A barista holds a transverse flute and a soprano holds a coffee cup while browsing her phone
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A perfectly poured Baroque latte

Fringe World review: Coffee Cantatas ⋅
St Andrew’s Church Subiaco, February 4 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

“If you don’t give up coffee I won’t buy you anymore Gorman dresses,” storms Lieschen’s dad.

“OK!” is her flippant reply.

The original text from Bach’s Cantata BWV 211 refers to a whalebone dress, but 300 years later it requires very little updating to resonate with the audience at St Andrew’s Church in Subiaco. There are smiles of appreciation as soprano Brianna Louwen sings Lieschen’s ode to coffee: ‘More delicious than a thousand kisses/better than muscato wine.’

Bach’s secular cantata (circa 1730) was written for a German coffee house, scored for transverse flute, three vocalists and small string ensemble. The intimate work was the perfect vehicle to showcase the talents of flautist Jonty Coy, Louwen and their ensemble in the resonant acoustic at St Andrew’s. With the help of a few coffee cups and some impromptu dances they explored the rhythmic vitality of Bach’s music and his satirical humour. Schlendrian (in German literally ‘stick in the mud’) tries everything to convince his daughter to give up her addictive habit. Even when he has success his wily daughter has the upper hand.

Louwen was an endearing Lieschen, singing with a sweetly contained soprano that floated over the audience as she wandered the church. Gabrielle Scheggia was a dynamic dancing narrator and Bass singer Jake Bigwood was suitably stern as Schlendrian although not as precise in the florid passages. Coy’s Baroque flute playing, often from memory, was clean and immaculately ornamented. They were ably supported by a string ensemble of  young tertiary graduates, underpinned by Andrew Tait on violone and Aidan Deasy on lute.

It bodes well for the future of Baroque music in Perth to see the next generation of musicians collaborating to present historical music with such creativity. And they didn’t have to take many liberties with Henrici’s libretto. Take Lieschen’s response on discovering her father would get her a husband if she gives up coffee: “At last instead of coffee before bed I can have a sturdy lover.” And this from the guy who scripted the St Matthew Passion!

Coffee Cantatas continues until February 5 as part of the classical music series at St Andrew’s Church, Subiaco.

Pictured top: Jonty Coy and Brianna Louwen. Photo David Penco.

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