Bach Aria Soloists – KC Metropolis Feb. 2016

Windmills, flocks of sheep, outrageous sense of duty, and a too noisy venue all sought to derail the titular hero and the Bach Aria Soloists’s “Adventures of Don Quixote” performance on Saturday evening. The packed house at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was regaled by the tale of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, his portly squire Sancho Panza, and questionable lady love Dulcinea.

BAS—Elizabeth Suh Lane, violin, Beau Bledsoe, guitar, Elisa Bickers, organ and harpsichord, Sarah Tannehill Anderson, soprano, and guest Sascha Groschang, cello—compiled a program of predominantly late Renaissance, Baroque, and folk Iberian music with movements of Telemann’s Suite Burlesque de Quixotte peppered throughout. Commanding actor Mark Robbins joined in the presentation as Cervantes himself and Don Quixote. Assisting his efforts was the visibly and audibly nervous Robert Bickers as Sancho Panza. The narrative aspects were well balanced with the musical selections, and though I would have enjoyed an additional complete scene of Don Quixote’s adventures, the just-over-an-hour performance was compact and served both elements well.

Though little chance was given for members of the Bach Aria Soloists to shine individually aside from Bickers’s opening Cabezón Diferencias on organ, each was sensitive to the musical needs of the pieces. Suh Lane had some of the more complex lines and bowing techniques, especially in the anonymous folk pieces and in the Telemann, but these brief moments seemed as if they were effortless organic flights of fancy. “Sighs of Dulcinea” and “Attack of the Windmills” were the standout movements of the Telemann. The former transforming gentle sighing motives into almost a hiccuping laughter to showcase Dulcinea imagined beauty. “The Attack of the Windmills” was a suitable flurry of blustering sixteenth notes tightly performed. Balance was beautifully maintained throughout the program with each instrument clearly audible.

Tannehill Anderson, who usually sings everything with ease, sounded uncomfortable on Gaspar Sanz’sMarizápalos and Juan de Leon’s Ay, que non sé rremediarme. These two numbers didn’t suit her voice, and the latter had some uncharacteristic ensemble intonation struggles. The anonymous La Mare de Déu and Henri du Bailly’s Yo soy la Locura were another matter entirely. Both of these haunting numbers were exquisitely diaphanous. The church radiator’s kicked on in the middle of the du Bailly’s most delicate pianissimo moments unfortunately; the performers handled this most unfortunate distraction like the pros they are. I don’t think anyone would have objected had the ensemble reprised this number as a second encore after their much deserved first one.