he also had no trouble uncorking the jaunty spirits of such numbers as "The Shepherd's Song" and "Sally in Our Alley" (which he embellished delectably).
Violinist Cynthia Roberts, cellist Allen Whear and fortepianist Christoph Hammer backed Muller with playing of admirable nuance and color. The distinctive tonal palette of the period instruments added greatly to the experience.
On their own, the three players also did impressed work in ...
There was room, too, for instrumental arrangements of folk songs that found a place in Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy," and Geminiani's baroque treatment of "Lady Bothwel's Lament."
A group of Haydn's English songs opened the concert. Muller encountered some uneven patches here, but his shaping of "She Never Told Her Love" was quite stirring, as was Hammer's sensitive keyboard work -- the pianist's playing was not always spotless Sunday, but it had terrific dynamic and rhythmic nuances all afternoon.
PHOTO FROM RUFUSMULLER.COM