Baroque tour of Europe one to savour

31 October 2022

French in name only, Telemann’s ‘Paris Quartets’ offer a suite of European flavours. Australian Baroque charms Claire Coleman with a polished performance.

‘An Afternoon in Paris’, Australian Baroque •
Government House Ballroom, 29 October 2022 •

German composer Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Paris Quartets” are anchored in stately Europeanism for “An Afternoon in Paris” with Australian Baroque. Government House Ballroom’s formal and decorous space is arranged in the round today, with the musicians in the centre, to suit Telemann’s chamber works.

Australian Baroque Artistic Director and violinist Helen Kruger is joined by Andy Skinner on flute, Noeleen Wright on cello, and James Huntingford on harpsichord. The musicians bring a dignified affection for Telemann’s quartets to their performances.

The “Paris Quartets” were named as such only in the 20th century, in reference to a trip Telemann made there in 1737, rather than for anything particularly French leaning in the music itself.

Instead, as Huntingford explains at the start of the concert, Telemann is a master of composing in the different national styles that were popular during the late Baroque. Not content to let this description stand alone, Huntingford sits at his instrument to demonstrate what he means, quoting a plodding Polish Polonaise and then a “gooey” French-influenced motif. The demo is engaging, and the introduction accessible.

An audience sits under a domed ceiling, a chandelier hanging from the roof, Australian and Aboriginal flags jutting out from either side of the walls. They are watching Australian Baroque perform An Afternoon in Paris.
Australian Baroque plays in stately surrounds. Photo supplied

The program begins with Telemann’s Quartet No.3 in G Major TWV 43. Australian Baroque’s interpretation brings a distinct conversationalism to these already dialogic works. 

Skinner and Kruger strike a deft tonal balance when they are called upon to deliver harmonised phrases together, or to work in call and response. Skinner plays his Baroque flute with a warm tone, scampering delicately across busy phrases that might overpower in less deft hands. Kruger’s phrasing is elegant, ensuring she’s never second fiddle, regardless of who has the melodic lead.

Wright’s and Huntingford’s roles vary, sometimes holding down the continuo accompaniment, other times presenting more virtuosic motifs. Both musicians pop in and out of the foreground tastefully, cello and harpsichord sparkling in the exposed downbeat chords and overlapping the descending phrases which open the program’s second quartet, Concerto No.1 in G Major TWV 43. It is a shame that sound bleed from a wedding in the grounds outside interrupts here.

While the musicians’ performances can’t be separated in terms of virtuosity, which is as it should be in the teamwork-driven quartet format, Skinner garners a little extra scrutiny and warmth from the audience after his heartfelt introduction to the afternoon’s second work. 

Explaining that his first flute teacher, Mrs Daniels, is in the audience, Skinner praises the importance of music teachers in the lives of their young students, and specifically Mrs Daniels’ role in his own life and the educational trajectory that brought him to this moment. Skinner’s vulnerability here is a welcome contrast to the otherwise coolly formal afternoon.

Four musicians smile at the camera, arched columns behind them. One is holding a flute, the other a violin, while the third musician is seated behind a harpsichord and the fourth,  behind her cello. They are Australian Baroque performers Andy Skinner, Helen Kruger, James Huntingford and Noeleen Wright.
Australian Baroque continues to charm audiences with strong performances. Photo: Nik Babic/Artshoot Media

The final quartet, No 6 in E Minor TWV 43, contains a favourite moment; a few short phrases where flute, violin and cello move in rhythmic unison and three-part harmony, held together by the harpsichord, and interspersed with light and airy flute statements.

An encore of the Sonata No.1 in G major, Op. 12 by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, a composer best known to flautists, rounds out the program.

Telemann’s signature interpretation of different countries’ Baroque compositional techniques is masterful in the “Paris Quartets”. One could argue that the only stylistic evocation these quartets make of their city namesake is of Paris’s cosmopolitanism. 

Rather like the “French” reception preceding the concert, including French macarons, Turkish baklava, and sparkling wine from Faber Vineyard in our own Swan Valley, Telemann’s not-very-Parisian quartets are a set of tasty morsels united by European flavours. Australian Baroque continues to charm with each new performance idea.

Australian Baroque performs “An Afternoon in Paris” at Holmes à Court Gallery on 13 November 2022.

Pictured top: Andy Skinner, Helen Kruger, James Huntingford and Noeleen Wright make a wonderful quartet. Photo: Nik Babic/Artshoot Media

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Just what the doctor ordered

    Just what the doctor ordered

    29 September 2023

    Dr AudiYO uses vocal gymnastics to take the audience on a fun adventure. Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are happy to take this prescription. 

    Reading time • 3 minutesTheatre
  • Seadragon weaves magic spell

    Seadragon weaves magic spell

    28 September 2023

    The Magical Weedy Seadragon enchants junior reviewer Isabel Greentree with a winning blend of story, song and humour.   

    Reading time • 4 minutesMulti-arts
  • Lifting the weight of the world

    Lifting the weight of the world

    28 September 2023

    Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are taken on a thoughtful and funny journey to the Moon with one overwhelmed girl.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio